Hands-on training and application are emphasized in the UWS sports medicine master’s program and many alumni including Erich Steinmetz, MS, ATC, LMT, highlight the importance of an integrative care team when working with elite athletes.
Steinmetz had the opportunity to be part of the care team for elite Chinese sprinter, Su Bingtian. They first started working together at the 2015 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon (affectionately known as, Tracktown, USA). It was at this meet that Bingtian became the first Chinese man to break the 10-second barrier for the 100-meter dash, running it in 9.99 seconds.
Steinmetz has continued to treat Bingtian at the Prefontaine Classic in recent years and at other world track events. Last summer, Steinmetz had the opportunity to travel to China and Jakarta, Indonesia with Bingtian for the 2018 Asian Games. There, Bingtian won gold in the 100m sprint, running a 9.92, breaking the Asian Games record. This past February, Steinmetz again travelled internationally with Bingtian – first to Birmingham, U.K., followed by Düsseldorf, Germany for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Tours. Bingtian won gold at each meet in the 60m sprint, running a 6.47 and 6.49, respectively.
“It’s really rewarding when you can see spectacular outcomes from athletes you are working with… to witness achievement at such a high level,” said Steinmetz. “It’s not only a testament to their abilities, but in some ways to your knowledge and application of appropriate treatments that supported those achievements too.”
When working with elite athletes, members of the care team collaborate for what is best for the athlete. A typical sprint-training schedule could include three to four days of track training and resistance training twice a week, but it can vary. This can be incredibly taxing on the body, especially for those competing at the highest levels.
“Once you’re at such an elite level, a one-size-fits-all training program won’t work – you have to tailor it to the athlete, specifically toward what goals you’re trying to achieve and what competition they’re gearing up for,” said Steinmetz. “There is a lot of periodization, open communication and coordination between providers and the coach to determine what treatments would be most appropriate… to do all we can to help the athlete reach those goals.”
When working with Bingtian, Steinmetz’s overall goal was to improve the tissue quality of the hamstrings and increase range of motion in hip flexion in order to improve stride length. Pre-practice treatments were designed to reinforce proper lumbopelvic alignment as well as work to release the diaphragm for breathing and engage deep core stabilizers. Post-practice sessions were aimed to maximize recovery and continue to remodel the myofascium in the hamstrings. Bingtian was able to achieve 10 extra degrees of flexion in his right hip and 15 in his left with 100-105 degrees of flexion.
“The overall objective for a sport physio is to keep your athlete healthy and well-recovered so they can continue to train at high intensities and benefit from the training,” said Steinmetz.
Steinmetz continues to use his degree in sports medicine to further his career. Most recently, Steinmetz has been hired as a practicum supervisor within the UWS sports medicine master’s program. He will apply the practical knowledge he gained from being a program alum himself and incorporate his real-world experience working with top athletes. In April, he will be traveling back to China to work with the Chinese 4×100 relay team as they prepare for the IAAF World Relays.
“Ultimately, I like to be the kind of person who has my foot in the door with teaching, alongside practical application of skills in the field,” said Steinmetz. “I’m thrilled for this new opportunity.”
UWS Sports Medicine Program
Sports medicine refers to all individuals responsible for keeping an athlete healthy. This team often includes an athletic trainer, chiropractic physician, physical therapist or medical doctor. Depending on the size of the athletic organization, the sports medicine team can range from one person to 20 or more. In many settings, other specialties like dentists, ophthalmologists, sport psychologists, nutrition specialists, massage therapists and acupuncturists are also included on the sports medicine team.
The sports medicine program is a seven-quarter graduate professional master’s degree program designed to provide students with advanced training in the prevention, evaluation and management of injuries and disorders affecting athletes and others participating in sports activities. This professional master’s degree is targeted to students with prior training in the evaluation and management of neuromusculoskeletal disorders. This audience includes chiropractic program students, chiropractic physicians, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other health care providers.
Learn more about the sports medicine curriculum and career pathways.