Plastic Surgeons at the Olympics?

Samantha Johnson

by Samantha Johnson | August 1, 2012 @ 09:00AM

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Studies show that athletes are far more likely to experience injury during competition than in practice, which is why there are 85 members of the Olympic medical team this year at the summer Olympics in London. That's one doctor for every six athletes participating. These doctors include athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists who are ready to patch up any injury an athlete can dish out. But among the list of specialists, there is not a single plastic surgeon. 

While it's true that Olympians are under a certain extent of pressure to look perfect as they perform in front of millions of people, aesthetics are not the only reason a plastic surgeon would be beneficial on the sidelines. Many athletes like soccer player Melissa Tancredi, who broke her nose for the seventh time in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wait until their careers slow down before getting a rhinoplasty to correct any disfigurement. A quick assessment from a plastic surgeon right after the injury occurs can determine whether other serious damage has been done that can limit the athlete's ability to breathe effectively. Fixing these problems right away can prevent further damage, limitations and costs in the future.

Tears in ligaments, tendons and muscles are very common among athletes, and while these injuries can be treated by other specialists, a plastic surgeon's routine experience with nerve and tissue damage can provide better assurance for quick recovery.

With any type of injury, quick attention is best. Most Olympians will perform with an injury if it means getting the Gold, like Kerri Strug did in the 1996 Atlanta Games. She ended up doing more damage to the torn ligament in her ankle, and refused to get immediate medical attention afterward so that she could accept her gold medal at the podium. Even when athletes purposely perform when they are injured and do more damage to the area, having a plastic surgeon readily available could save time and cut costs in the future.

While some athletes might be proud of their battle scars, others may want to forget it ever happened. Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving platform while performing a dive in Olympic competition and needed stitches. A plastic surgeon's expertise in minimizing the appearance of scars would be especially beneficial in such a case. Even us regular folk can request the plastic surgeon on duty when we need to take a visit to the emergency room, so why wouldn't we also provide the best for our star athletes?

When athletes push themselves to the brink, it is best to be prepared for the worst. If an athlete had an injury where amputation was a consideration, a plastic surgeon could also offer his or her expertise in microcirculation and tissue viability to determine whether the limb could be preserved.

Even if one plastic surgeon became a part of the US medical team, their knowledge and know-how would be of great value in ensuring our athletes get the best quality care.  Maybe next season?

Source: TeamUSA.org  

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