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Helping Olympic Volleyball Athletes Achieve Their Dreams

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Olympic volleyball players energize their game with powerful spikes, blocks and other moves that can only be achieved through top mental and physical fitness. An orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical Center has served a unique dual role for these athletes: a team physician for the U.S. Women's Volleyball Team and an expert the Chinese players have turned to for healing.

Sherwin Ho, MD, associate professor of surgery and director of the Medical Center's sports medicine fellowship, just returned from Beijing after attending the Olympic games as a guest of the U.S. and Chinese teams. Ho began serving as a team physician for the U.S. women following the Athens games and often travels with the team to major tournaments throughout the world, such as the most recent World Cup and the World Grand Prix.

"For me, this Olympics has been particularly gratifying because of my deep involvement with the U.S. team as well as the host Chinese team leading up to the Olympics," Ho says, adding, "I am rooting for both the Chinese and the U.S. teams to do well."

In Beijing, Ho sat in on the U.S. team's practices and games, supporting the women through the highs and lows of what was a roller coaster first week. On the eve of their opening match against Japan, the players were awoken from their pre-game nap to the shocking and tragic news of the stabbing death of Todd Bachman, father of former U.S. player Liz Bachman and father-in-law of the U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. Bachman and his wife, Barbara, were constant companions of the team and many players considered them extended family. Somehow, the team was able to re-group that evening to win its opening match at the Olympics.

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Ho works closely with U.S. Women's Coach Jenny Lang Ping. Lang Ping, a sports icon in China where volleyball is wildly popular, is known as the "Iron Hammer" because of her powerful spikes, and even has her face immortalized on a postage stamp. She led China to gold in the 1984 Olympics.

Ho has also performed surgery on two players with the Chinese team. China is the defending Olympic champion for women's volleyball. The U.S. team is ranked fourth in the world.

As the U.S. plays in the quarterfinals that start Tuesday, Aug. 19, Ho is anxiously watching.

Although he did not travel to Beijing, Michael Terry, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Medical Center, serves as team physician for the men's volleyball team.

Constantly striving to improve orthopaedic treatments, surgeons at the Medical Center tackle some of the most difficult patient cases and develop new surgical processes and devices. Several faculty members have played key roles in developing new models for prostheses used for joint replacement.