WINFIELD – The flat plains of Illinois didn’t deter David Watt of Wheaton from pursuing a hobby that led him to the 2019 Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup event in Kreischberg, Austria.
Watt, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, provided medical coverage for U.S. Ski and Snowboard at the event Jan. 9 to 12.
In slopestyle, snowboarders zoom down a course while performing stunts off rails and jumps. When these athletes “go large,” crashes can be dangerous with risks of concussions and upper extremity injuries.
“Compared to skiing, lower extremity injuries aren’t as common because the snowboard provides some protection,” Watt said in a news release. “However, wrist and shoulder injuries are a risk and these athletes may experience neck and back issues.”
Fortunately, there were no major injuries to the U.S. team during the Kreischberg event, but Watt kept busy providing medical advice to keep the athletes competing at their best.
“They teased that I was a good-luck charm,” Watt said. “It was a privilege to meet and work with these very talented athletes. They were open, accepting and really a nice group of guys.”
The U.S. team included two former Olympians as well as new, younger competitors. The U.S. earned one podium spot with Olympian Chris Corning taking second place.
A recreational snowboarder for more than 20 years and head team physician for Wheaton College Athletics, Watt first became interested in volunteering for U.S. Ski and Snowboard while accompanying a colleague to the X-Games.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to combine my profession, sports medicine, with one of my favorite hobbies, snowboarding,” Watt said. “But being from the Midwest, I knew it would be tough to make the right connections. Obviously, many of the team physicians are from Vail [Colorado] or other skiing areas.”
Watt’s persistence paid off and he was invited to join the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Physician Pool, a group of more than 200 licensed medical providers of various specialties who volunteer their time and financial resources to provide medical services at training camps and competitions.
Requirements include screening by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Medical Committee, regular participation in U.S. Ski and Snowboard training courses, and completion of Safe Sport and Anti-Doping education.
“One course involved two days on the mountain practicing emergency care on the slopes,” Watt said. “It can be complicated to prevent the patient from sliding down the slope while trying to immobilize an injured body part.”
Plus, one must consider the wintery weather. But freezing hands aside, Watt said it was an amazing experience.
“I respect these young athletes. Snowboarding is a complex sport and it feels great to contribute in any way I can,” Watt said. “I hope to do it again next year.”