Keeping Olympic Athletes Healthy and Injury-Free
Q & A with William Moreau, DC, DACBSP, FACSM, CSCS, and Vice President of Sports Medicine, United States Olympic Committee (USOC)
As Team USA returns after squaring off against the best athletes in the world last month, Dr. Moreau discusses how his team faced an equally high-pressure task: keeping everyone healthy. Moreau – the first doctor of chiropractic in the world to serve as an Olympic Games Chief Medical Officer – oversaw all Team USA sports medicine activities in PyeongChang.
In addition to preventing illness and injury, he also serves as an adjunct instructor at Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU). We talked with Dr. Moreau about his role in the Olympic Games and why the USOC looks to SCU graduates first when hiring chiropractors.
How did you become a chiropractor and how did you become involved with the Olympics?
My father was a chiropractor who had a busy practice in Iowa, and after attending chiropractic college, and then practicing in Wisconsin, I learned that my dad had a brain tumor. I moved back to Iowa and took over his practice. I spent my time conducting broad spectrum diagnosing and really developed my diagnostic acumen. After over 25 years overseeing the practice, I ran out of puzzles to solve. I wasn’t challenged, so I decided it was time to do something else. I decided to become an evidenced-based practitioner.
Shortly after taking a new position, I was contacted by the USOC. I interviewed for a job in one of the clinics. I got the job and became the first chiropractor in the clinic. I went on to become the manager of the clinic in Colorado Springs. I was promoted to a position where I managed all clinics, then became the director of clinics. Now, I’m a Chief Medical Officer. This all happened within the past decade.
I think we’re all put on this planet for a reason. We all have unique gifts. I always encourage others to pursue their dreams. Find your purpose.
What does it mean to be Chief Medical Officer for the United States Olympic Committee?
I’m the first chiropractor in the history of the games to hold that position. It’s a huge responsibility – to not only plan and be responsible for anything that might happen, but also to coordinate the delivery of medical services as provided by over 60 medical providers. I travel about 200,000 miles per year representing the USOC at international conferences, and I start looking at Olympic trips four years ahead of time. At the end of the day, my job is to put together an integrated group of disciplines from many aspects of healthcare who really and sincerely want to come together for the benefit of the athlete.
How does chiropractic care fit into sports medicine? What sorts of preventive or injury treatment do chiropractors provide to athletes?
I’m really interested in patient-centered care. I find it exciting and satisfying to be able to build a multidisciplinary care for Team USA. The athletes enjoy working with chiropractors because it typically means less medications and surgeries. Our key is to provide care that prevents the injury from occurring. We are conducting high-tech research and developing methodologies for how to quantify an athlete’s workload as an initiation of illness and injury. We think there is a causal relationship between the volume of work that the athlete does and the volume of injury.
What was a typical day like for you at the Winter Olympics?
You get up early; you open up the clinic. You deal with typical things that people would expect to see, but also every day provides new and unexpected challenges, which are opportunities to help U.S. teams reach their highest performance outcomes. We have to be able to think on our feet and to provide the best care possible. While I was Chief Medical Officer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we saw a tremendous amount of athletic injuries. People were very concerned about Zika virus and issues of public health, so we needed to strategize about how to manage that. Fortunately, no one from Team USA suffered from any serious health problems.
What types of injuries or illnesses do you expect and prepare for at the Olympics?
The thing you always worry about is influenza. If an athlete gets the flu, that can take out a whole team. We’re very conscious about recognizing signs and symptoms and being ready to assess. We also have advanced testing so we can rapidly diagnose and produce appropriate treatment.
What is your relationship with SCU?
SCU is one of very few chiropractic colleges that offer residency-based sports, medical fellowships. I help to develop curricula as well as research projects and develop relationships so that these young professionals will have an opportunity to understand the needs to work at the highest level of sport.
I think that residency-based training is extremely valuable because these individuals are immersed into the sports medicine world. For us at the Olympics, it’s where we find the most qualified people to employ. Over 70 percent of the chiropractors that work for Team USA are SCU graduates. That’s where I look for them.
To see Dr. Bill Moreau speak at the upcoming ACBSP Sports Sciences Symposium in San Diego, CA April 13-15 please click here.
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