Avoid Sports Injuries: Tips From an Olympic Doctor
Medscape: What are the top three pieces of advice you would give athletes during competition?
Beim: That's easy. No. 1, get your rest. We make sure that the athletes get to the Games location in plenty of time before their competition so that they can get rest and their bodies can adapt to the different time zones.
No. 2, don't change anything. Don't start a new diet or take any new supplements. Don't change your routine. The Olympic Games is not a time to start something new. I have had athletes tell me about someone from another country who is using this or doing that and ask whether they should try it. And I say, "No, not now." During the Olympic Games is one of the worst times to change anything in your routine.
No. 3: Enjoy the Games. There is something so special about the Olympic Games. I am an athlete but not nearly at Olympic caliber. I am just there as a doctor, but when walking through an Olympic village, watching an event, or having a meal at the dining hall, the energy is so amazing. It is different from any other sporting competition that I have ever had the pleasure of attending. It is such an incredible experience and opportunity. So just take it all in and use it to accelerate your passion for what you are doing.
Injuries and Female Athletes
Medscape: Injuries, of course, are a concern. How can you reduce the rate of head injuries?
Beim: Certainly with helmets, obviously. Another way to help reduce the risk for serious head injury is to follow the rules, which just makes sense. Fortunately, the organizing committee in Sochi is going to have venues that are state-of-the-art and are going to be as safe as possible.
Of course, some sports are higher-risk than others, and there is no way to eliminate the risk for head injury. Some ski racers and freestyle skiers will use spinal protectors in their suits, which can help reduce back injury. And many athletes use mouth guards, which is really smart. If you take a good hit on the snow or ice, it would be sad to lose your teeth, so I think mouth guards are really important.
Medscape: I've read that female winter sports athletes are more prone to injuries than men are. Can you address this or any other issues related to injuries in female athletes?
Beim: I don't have the statistics in front of me, but in the Olympic arena, all athletes are so highly trained that I would guess that the male-to-female ratio of injuries is probably closer than in the non-Olympic and nonprofessional population. This is because Olympic athletes train and they train the right way. They have good coaching and good training techniques.
On the other hand, some female and male weekend athletes may go skiing after not having done anything all year. They may have weak hips. They may have tight hamstrings. ... They may have a mismatch of their hamstring and quad strength. They just might pop their anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligaments, and for women that’s easier than for the man just because of the anatomy. That has been proven again and again. Noncontact injuries are more common in females than males. However, as you get into the more elite-athlete population, I think the difference between men and women probably goes down.