Treating Gold Medal Hopefuls at the U.S. Olympic Trials
As the United States Track and Field Team and their legion of fans showed up to Eugene, Oregon, I, too, loaded up on a Boeing 737 and made my descent on the bustling town.
Eugene is known as “TrackTown USA” due to its affiliation with the University of Oregon and a certain Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike. So, what did I see when I was there? Hayward Field, initially constructed in 1919, underwent a significant renovation that’s left track enthusiasts breathless. The university added 18,000 seats and put in an underground complex with a warm-up track, practice pits, weight room, and recovery rooms that would put most university track stadiums to shame. The new parts of the stadium and upgrades cost a cool $270 million, a bill footed mainly by Mr. Knight.My father and I ooohed and aaahed as we watched these elite athletes compete in this lavish stadium, complete with a laser engraving of two-time decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton, who is a known fan of my father, Dr. Curt Draeger.
I flew in late Thursday and got to work right away on Friday morning, treating high jumpers, discus throwers, hurdlers, steeplechasers, decathletes, and heptathletes. They came from all over the United States as the top three in each event represent America at the Olympics. These athletes work four years for a chance at a dice roll to make it to the games. Our job is to make things feel light, so a joke goes a long way. It also goes a long way when joints move like butter, and that is our specialty. Getting joints to function at peak performance is vital for athletes, and with the combination of adjustments and laser, we can do that.
Two things about track and field athletes: they are humble and gracious. They appreciate everything you provide and really let you know how much you mean to them. They aren’t big names because track and field isn’t a glorified sport, so the egos are small, but the hearts are big.
Saturday was the second day of competition and the first day decathletes were competing. So, after five grueling events: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 meters, the world’s greatest athletes turn to us to help with recovery for five more events the following day: 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meters.
High-level athletes put enormous amounts of stress on their bodies daily and treat their bodies like a temple. This means they get hurt at a higher rate that is more severe but also recover faster than most of us. Using the laser helps accelerate healing in those damaged tissues and promotes blood flow and reduction of swelling. Most athletes are not hurt when they go to the trials but are almost always dealing with an old nagging injury. Being able to overcome those previous injuries allows athletes to find their rhythm and feel the rhyme.
These Olympic Trials were far and above what I expected, but the biggest highlight of my weekend was working alongside Dr. Curt. I’ve penned an open letter to my father about the impact he’s had not only on me and my brother, but also the countless athletes he has treated. The letter is filled with emotion, but the gist is the guy drove 30 hours alone in a van he packed with equipment to treat athletes for free for two weeks and did it with a smile and a joke. Oh, and he’s done the same thing for the past 20 years.
It won’t matter 50 years from now: an open letter to the doctor who taught me everything
It won’t matter 50 years from now. It’s a common saying my father uses when someone gets their drive-thru order wrong or rear-ends their favorite car. A saying that makes his kids roll their eyes and take his kindness for granted. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized this small phrase is more of a lifestyle choice than an excuse. If you know my dad, you know he gets things done. Period. Sometimes like a bulldozer and sometimes like a river finding a new path. He finds a way to help people the best way he knows how. During the United States Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, we helped treat athletes competing in track and field.
In Eugene, even more fun than enjoying the great events was working alongside my father on Father’s Day weekend. He always says, “Jackson, you’ll be the guy someday. You can do what I do. You don’t need me anymore.” But that, quite simply, is just not the truth. The truth is my father drove 30 hours in a van, alone, with equipment that he packed up himself from Wisconsin to Oregon. The truth is my father gave up two weeks away from his family, two weeks away from his practice to do two weeks of unpaid work to help track athletes get a glimpse of their dreams. The truth is my father is a giver and a fixer. He gives his time to help athletes and fixes their bodies to get them over the finish line. As children, he would take us all over the United States to different track meets, so this is not the first time he’s spent weeks of his life helping athletes. The guy just gets things done.
So, as we cheer on our athletic heroes, let’s say cheers to the trainers, coaches, and doctors who help get them to glory. I’m cheering for my father, not because of the 30-hour drive, sleeping on his adjusting table in a courtyard in Athens, or the 16-hour plane rides followed by 20-hour workdays. I’m cheering for him because my father does it all with a smile and a joke and with love in his heart for everyone. Let’s remember that being kind and working hard will make it matter 50 years from now. Actions and material things don’t carry on, but the friendships and relationships do.
This post won’t matter 50 years from now, but my love and thanks for my father will.
– Dr. Jackson Draeger