Early this September, our very own Gabrielle Gottlieb got the call of her life, well one of the calls of her life since she’s pretty fabulous as it is. The call was a referral to work on the healthcare team, as Acupuncturist behind the scenes, on pro tennis players, at the US Open here in New York. With a prior career as a professional dancer, and having worked on dancers and athletes for decades, Gabrielle was thrilled for this chance and we caught up with her after she caught her breath later that month.
Q: What part of your experience impressed you most?
A: I know how professional athletes dedicate their full lives to a sport. But I was so impressed with their degree of commitment to self care. They are very holistic in treating their bodies, and dedicated to natural treatments and wholesome foods. Some matches didn’t end till 11:00 p.m. or later. It increased my admiration for the sport as well as for the players who sometimes began their training at age 3 and 4! All athletes were monitored carefully and received supreme care. The medical doctors, physical therapists and nutritionist on staff were highly trained and skilled in sports medicine. It was amazing to work alongside them and be part of the healthcare team.
Q: Did you approach treatment differently off the court than you do in your daily practice?
A: Yes. In fact, this also was a new experience for me. Treating athletes at a grand slam event is very different from my current in-office practice. At the US Open I had to work much more quickly with an enormous volume of people. The pre-practice and pre-match acupuncture treatments I provided were extremely brief, in order to prevent muscle fatigue and sleepiness, and were focused on releasing small, highly localized, tight “knots” in areas of skeletal muscle. During post-practice and post-match acupuncture treatments the athletes were able to take more time to relax and recover. These treatments were a bit longer and addressed the use of more points to release tight muscles, relieve pain and increase range of motion. Treatments in my daily practice are generally 30 minutes long and address a vast array of symptoms related to internal health concerns as well as musculoskeletal issues. Patients often find these treatments so relaxing they fall asleep. If necessary, I recommend appropriate herbal formulae or supplements. During an initial intake I spend additional time to perform a complete health history inquiry. Overall, there is more time and more detail involved.
Q: How do you think this experience will influence your practice?
A: Working at the US Open has sharpened my acupuncture skills in treating sports and repetitive strain injuries. I feel more confident than ever about helping patients that come to me for these issues, whether they are a professional player, sports enthusiast, or computer programmer with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Q: Any final thoughts on your time spent at the US Open this year?
A: This was an extremely intense and exhausting experience, both for the athletes as well as for the medical team. I treated one player after another. It was a fast-paced environment, and almost likened to working in a mash unit. It was challenging and fascinating to work with an international group of professional health care providers and athletes. I definitely learned a lot and had fun doing it.