A contingent of The Steadman Clinic’s surgical team again participated in the annual Beaver Creek Audi FIS Ski Birds of Prey World Cup Super G, Downhill and Giant Slalom races in early December. The Steadman team has been supporting this event for many years and in 2017 had seven physicians providing their medical expertise to the world’s finest alpine skiers.
The group included Dr. Marc Philippon, the managing partner of The Steadman Clinic and co-chair of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute. Joining Dr. Philippon were Dr. Randy Viola, Dr. Tom Hackett, Dr. Tom Clanton, Dr. Thos Evans, Dr. Matt Provencher and Dr. Tommy Haytmanek.
Dr. Viola and Dr. Hackett led the group of Steadman doctors as they serve as official team doctors for Team USA’s Alpine and Snowboard teams, respectively.
“We are dedicated physicians for the U.S. Ski team athletes,” said Viola. “At an event like Birds of Prey, we have one doc up on top to deal with any emergent issues or injuries on the course and at least one doc at the finish. We know the importance of immediacy when it comes to treating and evaluating injuries at a World Cup competition.”
The Steadman Clinic’s bond with the sport of skiing began in its early years when the clinic started under the leadership of its founder, Dr. Richard Steadman.
George Gillett, a longtime Vail resident and former owner of the Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, was instrumental in bringing Dr. Steadman – and the future clinic – to Vail.
“George Gillett brought Dr. Steadman to Vail,” recalled Viola. “Back when George owned the ski resort (in Vail), he said, ‘If I’m going to have the best ski resort in the world, I’m going to have the best doctors in the world, too.’ So, he brought Dr. Steadman in and the relationship with The Steadman Clinic and the sport of skiing really took off.”
Over time several doctors from The Steadman Clinic have served as team physicians for Team USA and have worked closely with athletes from all sports, not just snow sports.
The relationship between the USOC and The Steadman Clinic, along with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, continues to grow as just this past summer the IOC announced that SPRI is part of the first United States-based International Olympic Center for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health. The coalition is a collaborative research effort to support the IOC’s goals regarding injury prevention and athlete protection for Olympians and Paralympians. The U.S. Coalition becomes the IOC’s 10th research center across the world and the first research center of its kind in the U.S.
“Dr. Steadman retired a couple of years ago and passed that tradition (of working the Birds of Prey) on to me and some of the other docs in the clinic,” said Viola.
Viola talked about the role of a team physician.
“I started with the U.S. ski team in 1999,” recalled Viola. “I probably spend anywhere from three to four weeks per year with the team. I usually do a summer camp either in Chile or New Zealand and then do a week at Birds of Prey. I also do one or two weeks with the team every winter, with this upcoming year being at the Olympics in South Korea.”
While the teams from the various nations compete against one another, there is also a true sense of collaboration among the team’s physicians.
“About half of the teams travel with their own doctors,” said Viola. “It’s almost always the same docs year after year, so we have developed relationships with one another. If I’m with the U.S. team in Norway and one of our skiers needs an MRI, the Norwegian team doctor is there to help make the arrangements. I am more than happy to reciprocate at Birds of Prey if the need arises. As doctors, we are all there for the same purpose and that is to keep our athletes as safe and healthy as possible.”
“Whether it’s a pro football game or a ski race,” added Viola, “it is important to have a physician on site to make sure that the athletes are protected. These can be dangerous sports, and we recognize that and do everything we can to help the athletes.
“As a group of physicians at The Steadman Clinic, we feel it is our responsibility to give these athletes the very best of care,” continued Viola. “Our clinic is a world-known entity and it represents us well to be there for those athletes.”
Not only do the doctors collaborate, but their particular specialties often brings their assignments together.
“I work as head doctor for the men’s alpine team and Dr. Hackett works as head doc for the snowboard team,” said Viola. “We work together as a team. He naturally works on a lot of the skiers because he is a knee and shoulder specialist, and I end up working on a lot of the snowboarders because I am an upper extremity specialist. It’s a little backwards but it is for the betterment of the athletes that they get the best treatment from the doctors who specialize in their particular need.”