Richmond physicians Jim Miller and Tim Silver are in Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics, but not as competitors.
Silver, the chief medical officer for Sheltering Arms South, is the physician for the U.S. equestrian team, while Miller, a sports medicine doctor with Family Practice Specialists of Richmond, is working with swimmers from all nations during the Olympics.
Miller knows his sport well: He’s a team physician with USA Swimming, which oversees national competitions, and is a longtime coach and competitive swimmer himself.
“I’m an athlete and coach, (and) to be able to interact with the top athletes and coaches from around the world, it’s a privilege,” he says.
Silver is new to equestrian sports, but has extensive expertise in head injuries and rehabilitation and has worked past Winter Games and Summer Olympic and other international competitions.
Miller will be conducting steroid testing and ensuring the health of competitors, coaches and trainers. He’s also a member of the sports medicine committee of FINA, the Fédération Internationale de Natation, the international governing body of swimming competitions.
His work began well before the Summer Games, ensuring that contingencies and plans are in place for everything from safety boats and evacuation crafts, to the proximity and the equipment available at the hospital designated to serve diving competitors. Test events were held in venues to ensure they were safe and ready, he says.
He’s present poolside during competitions, but is rarely seen. His children look for his shoes in television coverage to know he’s there. There are days off, though, and he can enjoy events up close.
“You’re sitting there, on the pool deck, and a world-class athlete walks up,” he says. “How big a deal is that?”
While Miller is serving as a medical resource for all the athletes, he says the American competitors are more likely to ask questions or seek him out, simply because they already know him.
He’s a veteran of these competitions, but he never tires of the Olympic experience. Working with world-class athletes, watching the opening and closing ceremonies, and being a part of it all — at no cost — is awe-inspiring.
“This is pretty amazing,” he says. “To be part of that, it makes it sweeter.”
In equestrian competitions, the primary concern is concussions. If riders fall or dismount, they must be screened field-side and cleared, says Silver. He knows about concussions, having worked with various football, basketball, soccer and rugby programs, so he was a good fit.
But he’d never been a horse guy. He learned about the sport and its rules courtesy of a huge packet of information sent to him by the Olympic organizers. He also went to Pocahontas State Park for an event to gain a bit of first-hand horse sense, as in how to be around the animals and not get kicked or bitten.
“I was so leery at the beginning,” he says.
He’d previously worked the games as a volunteer through the International Olympic Committee. He worked the Summer Games and the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. Working through the IOC, he was not focused on any one team. For instance, he worked judo and wrestling events in the games in Greece. He sat next to team trainers for a particular country, but would wear a neutral uniform instead of any team’s particular colors.
Silver also worked the Winter Olympics in 2006 in Turin in Italy, serving in a clinic that was open to all residents in the Olympic village. Most of their cases involved officials who had slipped on ice, he said. It was a fun week and got him up close with the competitors, eating meals across from stars such as Shaun White.
“It took me a while not to be starstruck,” he says.
Silver says he’s paying for his flights and accommodations for the Rio Games. Meals are provided while he’s on duty. There are some other perks, such as a bag of gear he got while working the Winter Games.
It’s work, but it’s a fun experience, Silver says. “You have to be a sports fan, and enjoy being in the field of play and on the sidelines.”
Health and medicine news in brief
- VCU Health’s free seminars at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden continue with a session at 5:30 p.m. today discussing chemobrain, the cognitive dysfunction and memory loss that may be experienced by cancer survivors. The session will be led by Ashlee Loughan, a neuropsychologist with the VCU Massey Cancer Center. A session on lung cancer screening and smoking cessation will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 11, with Mark Parker, Patricia Cafaro and Michelle Futrell of VCU Health’s Department of Radiology.
- If you’re deskbound, there’s hope: An hour’s worth of engagement in an activity such as walking will offset eight hours of sitting in your office. Moderate exercise doesn’t seem to have as much benefit for folks who spend a lot of time on the couch watching television, though. That’s the results of a study released July 27 in the British medical journal The Lancet.
- Michael Morris has joined the practice at Commonwealth Endodontics. The Roanoke native earned a doctorate of dental surgery from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1991, completed a two-year residency in advanced education in general dentistry at Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, and earned a certificate in endodontics in 2010 from the Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio. He was a dentist with the U.S. Air Force from 1991 until his recent retirement after 24 years of service.
- Free acupuncture treatments for new patients will be offered on Tuesday, Aug. 16, as part of an open house at Southside Community Acupuncture, 8730 Stony Point Parkway, No. 270.