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17 January 2018

Dr. Michelle Donaldson to Travel with Olympic Snowboard Team

Havre, Montana  – At the end of this month while many Americans will be determining what to do with their Thanksgiving leftovers, Dr. Michelle Donaldson, Orthopedic Surgeon, will be traveling with the US Olympic Snowboard Team to Pitzal, Austria. She will be there to serve as a team physician for an upcoming training camp for the Boardercross team. This will be her 17th year traveling with the team.

In 1968, Dr. Robert Oden, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Aspen, Colorado initiated the “U.S. Ski Team Doctors Pool” by recruiting and training doctors to travel with the ski teams and provide medical assistance. The U.S. Ski Team Doctors Pool assures that our athletes had availability to American doctors in all the events held in Europe or out of the U.S.

The Pitztal is an alpine valley located in Tyrol, Austria. It is one village in a string of villages along this high mountain valley heading south towards the Italian border. The ski resort on Tyrol’s highest glacier offers wide glacier slopes of all difficulty levels.

Snowboarding was developed in the United States in the 1960s as people across the country began to seek out new winter activities. Over the next decade, various pioneers boosted the production of boards and the sport began to gain crossover appeal. Surfers and skateboarders became involved, and by 1980, snowboarding was a nationwide activity. Snowboarding combines elements of surfing, skateboarding, and skiing. It made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano games.

Boardercross is a type of freestyle snowboarding where snowboarders race 4-6 abreast down multiple terrain features and jumps. The International Olympic Committee decided on November 28, 2006, to include Boardercross in the program of the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver. This training camp is in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.

The US Olympic Ski Team physicians provide care for athletes at their events and camps in order to provide immediate emergency assessments.  During a training camp like this, team physicians and ski patrol are strategically stationed along the course, ready to provide care at a moment’s notice.

To volunteer with the ski and snowboard teams, physicians are required to take an on-snow trauma course taught by the full time medical staff, and must re-certify every four years. Their physicians must also be certified through the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Physicians are with the athletes around the clock. They attend practice, eat meals and stay in the same hotels as the athletes. This training camp will consist of time on the course; dry-land training such as weight-lifting; team meetings; and watching videos of their slope time.

“I try also to have a “Drop-in Clinic” for the athletes as they may be experiencing aches and pains along with other medical issues.” said Dr. Donaldson. “Because of the restrictions placed on the athletes by the WADA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), we carry all medications that they may need. From ibuprofen to cold medicine, we dispense and document all medications given to these athletes.”

With all that time together, the team becomes very close. “The best part of traveling with the athletes is getting a glimpse into their dedication to their dreams.  Being a part of the US Ski and Snowboard teams have been a great honor and a wonderful adventure. I look forward to doing it for years to come. ” says Dr. Donaldson.

In her 17 years of travel with the team she has covered events in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, US, New Zealand, Andorra, Norway, France, Spain, and Japan.  Dr. Donaldson also covered the Snowboard team at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

During her trip Dr. Donaldson will be providing updates on her trip on the Northern Montana Hospital’s Facebook page. Her husband will be able to accompany her on this trip and looks forward to being able to practice his German while in Austria.