Yes, you read that right…I confess that I WAS clueless.
In 2015, I was asked to help out with a local football organization. I agreed under the assumption that there would be some structure and some guidelines for me to follow. I thought there would maybe be a mentor or someone who could show me the ropes. Instead, I was handed a set of keys and told “You can figure it out as you go”.
In my first season with the team, I was terrified. It had been 10 years since I’d taped an ankle, I had no idea what a “spat” was (it’s using stretchy self-adhering tape over shoes…and most players do it because they see it on TV), and I had never officially diagnosed a sports injury in real life.
I distinctly remember the opening kickoff of the very first game. My eyes were closed and I was praying that no one would get seriously injured. I managed to make it through the game only having to run on the field for a few minor bumps and bruises (still trying to figure out…what do I do with this? Is there a magic spray or tape that can heal bumps and bruises?).
It was during my first week that a player was running a drill and felt a “pop” in his foot and had trouble weight-bearing. I wanted to pull out my textbook of orthopedic tests, but there was no section for “popping foot”. I had a suspicion from the description of how it was injured that it was more than just a sprained ankle. I referred out for x-rays due to clinical suspicion and to rule out anything worse than an ankle sprain.
When we got the results, I was excited and relieved to find that they had found a fracture in one of the small bones of the foot (exactly what I had suspected). While I felt bad for the player, I realized the importance of my role and how I could help them get back on the field.
From that point, my confidence grew. I began to see how my role as a sports doctor was making a difference. As I gained experience, I grew in the role and learned now to become part of the game. I have dealt with severe fractures, dislocations, tears and have had to use the spine board. I feel comfortable and confident diagnosing and helping to manage return to play, and I can now tape an ankle in less than 2 minutes (with less than 17 strips of tape!).
I built up my sports medicine program not only with the football team but other organizations including hockey, football, lacrosse, rugby, and many other sports. Today we offer in-house and on-field injury management and rehabilitation, concussion baseline testing, concussion management and we use electronic medical records. I have expanded my staff and have had a number of local university students who I mentor, allowing them to gain experience in their field. I am proud to say that a number of them have gone on to medical school, physiotherapy, chiropractic and massage schools. Some of them are even working locally as kinesiologists.
I like to think that as I have built up the program, that we have a little bit to do with some of the success of the organizations we work with. Part of our mandate is to keep the players healthy throughout the season to give our teams an advantage over other teams who may not have the same luxury.
Do you think your organization could use a bit more help to keep your athletes healthier? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at the clinic! We love being involved in our community!