By Kori Tuitt
LOWELL -- How many people can say they have experienced the thrill and energy of being at the Olympic Games? How many people can say they have been six times?
UMass Lowell professor of physical therapy Alexandre Lopes can.
Earlier this month, Lopes boarded a 24-hour flight from Boston to Seoul, South Korea. From there, he took a high-speed train ride to PyeongChang, preparing for his involvement in the Olympics Games for the sixth time.
But Lopes won't just be watching some of the greatest athletes in the world compete for medals and records. He is out there to collaborate with other international experts on research and study the performance of these incredible athletes.
The data will be used to better athlete experiences during the Olympic games and offer ways to prevent illness and injury.
"This epidemiological study will contribute to better planning and provision of athlete healthcare and, importantly, inform the development of measures to prevent injury and illness," Lopes said in an email from South Korea.
Since he was a teenager, Lopes said he always had always dreamed of working in sports. It was a career fair that inspired him to pursue this path.
He worked as a physical therapist for the Brazilian team for four Olympic games, which helped lead to his invitation to work as a researcher for the 2016 Rio Olympics and this year's Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
He also attended the Beijing and London summer Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012 to work with the Brazilian track and field teams.
Lopes worked with bobsled teams in Salt Lake City and Torino, Italy in 2002 and 2006 for the Summer Olympic Games.
Lopes said it has been an honor and privilege to work with these athletes. His favorite summer Olympic sport is track and field for the summer and bobsledding for the winter.
When Lopes returns from his trip, he will have the opportunity to share his experience with his students at UMass Lowell.
"Normally, I have some stories related to the challenges to conduct an epidemiological study with approximately 3,000 elite athletes from 92 countries," he said. "As a physical therapist, I also like to discuss about the main injuries that could happened during the Games. After I have had the opportunity to visit as a sports physical therapist almost 30 different countries in all parts of the world, I have been trying to compare the cultural influence in the rehabilitation approach as well."
Lopes is also chronicling his exciting experience through blog posts at www.blogs.uml.edu/2018-winter-olympics.
"The most rewarding part of being a collaborator of this amazing research team is the feeling that you are helping athletes to prevent injuries," Lopes said. "After many years helping and treating athletes as physical therapist, I do not have any doubt that the most efficient treatment is prevention."