Larry Nassar molested hundreds of young athletes as the doctor for the U.S. gymnastics national team. One of those young athletes was Selena Brennan, who started seeing him for back pain at age 12 and saw him not just as a healer, but as a career role model.
Finally, here was a doctor with whom she shared a vocabulary, someone who did not need to be taught what a front walkover was. Here was a doctor who understood what was expected of her in the gym and who could treat her injury in a way that catered to that. It was through that lens that she started to see a future in sports medicine for herself.
“Just being able to be with a doctor who understood the sport made it a lot easier. It was like I could take a deep breath, and I didn’t have to explain how [I do] what I do. Sometimes primary care doctors give you some type of way to cope with the pain. But when you’re practicing that much in a gym, you’re constantly putting pressure on your back,” Selena said. “Those things don’t necessarily work, because there’s a ton more pressure on your body than the average person. It was nice to have reasonable tools be given and be like, ‘OK, this is something I can actually do, this might actually make a difference.’ After my [first] visit I was like, ‘I’m doing this.’ I ended up telling him, ‘I want to do what you do.’”
Amid the campus activism—marches and protests, teal ribbons tied around trees, therapeutic fitness classes exclusive to survivors—Selena worked hard to untangle her love of sports medicine from Nassar. He was at once an example of what she wanted to be and exactly the type of person whom she did not want to become. She questioned her ambitions and worried she had been misled.
What if he was leading me down the wrong path, career-wise? She thought. What if he wasn’t giving me real advice, or what if he was setting me up to fail in my education because I was listening to what he was saying? I’ve based years off of this, so what am I going to do now?