Olympic Finale

Olympic spectators are now either counting medals or complaining about biased judging. We have just witnessed an international sports festival where countries display their best athletes. The Olympics are often about the stories surrounding the sport.

Water polo is an unheralded sport consisting of seven athletes on each team competing in a 30- by 20-meter pool. Players must toss a ball past the opposing team’s goalie. The pool is 10 feet deep and players must be either swimming or treading water the entire time. Defending players can do almost anything to avoid a goal. It is a mixture of basketball and roller derby.

These athletes are among the most fit because of the need for both upper and lower body strength, with tremendous aerobic capacity. The injuries vary between those seen in overuse (hip, knee, and shoulder) and in a physical assault (scratches and facial trauma). Water polo matches are interesting to watch, yet demand excellent conditioning before participating.

Dara Torres, Jason Kidd and Jeff Hartwig are among the many American Olympians over 35 years old. Advances in sports medicine, including more efficient training techniques as well as improved surgical and non-surgical treatments for injuries, have played a huge role in making this possible at all levels of sports.

Siblings participating in the same Olympic sport always capture attention. This year the Lopez family led the way, with Jean Lopez coaching his three younger siblings, Steven, Mark, and Diana, in the sport of taekwondo. Several pairs teams consist of identical twins.

Parenting elite athletes should be an Olympic sport in itself. Parents must deal with domestic peace and the delicate balance of sibling rivalry at an Olympic level. They are truly deserving of their own gold medals.

The 2008 Olympics have provided an opportunity for the world to put differences aside and enjoy outstanding athletic performances. True sports fans know it’s not about the medals.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is a member of the Backus Hospital Medical Staff and a neurologist in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Alessi at aalessi@wwbh.org.

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