Two of Lake Tahoe’s finest are heading to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, but not to compete. Terrence Orr, M.D., and Jonathan Finnoff, D.O., both physicians with Tahoe Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, will volunteer as team physicians at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Orr is a seasoned veteran of Olympic athlete medical care. His role at the 2014 Olympics will be head team physician for the men’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team — a position he has held with the team since 1999.
“The Olympics has always been my favorite sporting event, and it has been great to be able to be a part of the Games,” said Orr.
During the men’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team events, which include slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill, Olympians may reach speeds as high as 95 mph, depending on conditions, equipment and body composition. Orr will be at the race course in Sochi whenever the U.S. Ski Team is training or competing. If someone is injured, he travels down with the athlete to evaluate and assist in treatment.
Orr voluntarily provides his medical expertise to the men’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team at training camps, world championships and World Cup races and finals.
“When the physicians who have been there by the athlete’s side during their competitions are able to follow them through to the Olympics, it gives the athlete a sense of ease, because we know them, their medical background, as well as the sport,” Orr said.
Orr has dedicated most of his orthopedic career to treating the world’s top winter athletes, including U.S. Olympians Daron Rahlves and Marco Sullivan. Rahlves, a three-time Olympian in alpine racing, knows the value of having your team physician with you on the road.
“When you travel someplace new, it’s not only imperative to have someone experienced who really knows the team, but someone you trust and has been around for a while,” Rahlves said.
Finnoff will also be making the nearly 7,000-mile trek to Sochi this winter to support the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team. Nordic Combined consists of ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Formerly a physician with the Mayo Clinic, Finnoff has been working with the U.S. Ski Team since 2003. He first became involved with the team in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, where he was the director of the Athlete’s Medical Clinic.
“I am honored to be among the medical team supporting such a talented group of athletes,” Finnoff said. “It has been great to see all of their hard work pay off. Over the past eight years, they have won World Cup races, world championship titles and achieved Olympic glory. Keeping the athletes healthy is one of the keys to their success. That’s where the medical team comes in to play. Every time they stand on the podium, I feel pride in the knowledge that I helped them achieve their goals.”
While sports-related injuries are part of what Orr and Finnoff will be treating at the Olympics, the medical concerns for athletes cover a broad range of medical issues, including infections and asthma.
“It is important to realize that what would be a minor cold or flare-up of asthma for a normal person becomes a serious medical issue for someone who is competing at a world-class level against equally talented athletes. Keeping the athletes healthy is critical for them to perform at their best,” said Finnoff.
The two doctors leave for Russia after Jan. 25 and will be staying in the Olympic Village in the mountain cluster where the skiing events will take place, not the Olympic Village in the city of Sochi.
Each sport has its own medical team. Orr and Finnoff are part of the United States Olympic Committee medical delegation. Medical team personnel are chosen by the national governing body for their sport and submitted to the USOC for review. The USOC makes the final decision about which physicians are invited to the Olympics.
“The majority of what I take care of are standard medical problems such as upper respiratory infections or gastroenteritis,” said Finnoff. “Frequently I evaluate athletes in follow-up to a prior surgery since the athlete is traveling outside the country and can’t see the physician who did their surgery. I also take care of athletes who get injured. These injuries can be minor, such as contusions or abrasions, or can be severe, such as traumatic brain injuries and joint fractures or dislocations.”
The doctors will be on call 24 hours a day and are with the athletes during training as well as during competitions, but they still expect to find some time to explore Sochi.
You can follow Finnoff and Orr during the Olympic Games in February. Each day, they will provide behind the scenes photos and stories with our Olympic athletes in Sochi. “Like” Barton on Facebook at facebook.com/bartonhealth, or follow Barton’s Olympic doctors on Twitter at twitter.com/bartonhealth.