Even athletes in “individual” Olympic sports are, in reality, are part of elaborate teams. From coaches and practice partners to doctors and athletic trainers, America’s top athletes are definitely a team: the U.S. Olympic Committee.
One member of that team is Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular cardiologist Dr. Mark Hart. For 12 years, Dr. Hart has served as one of seven doctors on the Summer Games medical staff. In addition to providing medical advice and care during the Games, he serves at other events like the world championships, the Pan American Games and Olympic qualifiers.
During the Games, the medical team might numb an injury or help with smaller things, while nearby medical centers provide acute care in the rare chance that’s needed. Year-round USOC athletes can tap Dr. Hart and his team for advice, referrals and answers about medications that may be prohibited.
Glimpses behind the scenes
Dr. Hart points out that just reaching the Olympic level is amazing. “It didn’t happen overnight,” he says. Each athlete — and typically their families — has spent much of their lives dedicated to hard work and true love of a sport.
Because of that, the USOC emphasizes helping Olympians have an answer to “what’s next?” The USOC is addressing that by offering counseling for athletes’ retirement. “You have to have a Plan B,” Dr. Hart notes.
Olympians’ dedication and perseverance, even when injured, is tremendous. Dr. Hart explains that the medical team sometimes must talk athletes into not overdoing their recovery. “We stress to them that, if you invest correctly, you’ll get a better return,” he says. “A lot of our job is advising, helping and referring them to the right person in our extensive medical network of approved practitioners.”
This mission is personal for Dr. Hart. “We volunteer for this, and they make it clear we are part of the team,” he says. “You get to know the athletes and their families. It’s really special when you get to see them on the podium.”
Dr. Hart brings that same degree of teamwork and personal interest to his cardiology patients, whom he sees in both Portland and Tillamook. If you or a loved one has a heart concern and you’d like to visit with Dr. Hart or another of our cardiologists, just give us a call: