Dr. Monica Rho is the team physician for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team. In addition to preventing injury and illness, she specializing in rehabbing players, including Kelley O'Hara and Julie Ertz, using technology to monitor the health of their muscles, tendons and ligaments. “Changing the Games” is a 10-part video series produced in collaboration with Lyda Hill Philanthropies.
Changing the Games -- Medical Technology Supporting USA Soccer
KATHRYN TAPPEN reporting:
The legacy of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team speaks for itself. Four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals - the most recent won at the 2012 Olympics in London.
KELLEY O'HARA (Olympic Gold Medalist): I mean, pure excitement when the final whistle blew, to be like, "oh my gosh. I'm an Olympic gold medalist." That was such a cool thing to realize.
TAPPEN: The team hopes to capture a fifth gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as they take on the best teams in the world.
JULIE ERTZ (U.S. Soccer): There's only 12 teams. It's the top 12 teams. Every game is unbelievably competitive. You need to make sure everyone's healthy. It takes all 18. Everyone has to play. And yeah, it's a really exciting time but it's very fast and it's very intense.
CRYSTAL DUNN (U.S. Soccer): We are so committed to getting better. No one is ever resting on their laurels. It is all about getting better day by day, week by week.
TAPPEN: Staying healthy and injury-free is a full-time job for the athletes. And supporting them behind the scenes is a team of doctors, physical therapists and nutritionists. Leading the charge is team physician Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago.
Dr. MONICA RHO (Physician, U.S. Soccer): I really do feel lucky because I have the best job in the world, if you think about it, because not only do I get the opportunity to take care of the best female athletes in this world, I also have this great job back in Chicago that supports me to be able to live out my dream.
TAPPEN: Dr. Rho's specialty is physical medicine and rehabilitation with the goal of getting athletes, including Kelley O'Hara, Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn, back on the field in the event of illness or injury.
RHO: It's not just about treating the injuries that happen, it's about preventing the injuries and illnesses that we don't want to happen. Hey Nicole. How’s it going? Good to see you. Alright so, we’re here to talk about your ankle, right?
TAPPEN: Getting to know each player and her medical history is key to providing an individualized plan, something that Dr. Rho and her team pride themselves on. These plans are designed to get the best movement and performance from each player. To accomplish this, Dr. Rho uses a variety of technologies to help the athletes get back on their feet after a sprain, strain, or twist to their knees or ankles. One device is the Alter-G, a treadmill that can reduce the amount of impact and stress on an athlete's lower body by using air pressure to bear up to 80% of her body weight. Dr. Rho has athletes use this machine when making a comeback from something like a stress fracture or muscle tear that prevents them from running.
RHO: In their return to running progression, we'll sometimes place them in the Alter-G. So they're not doing 100% of their body weight running, but they might be running at 20% of their body weight or 50% of their body weight as they progress back.
TAPPEN: Dr. Rho relies on ultrasound technology to monitor the health and healing of an athlete's muscles, ligaments and tendons.
RHO: Go ahead and point your toes again.
TAPPEN: Ultrasounds emit high-frequency sound waves to produce images of something inside of the human body, such as a muscle.
RHO: It was very critical to the Women's National Soccer Team for us to have an ultrasound machine travel with the team at all times because it gives us real time evaluation of muscles, of tendons, of bursas, of ligaments. And then it also tells us how they're healing. So not only can we diagnose an injury, we can actually see the progression of healing. You’ve got a little osteophyte in your ankle. Not the end of the world though.
TAPPPEN: As a sports fan, Dr. Rho attributes the incredible opportunity to go to the Olympics as a physician to her love of math and science.
RHO: What has been really cool in my career is that I feel that I never set out to be a physician at the Olympics. I never set out for that to happen. I just set out to really take the best care of patients and so that holistic care of patients and dedication and passion for what you do really gave me opportunities to become a physician at an elite level.
TAPPEN: An incredible career caring for legends who create moments that live forever in Olympic history.
MEGAN RAPINOE (Olympic Gold Medalist): I always want to show up and be there in those moments for the team, and you know, try to produce and I just love those moments. I do it for the big moments, like that's the payoff. That's the best part.
ANNOUNCER: Magnificent goal by Megan Rapinoe!
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