Physical Therapy and the Weightlifting World Championships

Physical Therapy and the Weightlifting World Championships

by evergreenpt, December 15, 2017


Have you ever experienced the rush of knowing you were a part of something amazing?  Whether it’s on a world-wide scale or simply impacting a single person’s life, it’s a wonderful feeling to extend your reach beyond yourself and touch the lives of others.







Right: Chris Wong PT, DPT                               Left: Carlos I. Roel PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS

Earlier this month, two of our therapists had a chance to go beyond Evergreen’s walls and do just that. Doctors Chris Wong and Carlos Roel headed down to the 2017 Weightlifting World Championships in Anaheim, California as part of a highly skilled Medical Support team to treat world class athletes from around the globe. The event was highly televised on ESPN where highlights can still be watched on their website.  You might even catch a glimpse of our therapists working with athletes during the competition! Olympians and future Olympians compete, lifting sometimes up to more than two times their own weight, for the glory of being the best in their class. With such extraordinary feats of strength, one can only imagine the physical wear and tear on a competitor’s body. This is where the expert eyes of Doctors Wong and Roel come in.

Dr. Wong’s involvement with the International Weightlifting Federation has steadily increased over the years since he first entered the world of competitive weightlifting as an athlete himself.  This year, he oversaw and coordinated the many local physical therapists who participated in the medical support team alongside Doctors of Chiropractic, Certified Athletic Trainers, Licensed Massage Therapists, Doctors of Osteopath, and Medical Doctors.  He was responsible for finding proven and experienced physical therapists that would pass the US olympic committee standards for medical support staff.  This highly rigorous vetting process ensures that athletes get the best care.  Aside the considerable responsibility of coordinating personnel, his main duty was to serve team USA and their athletes as medical support.  Both he and Dr. Roel were able to give immediate treatment to athletes and collaborate on treatments with the other providers to ensure the best results.

“I loved every bit of the competition. It’s always great working with athletes at the highest level of competition. I had an awesome time meeting new people from all over the world and reconnecting with people I have met at previous international competitions,” says Dr. Wong.

The biggest highlight for Dr. Wong was playing an integral treatment role in Harrison Maurus’s (-77kg) new world record for the Clean and Jerk.  Dr. Wong provided necessary treatment to Harrison that allowed him to attempt this new world record and take home the bronze medal overall.  Harrison was able to clean and jerk 193 kg (or 425lb), gaining him not only a new youth world record but team USA’s first senior male medal in over 20 years! In addition to this ground breaking win for the men’s team, the women’s team finished 2nd place overall, making this year’s competition an extremely successful one for team USA. “The athletes did an amazing job and they deserve all the credit. I am lucky to have played a small part in their journeys,” explains Dr. Wong.

Like Dr. Wong, Dr. Roel is no stranger to the International sports stage having traveled world wide with various US national teams for training camps and competitions, including the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. He utilizes his unique skills as both a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer to assess and treat the athletes. Having extensive experience working on medical support teams for various professional sports teams gave Dr. Roel the opportunity and privilege to be present directly on the main lifting platform as second in charge only to the presiding Medical Doctor for emergency situations.  At any given moment the medical support team must be ready to attend to any injury from dislocations and fractures to those that can leave athletes unconscious and requiring emergency protocols. “I definitely experience less stress with each patient or scenario because of the real life emergency situations I see in professional sports,” says Dr. Roel as he explains the main benefits that these professional sport experiences has had on his day to day clinic work.

Both Dr. Wong and Dr. Roel agree, working in the sports medicine setting provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with other highly-skilled health care professionals across different fields, learn new skills unique to the high-stress and fast-paced environment, and advocate for the physical therapy profession. “In order to be considered for a position in the medical support team for any sport, you must be extremely sharp and precise so that the athletes can perform at their best,” says Dr. Wong.  This particular set of skills translates directly into their Physical Therapy clinic environment where they are made into better PT’s with keen eyes and minds to assess and treat their patients, giving them some of the best care in the world. “The experience [of working on a medical support team] helps me problem solve…I’m able to look at movement, listen to how pain is manifested with each different patient and assess what is happening in the body,” describes Dr. Roel.

Looking towards the future, Dr. Wong says he “wants to be an advocate for weightlifting movements to become a staple exercise in our youth and teenage strength and conditioning programs. In addition to strengthening one’s physical body, the bar teaches an individual a lot about themselves.  The sport of weightlifting is one of the things that inspired me to pursue physical therapy. I want to be able to give back to the community, what weightlifting has given me.  As a health care provider, I would love to go to the Olympics with team USA. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid!”

See Harrison Maurus’ record breaking clean and jerk at minute 4:50!

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