August 03, 2021

Though US Rowing may have missed the podium this year, they still have reason to be proud: 1) They are some of the most elite athletes in the world; and 2) They receive injury-prevention and medical care by some of the best physicians in the world. 

Washington University Orthopedics is proud, too, to be home of one such US Olympic physician, Eric Carson, MD – professor and sports medicine specialist at Washington University Orthopedics. 

Dr. Carson is one of two orthopedic surgery consultants on the US Rowing Medical Commission, supporting both the men’s and women’s team – from the junior’s national team (18 years and younger), to the under-23 team, to the senior national teams. Dr. Carson and his colleagues also support the Paralympics rowing teams.

So how does one become an Olympic physician? It started when Dr. Carson was a fellow at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY. His mentor, Jo Hannafin, MD, PhD, rowed on the U.S. Rowing national team in the Olympics, and was, at the time, the senior physician consultant for the team. After completing his fellowship, Dr. Carson established a practice at the University of Virginia and happened to be assigned to cover the women’s varsity rowing team: a nationally-ranked program with many members on the senior national and under-23 teams.  

“For me, new to the sport, there were many strange injuries in these young, exclusive rowing athletes. Injuries like rib stress fractures and overuse injuries of the upper extremity,” recalls Carson. “I would call Dr. Hannifan on a regular basis, since my only exposure to rowing was the famous race, Head of the Charles, in Boston during my residency. Suffice it to say, she talked me through these different and unique sporting injuries.”

Dr. Carson continued to seek consult with Dr. Hannafin, until one day she told him “You have plenty of knowledge about rowing injuries. I would love to have you assist with our national teams.” 

Since joining the US Rowing Medical Commission, some of his favorite experiences involve traveling to remote places like Belarus, Poland and Bulgaria with the national teams. Dr. Carson is currently based in St. Louis and he continues to serve on the US Rowing Medical Commission, traveling to international events about twice a year. He also continues to write policy and conduct clinical and injury-prevention research on rowers.

Though Dr. Carson did not accompany the team to Tokyo for this year’s 2021 Olympics, he did attend the Games in Atlanta in 1996. With eight physicians on the Medical Commission, they rotate the honor of Games attendance…but you may just catch him in Paris in a few years.

Learn more about Dr. Carson and the work he's doing to make orthopedics a more diverse and inclusive specialty.

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