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The Carletonian

Carleton sports medicine physician heads to Vancouver

<st attendees of the Olympics go to support the athletes with cheers and national spirit. Dr. Scott Koehler, however is going to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as medical support for athletes, serving as an orthopedic doctor at the Olympic village clinic for eight days this February.

Though employed as an Allina Clinic physician, Koehler also works with students at Carleton and St. Olaf. He is stationed on the Varsity football home game sidelines, ready to respond to any injury. Additionally Koehler helps out with IM, club and high school teams. Between the two college campuses, he has 600-700 athlete visits per year. Koehler enjoys “helping athletes reach their goals” both in college sports and in world championships.

When asked how treating Olympians differs from the student athlete, Koehler said that students get the “same injuries as Olympic athletes with few exceptions.” Koehler said that all levels of athletes need doctors to inform them of the most modern research and technology to quickly get them back safely on the field. Both the Carleton football quarterback and the Olympic snowboarder get the same look in the eye when Koehler reveals the potential harm of a serious injury – which could even be paralysis – if an athlete does not sit out a game on the field or a run down the slope.

The most severe injuries Koehler usually encounters are concussions and loss of consciousness, particularly those related to the spinal cord. Koehler warns that some injuries can be more serious than they initially appear, requiring close attention to breathing and pain.

For instance, trauma to the shoulder can cause a punctured lung. An advantage of working at the Olympics is the “full resources,” such as an MRI readily available to treat any issue that may arise.

Koehler’s extensive experience in sports medicine will only be further augmented by the 2010 Winter Olympics.

He worked at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City on the half-pipe sidelines, equipped with skis and a medical backpack so he could “cruise down and treat” injured players. With the US Snowboard Olympic team, Koehler has served as a physician in world championships, traveling to Switzerland in 2003 and Sweden in 2005.

Since Koehler has worked for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association for ten years, he continues to travel with the US Snowboarding team one to two times each year, covering World Cups and competitions in the Northwestern US.

Chosen after a rigorous online application process, Koehler qualified to be one of twelve doctors in the Olympic village clinic. Since most of the doctors working at the Olympics, approximately 60 total, are Canadian, Koehler sees his volunteer position as a special honor.

Furthermore, since most large countries bring their own physicians, Koehler will get to serve small nations with his sports medicine expertise. When discussing his career, Koehler asserted that “the most rewarding thing is getting people back to play safely and quickly.”

And Koehler’s favorite winter sport? “Snowboarding, for sure.”

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