Phillies' doc 'tremendously honored' to be head of MLB physicians

On Monday, Sports Doc panelist and Phillies head team physician Michael Ciccotti, M.D., was announced as the new president of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Team Physicians Association. Sports Doc talked with Ciccotti about his new appointment and his plans for the Association.

Sports Doc: What is the MLB Team Physicians Association?

Dr. Ciccotti: It’s one of the most organized, most academically-based organizations for physicians in professional team sports. All the team physicians for major and minor league teams are members, and our primary mission is to provide optimal care for all professional baseball players. We also take a critical look at all injuries that occur, and do what we can from a research perspective to improve the type of care that is provided, with the ultimate goal of preventing injuries from occurring.

Sports Doc: Injuries to pitchers, in particular, seem to be on the rise. What are some of the protocol in place to address that and prevent future injuries?

Dr. Ciccotti: It goes back to our dual mission—how to best treat these injuries, and how to prevent them in the future. In the past couple years, MLB has really focused on research, and we’re in the process of setting up study groups of team physicians to focus on particular areas. One of those areas is elbow injuries, and I am the study group leader for that focus.

I work with other team physicians, and we’re looking back at all the elbow injuries that have occurred over the past several years to determine what might have put those players at risk. We’re committed to better diagnosis, improving both operative and non-operative treatments, and ultimately hastening the safe return of these players to action. I have great interest in improving what we do as a whole.

Sports Doc: Next year, MLB will be instituting testing for human growth hormone (HGH) for the first time. How does that impact a team physician and does it impact the Association?

Dr. Ciccotti: MLB has set it up so that those types of testing for all banned substances are carried out separately from the responsibilities of team physicians. It removes us from that aspect of player evaluation. We operate as their physicians, and this allows us to do so without generating any animosity that testing might cause.

We are involved in the entirety of their care, and we provide these players with evidence-based research on why you should or shouldn’t do things a certain way. We provide them with basic information—that’s our job as caretakers, to educate and guide them. But we as an association believe that it’s important that any and all drug testing is done separately from team physicians. It allows us to maintain an ideal relationship with the ballplayer.

Sports Doc: You’ve been involved with the Phillies organization for the past 20 years. How has that time and experience prepared you to serve in your new role with the Physicians Association?

Dr. Ciccotti: It’s a tremendous honor to be given this responsibility by the Association, a group of people whose knowledge and friendship I value greatly. The role does require a longitudinal sense of baseball from a medical perspective. A historical sense of medical issues and their evolution throughout these past 20 years is tremendously beneficial and is essential in helping me to do the best job I can do. I can see how far we’ve come in dealing with certain medical issues—the obstacles we’ve dealt with, how we’ve overcome those obstacles—and hopefully that will help me to carry out this role more thoroughly and effectively.