December 20, 2021 10:25 AM

Olympic dreams to team doctor

Former competitive swimmer joins USA Swimming in world championships.

stadium swim pool water lights in dark on
Adam Lewno, D.O., signed on as a team physician with USA Swimming for the World Swimming Championships hosted by FINA. Credit: Lewno

It’s been four years, at least.

Adam Lewno misses being in the pool. Badly.

“It’s tough because I fell in love with the sport when I was six,” he said. “After that, I only took a couple weeks off a year from swimming. With the time demands of working right now, I haven’t been able to get back into it.”

The Wisconsin native swam through high school and went on to compete at Northwestern University in Evanston, division I. While his Olympic dreams faded soon after, Lewno’s passion led him to medicine and, eventually, rehabilitation. 

“I’m able to work with patients to see how injuries impact a person’s functioning and quality of life,” said Lewno, D.O., now a clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine. “And with athletes, I’ve been in their shoes practicing 20-plus hours a week. I can use my own experiences to search for small details that will allow me to find the best course to help them keep competing.”

Lewno is now diving back into the sport’s highest level of competition, having joined USA Swimming as a team physician for the World Swimming Championships hosted by FINA, the international swimming federation. The competition happening in the United Arab Emirates, features more than a dozen recent participants in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, including gold medalists Lydia Jacoby and Zach Apple.

"Though it seems an individual sport where we all are racing the second hand of the clock, [swimming] creates a community that aims to support each other and celebrate the journey to achieve our best."
Adam Lewno, D.O.

“Many of these swimmers are coming in at a high level of training, so this is a chance to touch base with them, making sure they can compete at their best based on the training demands they have and any existing injuries,” Lewno said. “Then, with the USA Swimming physician network, we can develop a plan together to help them keep moving forward in pursuit of their dreams.”

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Lewno joined the USA Swimming network of physicians in 2019. Prior to the upcoming competition in Abu Dhabi, he worked with the junior national team at a meet in Canada.

“USA Swimming is extremely grateful to have Dr. Lewno leading our medical staff in Abu Dhabi,” said Keenan Robinson, director of sports medicine and science at USA Swimming. “To have a physician of his expertise in sports medicine providing medical expertise for the Short Course World Championship is a tremendous asset to our athletes.”

Since moving to Michigan, Lewno also joined the medical staff for the swim and track programs at Eastern Michigan University. He often attends practices and competitions, helping to manage in-competition injuries and working with coaches, athletic trainers and sports performance specialists to help athletes get back to sport and prevent reoccurrence. While the atmosphere will surely be different on the international stage, the former Wildcat swimmer is grateful to give back to those who have passion for the sport – at any level.

“Swimming has always been part of my life,” he said. “It has provided many opportunities that have influenced not only my career but my core values. Though it seems an individual sport where we all are racing the second hand of the clock, it creates a community that aims to support each other and celebrate the journey to achieve our best.”

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