By R. Robert Franks, DO, FAOASM
A classic song states “for everything there is a season.” This is true of many vocations. Sports medicine is one of them. Fall is the busiest season for a Sports Medicine Physician. We see a peak in the number of athletes playing collegiate and high school sports. With the transition of the regular season to play-offs at the beginning of November, there are increasing numbers of football, soccer, field hockey players and cheerleaders—just to name a few— in the office.
Patient entrance into the sports medicine system often begins in the emergency room after games. These athletes are triaged, evaluated, diagnosed, treated, and sent to their individual physicians for further treatment. Monday mornings in a sports medicine office are challenging as many of these athletes who are injured during weekend play must be seen emergently for conditions such as fractures or concussions. It necessitates working these athletes into an already busy schedule of follow up from earlier injuries, or who were previously placed on the schedule with new injuries. As physicians care greatly about our young athletes, we work hard to see them in addition to their regular schedule. The dynamic nature of injuries makes it hard to judge which Mondays will be busier than others.
When office hours are done in the clinic, most sports medicine physicians have a second environment in the fall season in which to practice. Many have responsibilities to cover professional, collegiate and high school sports. What does this mean? In the state of New Jersey where I practice, your local high school football team cannot participate in a game without a physician on the sideline to treat injuries during play. The home team bears the responsibility to provide physician services, but many physicians cover both home and away play of the teams for whom they are the team physician. The physician is also responsible for athlete physicals and any medical decisions that arise during the week in pregame preparation.
Finally, many physicians feel an obligation to teach during this time as it is the busiest time of the year to build conferences around sporting events. Physicians lecture at local and national conferences to share their expertise with their colleagues as the sideline environment holds unique challenges to practice as there is no sophisticated technology present as opposed to an ER or office. Many physicians also teach medical students or residents and fellows in fall as this may be the only time they get to train in this unique environment.
So if you are seeing your Sports Medicine Physician in the office this fall and he or she is running behind, please try to be patient and know that it is not because they do not want to get to you on time. Please understand that their primary concern is to give their best individual attention to you and their most important patients, your athletic sons and daughters.