Original story published on May 11, 2007 by USC News
As athletes know, injuries happen. But with the help of a team of faculty members from Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, a division at the USC School of Dentistry, the injuries will be fewer and far between when China goes for the gold in 2008.
More than 11,000 competitors will converge on mainland China for the Summer Olympics in August 2008, with several hundred athletes competing for the China team alone. Physical therapy will be an important part of keeping the Chinese team in top shape. But with only four physical therapy academic programs in all of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Chinese Olympic Committee turned to faculty members at USC for help.
Six faculty members from the division, led by Sandra Howell, an associate professor and director of the division’s Muscle Function Laboratory and China Initiative, traveled to Beijing in January for a weeklong series of lectures and “hands-on” laboratories. Coaches from across the country were trained on the basics of biomechanics, and the prevention and management of sports injuries.
“They learned about USC’s international reputation,” Howell said, “and wanted to do the best job possible in helping their athletes prevent or recover from sports injuries.”
Injuries sustained by Chinese and American athletes are similar, but the approaches to treating them are vastly different,” Howell said.
A Chinese coach might advise treatments such as herbal therapy, massage and acupuncture, and at the same time maintain the athlete’s intensive training schedule. Western physical therapy highlights comprehensive evaluation, mobilization, strategic exercises and even rest as crucial to recovery.
“It is really an interesting time in all of western medicine, including physical therapy and rehabilitation,” said Howell. “As traditional Chinese medicine is adopting some of our methods, Western medicine appears to have a growing interest in traditional Chinese medicine.”
Combining exercise with acupuncture, Howell said, is a route taken by some patients recovering from orthopedic and neurologic disorders. “How east meets west in the treatment of any number of diagnoses is a topic for future study,” she said.
Howell said that as the countdown to the games of the XXIX Olympiad continues, the USC physical therapy team will continue to work closely with the athletes.
The USC team includes Howell, Mike O’Donnell, Sally Ho, Larry Ho, John Meyer and Steve Reischl.