A secret celebrity at USC: sports physician Liesbeth Lim

A secret celebrity at USC: sports physician Liesbeth Lim

Sports physician Liesbeth Lim visited European championships, world championships and world cups with the national gymnastics team, accompanied well-known synchronized swimmers Noortje and Bregje de Brouwer to the Olympics and accompanied many more big names like Yuri van Gelder. Next to that, she stays active: ‘I dance, I could do a split for you right now! I also do fitness, running and acrobatics.’ And that versatile doctor is walking around at USC!

She studied medicine in Nijmegen, after which she specialized in sports medicine in Amsterdam. ‘It is nice to be back in Amsterdam at USC’, Lim tells us. Lim is the sports physician at USC, available to all students. What is that exactly? A sports physician is different from a physical therapist in that they’re concerned with the whole body. ‘The body consists of more organs than just muscles and joints.’ So, why do students need a sports physician? At USC you can do a health test. You may need a mandatory one, for example for a diving course, but you can also do one voluntarily. Just to see where you’re at. Physician Lim can help you assess what you need to work on or why you have certain pains when working out. ‘Students who work out a lot, often have overuse injuries, because they trained too much, too intense or with the wrong techniques’, explains Lim. So how can students prevent this? ‘Make sure the balance between physical stress and recovery is good. Don’t exercise too little, but also not too much. Keep in mind, stress can also be caused by your studies. It can cause you to sleep or eat less.’ Well, if doctor Lim says so, I guess we can take a day off school today.

Lim looks back at her career with joy and is happy where she is right now. ‘I love that I got a chance to work with professional athletes for fifteen years, but I also like the challenge of learning from new experiences.’ This doesn’t make her less of an iconic doctor though. ‘I was a dancer myself, so I wanted to work with a similar sport. Gymnastics fits the picture’, says Lim. ‘It helps if you already know the sport. For example, I went to a dance performance with my boyfriend, in the end, I said: “That one had pretty feet, didn’t she?” He said: “Feet? I was watching the performance!” It’s very important for dancers to fully stretch their feet, even their toes, but that’s also very difficult to do. If you know the sport, you pay attention to those details. You speak the language.’

‘The best thing about my job is the challenge to get someone to the top as healthy as possible. An Olympic medal is great, but that’s the end goal. No one realizes that that took ten to twenty years of work. The number of times they’ve been injured but picked themselves back up. Working with professional athletes means working at the border’, Lim talks about her job enthusiastically. ‘They are on one side of the edge and I keep pushing them back to the healthy side of the border. They work one’s fingers to the bone and I make sure they don’t cross the line.’ But it’s the end goal that makes it all the more fulfilling: ‘If you know how much time and energy went into it, it’s even more amazing when you see someone win a gold medal.’ Us USC-goers can’t be compared to those athletes, right? Lim doesn’t agree. ‘I’ve worked with both amateurs and professionals, it’s both very fun. Amateurs can be just as competitive. A student who wants to run a marathon is also taking on a huge challenge.’

Lim’s advice is clear: ‘Stay active! Keep looking for possibilities, even in this pandemic. It’s important not only for your physical well-being but also for your mental well-being. Clear your head a little.’ Lim’s medical advice: ‘No pills, just exercise. Here’s your prescription, it says: “move!”.’

Photo: Liesbeth Lim and dance instructor Regillio Pinas