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
“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
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 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,”
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.”