LAWRENCE — International athletic competitions such as the Olympics bring competitors, fans and coaches from across the world together. A University of Kansas professor is conducting a study to see how such events might bring different areas of medicine together, not in the hope of winning medals, but providing better treatment.
Phillip Vardiman, assistant professor of health, sport and exercise science at KU, has conducted an epidemiological study on injury and illness data from athletes who took part in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. A certified athletic trainer, Vardiman volunteered to treat athletes at the games and is conducting a study to find out frequency of various types of injuries among athletes and how the integrative medicine model works within an international competition model.
“Sometimes medical disciplines have a bias toward one another,” Vardiman said. “We’d like to be able to break down barriers by identifying how multiple experts from different specialties can work together to provide the best care for the athletes. If we can show how it works in an athletic setting, perhaps it could work in a general medicine setting as well.”
Vardiman and graduate students in KU’s Applied Physiology Laboratory are examining data to see whether there are patterns that could indicate how experts can work together. By viewing the instances of specific injuries among various kinds of competitors at the Pan Am Games and the treatment they received, he can put together models that would show the pre-emptive care and treatment needed by sport. He gathered data and anecdotal evidence from athletic trainers, emergency responders, chiropractors, orthopedists and other medical personnel who worked the games.
“Are there different injury patterns in specific sports? Are there specific needs for future games? Were there specific injuries the athletes didn’t come back from? These are the kinds of questions we’re trying to answer,” Vardiman said. “Our mindset is always going to be preventive medicine and doing what we can to keep these athletes healthy and ready to compete.”
Vardiman, who recently presented his findings at the Central States American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Columbia, Mo., is partnering with the United States Olympic Committee medical staff to put the findings to use. They plan to collaborate on future projects, including larger international competitions.
No stranger to international events, Vardiman has volunteered with the USOC and worked other competitions with USA Track and Field. In addition to “doing treatments and anything else you need to do to get them ready for the race” at the 2011 Pan Am Games, he has served as an athletic trainer at the America’s cup Race Walk Championships in El Salvador and the World Cup Race Walk Competition in Russia.
The research has the potential to both identify the most common injuries and effective treatments, as well as keep athletes healthier and, thereby, their teams more competitive.
“There’s all kinds of things we can do with this information,” Vardiman said. “I am honored and appreciative of the opportunity to work as a athletic trainer and to be able to have a research collaboration with Dr. Bill Moreau and the USOC Sports Medicine staff. This relationship continues to be a win-win situation.”