Meg Gibson, M.D., director of the Sports Medicine fellowship program at the UMKC School of Medicine, served as the team physician for the United States at the World Junior Alpine Skiing Championships in Norway.
The competition took place in March at a ski resort near Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Prior to making the 10-day trip, Gibson, assistant professor of community and family medicine, traveled to Colorado to train in on-hill emergencies and other facets of working with a ski team in international competition.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association selected a group of 16 athletes, male and female, ages 16 to 20, to compete at the event. Gibson, who trained in family medicine and completed a sports medicine fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, was expected to be able to treat the skiers’ basic medical concerns as well as muscoskeletal injuries. “I’m biased, but I think that what I do as a primary-care sports medicine doctor is ideal for their needs,” she said.
Health professionals who care for ski teams at competition sites need to know how to ski. A Michigan native, Gibson learned to ski as a child and continues to ski recreationally. The resort in Norway tested her abilities. She carried a medical bag on her back, and the course was conditioned to be hard and fast for racing events.
In addition to the challenges of working on a mountain, Gibson was practicing medicine in another country. A muscle relaxant commonly used in the U.S., she discovered while at the event, is not readily available in Norway.
Gibson provided care alongside an athletic trainer. “A big part of sports medicine is determining if it’s safe for your athlete to participate or not, and then if any modifications or recommendations can be made,” she said.
Gibson and the trainer modified the training schedule of one U.S. athlete. Otherwise, the team avoided sickness and injury during the competition.
Gibson said she enjoyed the experience of working with the athletes. “They seemed to be very appreciative of the care that they were receiving,” she said. “I hope it’s something I will be able to work out logistically again.”