Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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U.S. Doctors Compete to Go to Olympics

Just like for athletes, the chances of becoming an Olympic doctor are slim.

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014  |  Updated 7:32 PM EDT
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Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, just like an athlete, has to compete with other doctors to make it to the Olympics.

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The Olympics are all about the athletes, but there is an immense support staff as well, including hundreds of specially trained doctors.

It is no secret that the odds of becoming an Olympian are slim, but that does not apply to athletes only.

Jonathan Finnoff had to compete to go to the Olympic Games as a U.S. team doctor. He said the road to Sochi was not easy.

"It's almost as hard for the medical personnel as it is for the athletes," he said. "Cream of the crop in order to get selected to go to the Olympics."

Dr. Finnoff is the Director of Sports Medicine at Barton Healthcare based in Lake Tahoe. He is off to Sochi with the U.S. Nordic combination ski team, a team he’s accompanied to smaller events.

Finnoff describes this process as training for team physicians.

“Train for years and try to get to go to the Olympics,” he said.

Once selected, the task at hand is simple but packed with pressure.

"People train for decades in order to actually get a chance to go to the Olympics," Finnoff said. "And then when they go to the Olympics, even the smallest thing can ruin their chances--whether that’s injuring their knee…or a cold."

Finnoff added that sports medicine doctors are crucial because they’ve dealt with one of the biggest and most pervasive injuries of all--concussions.

"You think about the downhill ski races and they're going 70-80 mph on an icy run, so when you fall like that, it's like jumping out of a car onto the asphalt," he said. "It is that hard and that big of an injury."

"Yes they have helmets on but concussions are because your brain shakes around inside of your head so the helmets help protect against skull fractures and some of the hemorrhages that happen in our brains, but it doesn’t protect against a concussion," Finnoff added.

Team doctors volunteer their time to go to the Olympics. Dr. Finnoff said the payoff comes in the once-in-a-life-time opportunity.

“I cant wait. It's going to be a fantastic experience," he said.

Finnoff also said he would try to do some skiing while at the Olympics.

American doctors are not licensed to practice medicine in Russia, so they can't take care of the athletes. But if there’s a more serious injury, they become advocates, making sure Russian doctors are informed and delivering the best possible care.

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