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Local expertise and support: Two Spokane doctors are volunteering on medical team for USA Track & Field Indoor Championships at the Podium

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 25, 2022

Raised in Spokane, MultiCare sports medicine specialist Dr. Nick Strasser watched events such as Hoopfest and Bloomsday shine a light on the city. He’ll see a wider national spotlight this weekend.

He and Dr. Asdrubal “Dru” Lopez, a Spokane certified chiropractic sports physician, will be two local volunteers among health specialists supporting 450 U.S. athletes in Spokane at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships. Held at the Podium on Saturday and Sunday, it will bring national elite competitors – from sprinters to pole vaulters.

Strasser will help coordinate for any off-site medical care, if needed, to treat an athlete’s illness or injury.

“It’s a big get for Spokane from a visibility standpoint,” Strasser said. “And it’s a great chance to show off our wonderful community and the athletics we have here – the track and field and running history – and, obviously, Bloomsday.

“It also gives us a chance to showcase some of the involvement we have from the medical side and coordination of care across different groups and systems, coming together to elevate care and really provide wonderful medical coverage for the athletes. That’s where I fit into a fairly complex puzzle.”

At MultiCare Integrated Sports Medicine, Strasser is a primary care sports medicine doctor for movement problems, injuries, joint pain, sports-related issues and nonsurgical orthopedic work. He’s served as Hoopfest medical director for about four years and as a medical director for Eastern Washington University athletics.

Lopez, at Summit Chiropractic & Sports Institute, is vice president and chair of sports science and medicine for the USA Track & Field Inland Northwest Association and the event’s local medical liaison. Lopez will treat athletes at the event as its lead chiropractor.

As with other events, USA Track & Field’s core doctors and health specialists are traveling to Spokane to provide care for athletes.

Lopez and Strasser have worked together often at EWU events, so Lopez said he thought of his colleague in organizing local support. Lopez has long served as a lead chiropractor at USA Track & Field competitions globally, and he helped promote Spokane as a host.

“I’ve been working with USA Track & Field since 2011,” Lopez said. That’s included traveling with the national team, Team USA, since 2015 and providing care at Pan American Games, Olympic Trials and multiple track meets with the international team.

“Since I’m loca and we’ve built a new facility downtown, I talked to the Spokane Sports Commission about bringing indoor nationals here, and they were able to put a bid in. I assisted with the medical plan for that, and then we got the bid, so I played a little bit of a role, also pitching it and setting up the medical plan for it.”

USA Track & Field then asked him to handle local medical coordination. “USA Track has their own medical doctor who will travel with them, so me and him and then another athletic trainer are basically leading the medical team. Because I have more relationships locally, that’s when I reached out to Dr. Strasser.

“I thought, let’s get MultiCare involved and Dr. Strasser, so if something were to happen and we need a hospital or imaging, we can go ahead and send them over to MultiCare. But we have a big medical team already staffed at the event, so we will be doing a majority of the treatments there.”

Strasser said he’d coordinate any visits for imaging, urgent care or ER. “I’d be the one to help navigate that. Dr. Lopez has a good finger on the pulse of everything else going on,” he said.

“I’m being the local knowledge base, if you will. When we have these professional athletes come, we want to ensure that we are showing them the most coordinated care because they don’t unfortunately have the luxury of time. We have to get them seen quickly during that four-day window (including practice days).”

Strasser also will support the USA Track physicians by providing medications, medical tools such as walking boots and vital signs equipment. Local knowledge can streamline care, he said.

“The more seamless your handoffs, I think the more likely it is for the patient to have a better outcome. Track injuries generally are bumps, bruises, sprains. We don’t want this to happen, but if someone had a questionable spinal injury, then we’d need to put them on the board, coordinate with EMS, get them to Deaconess ER, coordinate with the ER docs. Someone who is not from the area just wouldn’t know where to start.

“To ensure we are maximizing the chances for successful assessment, initiation of treatment plans and improved outcomes, my job is to streamline and coordinate as smoothly as possible.”

He’s talked to MultiCare staff about backing off-site care. But he’ll be the only MultiCare representative to stand near the track and field events because of limited space.

The sport’s injuries can be broad, and both he and Lopez said most are from overuse, strain, sprains and pulled muscles that are mostly treated on-site.

To be there, Strasser had to complete USA Track & Field’s safe sport training. He’s covered high school and collegiate track and field before, but this is his first event with the organization.

“I am serving as a volunteer or an unpaid representative of MultiCare, but I’m cleared as a medical provider through USA Track & Field. After this event, I have the opportunity to continue to serve.”

The Lewis and Clark High School graduate returned to Spokane about five years ago after his medical training.

At work, he often treats student athletes from teens up through college age, and then adults who are professional athletes or regularly do sports. Clinic patients also include people who need help maintaining movement and function.

“Our model is a one-stop shop for all functional motion and athletics – so we have physical therapy onsite, orthopedic surgery onsite, and we have myself onsite filling in the nonsurgical side.”

Overall, he said Spokane has a special athletic culture with a high concentration of athletes and opportunities for community sports beyond Hoopfest and Bloomsday, “for all stages and all ages.”

Strasser admitted he’s excited to watch some of the country’s best track athletes. Some will compete in the next Olympic cycle.

“You’re focused and working and it’s definitely a serious ordeal, but they’re kind of the best seats in the house,” he said.

“One of the great benefits in being a covering provider is you get to carry the energy from the athletes. It’s exciting to cheer for them, to share in their successes and the struggles.

“Then to welcome people in. Spokane seems to be growing at what seems like an exponential rate, so to continue to elevate the coordination of care and showcase it on a national scale, it’s a big deal.”

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