High School Sports Physician

Volunteer with your local high school teams to provide care on the field and goodwill to the community.

By Marcia Travelstead | Career Move | Fall 2013

 

Jeff McDaniel, M.D., volunteers as a team physician for several high school sports teams. His involvement is voluntary but has the added benefit of driving young athletes to his practice, too.

NAME:  Jeff McDaniel, M.D.

SPECIALTY:  Family Medicine, Sports Medicine at Methodist Family Health Center.

LOCATION:  Midlothian, Texas

RESIDENCY:  Palmetto Health Family Medicine, Columbia, S.C.

FELLOWSHIP:  Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialty; Graduated 2010

During his fellowship year, McDaniel served as a team physician for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, Benedict College Tigers and Airport High School. He currently is a team physician for the Midlothian High School football team and several Mansfield area high schools. Although he works with five high schools in Mansfield, he primarily works with Lake Ridge High School and Mansfield High School.

What do you like best about being a high school sports team physician?

It combines my two loves: medicine and sports. It’s a patient population that is young, active and fun to work with. I grew up in Texas and played football, so I think I can relate and understand to some degree what the athletes are going through and help them recover from their injury and get back on the field.

What kind of commitment is expected?

Usually it’s a Friday night once a week or occasionally a Saturday for the whole season. I do their sports physicals prior to the practice season as well. Generally, the season runs from the end of August through the first part of November unless they go into the playoffs, where that could run into an extra few games. It generally involves four to five hours on a Friday night.

Is there anything that surprised you about being a high school sports physician?

The coaching staff may have one agenda, the physician may have another and the parents may have their own as well. I’ve often run across parents who really want their child to excel. For the physician, that can mean walking the fine line to getting the athlete better yet making mom and dad happy. A lot of it is educating and reassuring the parents. Their child wants to be out on the field but the physician has to make sure the athlete has recovered enough to be on the field as soon as possible but not risking permanent injury.

Have you found being a high school sports physician has benefited your practice?

I feel it has. I’m not paid to be on the sidelines and it’s completely volunteer on my part, but I’m being an active role model. It has given me exposure to this particular patient population as well as to the community. It opens up conversations with regards to being seen on the field. People find out who I am, and that’s the best way to build a practice—word of mouth. I’ve also acquired a number of patients from athletic trainers who know I specialize in concussions.

Are you a team physician for other high school sports besides football?

I do provide care to athletes competing in all sports with the high schools in this area. I don’t get the chance to make it to all the games and be on the sidelines due to scheduling conflicts. For example, the soccer games are often held during the week or over a time when I am working in the office.

What advice do you have for physicians interested in being involved in high school sports?

A fellowship in sports medicine would be one way to start because you get exposure to several levels of competition. Apart from that, one of the best ways for a physician to get involved is to locate and meet with the athletic trainers of a particular program. Really make yourself available to them. If you make it difficult for them to contact you then they are not going to want to work with you. I take the team approach and make myself available to them during practice, weekends or whenever they have a question. I don’t think they have ever abused that and have always been very respectful.

 

NAME:  Jerry Bornstein, M.D.

TITLE:  Semiretired Orthopedic Surgeon; Medical Director for Los Angeles Unified School District Department Of Athletics.

RESIDENCY:  Los Angeles County General Hospital

Bornstein has been a physician and consultant for high school, college and professional sports teams for more than 50 years.

What do you like best about being a high school sports team physician?

The satisfaction of seeing athletes return to the high functioning ability that may have not been possible without adequate medical care. They may have been unable to continue, resulting in lost scholarship opportunities. In addition, they may have had permanent residuals from the injuries. It is gratifying to see them return to play (RTP) and continue to advance further in their athletic career.

In addition, there is gratification in the contribution of community service in areas where family or other funding for medical care is not easily available.

Is there anything you don’t like about it?

The difficulty in obtaining necessary care for those unable to afford private services. Also, parental interferences both on and off the field, which can affect proper evaluation and care. The medic needs to be able to do his or her job. I have also witnessed an increasing feeling of entitlement some athletes are developing, even at the high school level, in addition to disrespect for upper authorities.

What is your role as Medical Director of Los Angeles Unified School District Department of Athletics?

Training health care professionals such as resident physicians, EMTs, ATCs, RNs, etc. in on-field protocol and the initial evaluation/care of injuries. This is done via seminars and on-field supervision. They evaluate injuries and determine whether the athlete is able to return to play and to initiate treatment as indicated.

I deal with assigning medics’ schedules, intra-week schedule changes and other emergencies as they arise. I am on-field game day either covering a game or at a game with one of the medics, supervising and teaching. In addition, I am always available by phone to medics, athletic directors and coaches to answer any questions they might have.

Is there a problem getting physicians to volunteer?

There can be difficulty getting medical coverage for games in many areas. For physicians, there could be insurance concerns, time constraints and/or the feeling of incomplete knowledge/training for on-field tasks. Therefore, the use of other health care professionals becomes necessary.

Is there anything that surprises you after all these years of being involved as a high school team physician?

The lack of commitment and involvement on the part of some athletic directors and administrators in an important segment of a high school student’s educational life.

What’s your advice for physicians who are interested in getting involved in high school sports?

Gain training, which is readily accessible in a number of ways. First, become involved by shadowing or following a team physician who has experience. Secondly, read books or access the internet. There are a number of publications on team physician protocol. Thirdly, take a course. The American Association of Sports Medicine offers courses every year on team physician care. By doing all of these things, the physician will feel more comfortable on the field.

—By Marcia Travelstead

 

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