At last month’s Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla., Rothman Institute representatives followed head team physician and Sports Doc panelist Michael Ciccotti, M.D., through a typical day. Here are some excerpts from their experience.
Dr. Ciccotti folds the injury report into his pocket and makes his way across the sprawling Carpenter Complex to the minor league facilities. As he passes a sign showing the fields and buildings a “Hi Doc” booms from behind him.
It’s first baseman Ryan Howard, the Big Piece. He is dressed casually on his way in for the day.
“Good day again yesterday huh,” says Ciccotti referencing Howard’s opposite field moon shot against the Orioles, his 6th home run and 15th RBI of the preseason.
Dr. Ciccotti ducks into an open doorway on the left into the minor league training room. It is basically the same as the big leaguers… several exam tables covered with sheets, some rehab exercise equipment, hot and cold whirlpools and an office. It is 8 am, and it’s crowded.
After a check in with the minor league trainers, including James Ready, Head Minor League Training Coordinator for the Phillies, a voice says, “I’m here to see Dr. Ciccotti.” The day has officially begun.
The procession of player-patients continues non-stop. It is thorough, efficient and business-like but with a warm, friendly tone, just like in his offices at the Rothman Institute. And just like at the Rothman Institute, there are a many patients. The exam table doesn’t even have a chance to get warm let alone cold before another young man “steps to the plate.”
One young farm hand with shoulder issues is discussing his pain and the hardships of doing day-to-day non-baseball activities. Dr. Ciccotti tells him in a comforting way not to worry.
“Everyone with a shoulder injury has trouble sleeping. It’s very normal.”
With his mind put at ease, the young man shuffles off in his socks and sandals, the official footwear of the players when not in cleats, out the door to complete the rest of his day.
The players keep coming… with their scars and their tattoos… each one telling Dr. Ciccotti his issues and going through the exam as the training staff looks on taking mental notes.
The daily injury report paperwork is now full of slashes and notes and gaining more with each exam.
One young Latin American player has elbow soreness in his throwing arm. The pain is on the inside of the joint which is Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) territory. A torn UCL generally means Tommy John surgery which can require a year or longer of intense rehab. This injury used to be a career-ender, but with advancements in sports medicine by physicians like Dr. Ciccotti, 80-90% of players return to their pre-injury level of activity.
But Tommy John surgery is not the case just yet for this gentleman, who despite being with the organization for several years looks very young. The kind of kid that would be asked for ID anywhere he went. He has a soft, but long body that betrays his youth.
“Just like delivering news to any patient that is an athlete, whether high school, college or recreational, I review all of their options,” Ciccotti says.
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