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Local Physician Helps Olympians on Road to Rio

Top Photo: Jason Batley, MD, congratulates Cammile Adams, an Olympian for the U.S. Women’s Swim Team for the 2016 Summer Games, after she earned her place on Team USA during the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.


The hopes and dreams of hundreds of athletes were on the line as they stood over a pool in Omaha, Nebraska earlier this summer, competing for a handful of spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.

The swimmers focused on the water, listening for the horn that signaled the start of each race at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The cheering of the sold-out crowd grew more intense as swimmers raced with fingers stretched toward the wall. Dr. Jason Batley was in the middle of the excitement, but he didn’t have time to watch the competition. Working behind the scenes, he was monitoring swimmers’ warm-ups, checking blood test results and using cutting edge performance medicine to help a handful of athletes reach their potential.

Batley is an orthopedic surgeon with Iredell Health System with offices in Statesville and Mooresville. He also works with SwimMac Elite – a group of top-tier swimmers based in Charlotte. SwimMac CEO and director of coaching David Marsh built the program, attracting repeat Olympians and bona fide stars like Ryan Lochte to live in Charlotte and train with the team. It’s a level of success Marsh says Batley helped them to achieve over the past three years. When the Olympic trials were over, six athletes from SwimMAC Elite were on Team USA and headed to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

David Marsh, coach of the U.S. Women’s Swim Team for Team USA stands next to Jason Batley, MD, at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha earlier this summer.

“Dr. Batley added a dimension to our program that previously existed for our athletes only when they traveled to an Olympic Training Center,” Marsh said from the USA Olympic Training Camp in Atlanta, the last stop before Team USA’s trip to Rio. “Having him involved on a daily basis made our training more efficient, workouts more effective, and performance gains greater.”

What Batley offers goes beyond tending to sprains and broken bones. He’s on a mission to understand how the human body works at its top levels of performance, and make specialized care more widely available.

“There have been individual instances where coach and I talked, even while we were at trials, and little things we identified we were able to correct in the hours before a race. We think that made the difference between someone just missing the team and actually making the team,” Batley said.

The Science
Batley uses science to make decisions about an athlete’s training regimen. For one, he monitors the level of an enzyme called creatine kinase in their blood.

“When athletes work out, they break down muscle and that’s reflected in creatine kinase,” Batley explained. “If their creatine kinase level is too high, a stress hormone like cortisol could be limiting their recovery. We cut back on their stress, decrease their workouts, their creatine kinase level comes down and they take off again.”

And that’s just one example. He also monitors things like hydration and blood lactate levels – which are a good indicator of the intensity of an athlete’s workout.

Cammile Adams, a member of SwimMac Elite and specialist in the butterfly stroke at this year’s Olympic Games who also represented the United States at the 2012 summer games in London, is just one of the athletes who have Batley to thank for aiding in their success. When Adams started to feel badly last year after several tough weeks of training, Batley looked to her lab results and made some startling discoveries. Acting on Batley’s advice, Marsh modified her workouts for two weeks.

When Adams returned to competition weeks later, she broke the American record for the women’s 200m butterfly. She’s now on the 2016 squad in Rio.

“What we’ve learned is sometimes, knowing strategically when to not train and when to work on recovery, and the nutrition and hydration of recovery, improves performance more than just working harder,” Batley said.

Beyond the Rio Games
The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is taking notice of the SwimMac Elite Program. This year, Marsh is the head coach of the U.S. women’s swim team. Batley is a certified physician with the USOC.

The committee is interested in the type of program Batley has created, bridging the USOC medical staff based at the Colorado Olympic training center with the coaches and athletes on Team Elite in Charlotte. Like other groups around the country, Team Elite used to rely on visits and intermittent communication from the USOC physiologist and nutritionist to coordinate care. By providing care on site, Batley has made the process more efficient and has made athlete healthcare more consistent.

“Now the Olympic Committee is looking at what we’ve done and saying ‘gosh, you know, we know what you did, it has created quite a model to apply to a larger group of athletes,’” said
Batley. “That’s going to be the next phase. How do we take what we’ve done and regroup for the next Olympic cycle?”

Batley is also sharing what he has learned with college programs around the country and stressing the importance of monitoring the overall health of each athlete. Sprains and other injuries get plenty of attention while things like proper nutrition, he said, are too often overlooked.

Dr. Batley, center, talks to the SwimMac Elite Team during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.

While big name and professional athletes may have easy access to custom, specialty care, Marsh says Batley’s attention to each athlete is what sets him apart.

“He treated every athlete as if they were a potential gold medalist, and that attitude was appreciated by the entire team,” said Marsh. “He makes the effort to understand each individual, and then develops an effective plan based on these individual differences. This separates him from most.”

It’s the kind of treatment that Batley provided for Anthony Ervin, who will compete in his third Olympic games at 35 years old. When Ervin qualified for the 50 meter freestyle in Omaha, Batley was watching.

“About five minutes later, I get a text- ‘Hey Doc, thanks,’” Batley said. “It makes you realize, they do appreciate it.”

Categories: General News,Iredell Physician Network