Athletic Trainers Prepare for 2014 Olympic Winter Games


Left to right: Byron Craighead and Ben Towne in Sochi.

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games is the first time that the Russian Federation will have hosted the Winter Games; the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. The host city, Sochi, has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia.

Athletic Trainers (ATs) Ben Towne, MA, ATC, and Byron Craighead, MA, ATC, work side by side providing medical care to the US bobsled and skeleton team and will have the opportunity of a lifetime serving Olympic athletes in Sochi.

Ben has been a BOC Certified Athletic Trainer since 2000 and began his route working with Olympic athletes when he applied through the United States Olympic Committee Medical Volunteer Program in 2006. He completed a two-week rotation at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Soon after his training, he was extended the opportunity to work with the US Bobsled and Skeleton Team.

Preparation for the Olympics includes general maintenance and sports performance, in addition to injury management. Ben shared that manual skills are a must and that reading up on the latest treatment techniques and understanding the demands of the elite level athlete are essential to providing quality care. Ben has worked three World Championships and completed several World Cup events over the past several years, but this is his first Olympics.

Ben Towne in St Moritz, Switzerland in January 2014.

Ben shares advice for ATs interested in working the Olympics.

"Be patient. Just as it takes some athletes years to get to an Olympics, it can take just as long for an Athletic Trainer," said Ben, "It also takes a while to understand all the nuances of each sport. Perhaps more importantly, you must be a team player and be able to work with ALL healthcare professionals."

Byron has been a BOC Certified Athletic Trainer since 1971. He had a dream to represent the US in the field of Sports Medicine at the highest level of amateur athletics, so he began his route by applying for the two-week internship at the USOC Sports Medicine Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. There, he worked with athletes in a variety of sports including wrestling, racquetball and ice hockey. After his internship, he worked with USA Wrestling at a variety of levels of competition.

US Bobsled Olympians Lauryn Williams and Jamie Greubel with Byron Craighead (center).

Years later, he was asked if he’d like to work with the USA Bobsled team and he accepted. He originally just worked with the men’s bobsled team, but as women’s bobsledding evolved, he has worked with both teams on the same tour.

His involvement with Olympic training has been as little as two weeks to as long as 10 weeks. He has been fortunate to work the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Byron advises that ATs earn their certification and then after, build a resume of diversified experience such as applying for the USOC internship, developing people skills and gaining professional skills with various continuing education activities.

"Athletes on top of their game are constantly pursuing the newest treatment protocols available," Byron said. "You must have a passion for your profession, as hours are long, demands high and expectations higher."

Written By:
Brittney Ryba

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