Biles Was Right to Withdraw from Competition: US Olympic Team Doctor

One of the leading doctors for the U.S. Olympic team says star gymnast Simone Biles was right to withdraw from competition after a bout of what gymnasts call the “twisties.”

The name makes it sound almost comical, but in reality, it’s a phenomenon in which gymnasts become dangerously disoriented during their midair routines.

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“It’s really for her probably worse than anybody else in the world,” said Dr. Mark Hutchinson, doctor to the U.S. Olympic team and professor of orthopedics and sports medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If you get disorientated while you’re up in the air doing flips and you don’t know where to land – she could land on her neck.”

Hutchinson, who has worked with the U.S. gymnastic team, said if Biles had competed while not at her best and then been seriously injured, people would have questioned why she was allowed to compete at all.

“It’s just so amazing that she knows her body so well and that she knows that she was off,” said Hutchinson. “And that the team would be better not having her make a mistake or get injured. I’m just excited for Simone that hopefully she’s feeling better and is going to be able to compete (in the beam competition) because she is the greatest gymnast of all time.”

Biles is scheduled to return to competition Tuesday to compete in the balance beam in the individual gymnastics finals.

Decision to hold Games questioned

In the context of a deadly global pandemic and surging coronavirus cases in Japan, the decision to have the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer was questioned by many.

But even with Japan’s capital under its fourth state of emergency and spectators banned from stadiums, the games have gone on.

“It’s a very different experience than Rio because of COVID. We wear our masks everywhere and there’s certainly less interactive socialization,” Hutchinson said.

He said it appeared that Japan’s population was warming to the Games after initial concerns due to surging coronavirus cases.

“I think with the Japanese (athletes) having done very well at the Games, I think the Japanese population and their opinions (about the Games) have actually improved,” said Hutchinson. “I think they are very proud of their accomplishments.”

And for the athletes, competing in empty stadiums may not be ideal but it’s better than not competing at all, Hutchinson said.

“I think most of the athletes have gotten used to that over the past year and a half during COVID. And so yes, it’s different, it’s not the same Olympic experience, but they are representing their country at the Olympic Games,” said Hutchinson. “Once they’re done here they are Olympians for life. And so it’s still an amazing experience for them.” 

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