Physician Joanne "Anne" Allen works with U.S. Sailing, Olympics, and Paralympics teams
During the summer Olympics, Wilmington native JOANNE “ANNE” ALLEN watched the games from a different perspective.
Allen, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, has worked for the Olympic and Paralympics over the past twenty years. Currently, she still works with U.S. Sailing as a team physician doing medical support for the Paralympic Sailing Team. Although she did not make the trek to Rio for this summer’s games, she still participates with the athletes and the medical staff via Skype.
Allen will be working with the Paralympic sailing athletes for the Rio games in September remotely, as she runs her own practice, Allen Spine and Sports Medicine, and works for OrthoWilmington (now known as EmergeOrtho). She has an impressive list of titles and careers from working with the University of North Carolina Wilmington men’s soccer team to becoming a member of the board of trustees for the American College of Sports Medicine.
Ever since a young age, sports were a focus for Allen. She was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball in the downtown Wilmington league for Walker Taylor Insurance and later continued to participate in other sports throughout her high school and college career. These days, she continues to compete actively in tennis and sailing.
She recalls that at twelve years old, she knew she wanted to practice sports medicine after receiving her first cast for a sprained ankle from basketball. She even can pinpoint a distinct moment where she realized her passion of specifically working with the Olympics.
“I recall very vividly at age ten reading a Guinness Book of World Records about Olympic athletes and realizing that I might not be an Olympic athlete, but I could be a doctor for the Olympic games,” Allen says.
Fast-forward, and her dreams became a reality after she finished her residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It was 1996, and she took a job in Atlanta because she knew that was the location of that summer’s Olympics and Paralympics. As she had hoped, she was asked to help cover badminton for the Olympic games.
As an avid sailor herself, however, her true niche in sports medicine was sailing. While covering badminton, she conducted research on sailing injuries for the Olympics. Then, she garnered an invite to be the medical venue head for the Paralympic Sailing venue, Allen says.
Allen then began working for U.S. Sailing, the U.S. Olympic Committee, the World Sailing Organization, and the International Paralympic Committee.
“Being part of the U.S. team is one of the biggest highlights of my career,” she says. “Walking into the stadium during the opening ceremonies in 2004 for my first time with the entire U.S. Paralympic team in Athens – the birthplace of the Olympics – was an incredible honor and will always be one of the most memorable events of my life.”
But there have also been difficult times.
Allen was one of three doctors present during the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996, which killed one and left more than 100 injured.
“(After the bombing,) the games went on, and we all persevered. And I think that’s why I enjoy the Paralympics so much. All of the athletes have persevered through their difficult times as disabled individuals to become the elite athletes they are,” Allen says.
She notes that the biggest skill she has gained from working with the Olympics and Paralympics is teamwork.
“I hope that I have used some of my teamwork skills as president of the New Hanover-Pender County Medical Society this year, and of course with all of the teams and athletes with whom I work,” Allen says. “But most importantly, I hope my patients all feel like I am always on their team."
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