An SCU Alum Gears Up for His Fourth Olympics Trip
The dark red spots that dotted the body of Michael Phelps during the Rio Olympics raised eyebrows in 2016. But Kevin Pierce, DC, DACBSP, ‘09 (LACC), was no stranger to the traditional Chinese medical practice—called cupping—which is a popular form of therapy for many professional athletes.
Dr. Pierce is no stranger to the Olympics either. Having served on the Olympic medical staff during the games in Sochi, London, and Rio, he is now in PyeongChang, where he will perform cupping therapy for Team USA, in addition to treating illness, injury, and any other medical emergencies that may arise.
“We’re the team behind the team,” says Pierce, a Sr. High Performance Health Care Provider for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). “If we can help these athletes in any way, that’s what we’re here to do.”
Pierce’s journey to the Olympics began with a setback: While playing quarterback on his college football team, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was out for the rest of the season. During his recovery, he was treated by a chiropractor, who opened his eyes to a side of health care he had not previously considered.
“After I tore my ACL, I spent time with a lot of different doctors, and I saw what I perceived as the ‘good and the bad’ of health care, so to speak,” he says. “I had been going to a chiropractor, and I really appreciated his knowledge and his bedside manner. That showed me that I might try pursuing chiropractic medicine as a career.”
That experience led him to Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU), where he earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and is now an associate faculty member.
When he began his career as an intern with the USOC, it was atypical to find chiropractors on the sidelines during athletic events. However, through SCU, Pierce had the opportunity to travel with many different National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and provide medical care at competitions. He eventually opened up a private practice until he accepted a permanent position with the USOC.
His current role with the USOC has him on the road daily, as he provides sports medical care for a diverse set of athletes in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.
As he gears up for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, he says he is most looking forward to seeing Team USA athletes reach their personal goals.
“For some that might mean winning a gold medal, and for others it might mean finishing in the top 10 in their sport,” Pierce says.
He will be rooting for all the athletes competing for their country this month, but there is one sport in particular for which he has gained a new appreciation.
“I have such a respect for figure skaters,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a sport I was keen on watching in the past, but now seeing how they train, the amount of jumps they do on a regular basis and the toll it takes on the body. Their performances are so planned out and dynamic and explosive — it’s like, ‘Wow.’”