Team US Adopts High-Tech Sports Medicine to Give Athletes an Edge

During her incredible career and one of the best downhill skiers of all time, Lindsey Vonn has sustained a variety of gruesome injuries, from broken bones to torn ligaments, and head injuries. Serious injuries of this nature have been known to end the careers of other athletes but not in the case of Vonn. Why has Vonn recovered every time?

It is, in part, due to the advanced sports medicine provided at the US Ski and Snowboard Association’s Centre of Excellence. The centre provides athletes with next generation technology and equipment, designed to help them recover faster and perform better.

After a notable knee injury, Vonn’s movement patterns we assessed using a combination of VR simulations of races, and wearable motion sensors.
Severe musculoskeletal injury often results in nerve ending damage, which has shown to result in a shift in which areas of the brain instrument movement.

Movement goes from being an automatic motor response, to responding heavily on visual cues. In the case of Vonn, the rehab team used strobe glasses to interfere with the post injury movement pattern and help and athlete to relearn their pre-injury movement pattern, which is based on instinct rather than visual cues.

It’s well known that analytics and evidence-based medicine make a huge difference in the outcomes of care, they assist coaches and trainers in creating personalised training programs. Force plate technology measures the force of jump and analyses movement patterns. The team used this technology with Vonn to rehab a torn ACL, an injury that could have ended her career, they were able to share the force plate data with her physical therapists, in order to make sure that all weak areas were treated thoroughly.

We all know the feeling of having to perform. You can practice something as many times as you want, but having to do something, under pressure, in a new setting will always impede your performance. Enter virtual reality – by loading data recorded from the ski run from the Pyeongchang Alpine Centre, Vonn was able to practice her run down the slope in which she was to compete as many times as she liked. This results in improved reaction times and decision making on the course, during the games.

Vonn went on to win bronze in the Women’s Downhill and has become the oldest female Alpine skiing medallist in Olympic history.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons