REUNITED: Johnson, left, with her former Harvard hockey coach, Katey Stone, the first female head coach to lead the U.S. women’s hockey team
Anne Holland “Holly” Johnson, MD, a Foot and Ankle surgeon in the MGH Department of Orthopædic Surgery, will travel to Sochi, Russia on Feb. 1 to watch – and watch over – the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey team. Named team doctor last spring, Johnson, a former hockey star at Harvard University, began actively working with players in September, dividing her time between the MGH and the ice.
Q. How are you and the team preparing for the Olympics?
A. The team is focused on their training and skating daily. They have been skating at the Edge Sports Center in Bedford since September and more recently at the Olympic-size ice-sheet at Belmont Hill School. In addition, they build and maintain strength and conditioning with trainers in Woburn. The athletes are focused on getting enough sleep, maximizing their nutrition and generally staying healthy in these last few weeks before our departure. At this point, I am getting organized to leave – making sure I have everything in place to keep the players safe and healthy and to be prepared for any injury or illness that may come up during our travels.
CLOSE OBSERVATION: Johnson examines Kendall Coyne, a member of Team USA.
Q. What is your role as team doctor?
A. I am available if they have any health concerns – everything from orthopedic injuries to the common cold – making sure they have the highest level of medical support and maximizing a speedy recovery. We have had a few injuries, but overall everyone is quite healthy and, hopefully, can maintain it. During the month of December, I traveled with the team to Canada and the Midwest for games. This month we have stayed local but played various scrimmages.
Q. What kind of injuries do you normally see?
A. Generally speaking, we see concussions, muscle and tendon strains and overuse injuries. Women’s hockey differs from men’s because there is no checking, so thankfully there are fewer acute injuries overall.
Q. Do you have any concerns about traveling to Russia for the games?
A. I really don’t. My main concern is maintaining the players’ health with their rigorous schedule. Obviously, the media has been highlighting the civil unrest in the area; however, with the heightened alert, I have to believe that the Russian government, the International Olympic Committee and our government have us covered in the Olympic village and at the Olympic venues.
Q. Who makes up the medical team?
A. In addition to my role as team physician, we have an athletic trainer, a massage therapist, and a strength and conditioning coach. At the games, a wide network of medical professionals are present through the United States Olympic Committee to help all members of Team USA.
Q. Are you able to ease player anxiety and stress because you were a hockey player?
A. Coming from the sport, I have an understanding of the game, injury patterns, and their day-to-day training, and this gives me a unique perspective as a physician. I am sure it makes the players feel better that I have a greater level of understanding.
Q. How does it feel to be attending the Olympics?
A. This is an incredible opportunity. I am honored to take care of this unbelievable group of women, and it’s amazing to be a part of their ride. I am excited to support them in their pursuit of a gold medal.
The Olympic Winter Games commence on Feb 7. The MGH Department of Orthopædic Surgery is honored to have one of their own support the women’s Olympic hockey team. “Holly is an outstanding clinician, a great surgeon and has an in-depth understanding of the game,” says Harry Rubash, MD, chief of the MGH Department of Orthopædic Surgery. “She is the perfect person to fill this role, and we hope she and the team bring home the gold medal.”
Read more articles from the 01/31/14 Hotline issue.