Just like in Part 1 and Part 2 of my 100th blog post, this one answers readers’ and patients’ questions. In the final installment of the milestone post, I answer the questions I receive the most – namely why I love sports medicine and why I blog and work with the media. I hope you like it!
Why did you go into sports medicine?
The obvious answer is that I want to get athletes back to sports. When some people think of athletes, they think of professional athletes. They might also include high school and college athletes. Obviously sports such as football, basketball, and soccer fall into what we all would consider sports.
Having said that, I would define sports and athletes somewhat more broadly. I think to some extent almost all of us are athletes. Most of us either play a sport, competitive or recreational, or engage in some sort of exercise. So whether it is lifting weights three times a week, running the Cooper River Bridge Run, or playing in regular pickup basketball games, I would argue that all of these participants are athletes in the broader sense. And if they cannot participate in their sports or exercise, in my mind that is not acceptable.
It would be easy for me as a physician to see someone with a knee injury, shoulder injury, or some chronic problem and tell that person that he or she just needs to stop that activity. The problem is that most often that activity is one the patient likes to do. I didn’t go into sports medicine to shut people down and prevent them from doing their desired activities. To recover from the injury, it might require modifying the activity or trying something else until the injury heals, but my goal is to get people back to what it is that they enjoy doing. Anything less than that in my mind is less than optimal. Likewise, it’s not good enough that they are merely able to play. They need to be able to play at a level to which they are accustomed. If a pitcher has difficulty with control or velocity, for instance, I need to work to get him completely asymptomatic and not just able to pitch at all. The same would apply for all sports and exercise.
Sports are extremely important parts of people’s lives. As I said in Part 2 of this post, high school athletes are among my favorite athletes to treat. I like high school kids because they just want to play. The hardest part of my job is when one of these kids suffers a serious injury. Very frequently I tell a young athlete and his or her parents that he or she has suffered an injury that likely will end his or her season and may require surgery. It’s not uncommon for that athlete to break down in tears, as the thought of not being able to play, even if only for one season, is devastating.
The flip side to the difficulty of telling an athlete about a serious injury is the joy that I get to experience by getting him or her back to sports. The look on their faces when I tell them that they are clear to participate in the sport that they play is worth all hard work I put in to my job. Working with athletic trainers and physical therapists through the process of diagnosis, surgical or nonsurgical treatment, and rehabilitation to get athletes back to sports is immensely gratifying. People stop me all the time when they see me in public and tell me that they are back playing their sport or performing their desired exercise. Seeing their smiles and happiness is a tremendous reward.
There is truly nothing else in medicine that I would enjoy more than what I do now.
Why do you write a sports medicine blog? Why do you do so many media interviews?
One of the qualities that I think patients appreciate is my ability to explain injuries and surgeries in plain English and not fancy terminology. I spend a lot of time answering questions and explaining injuries in a way they understand. Blogging essentially is an extension of this quality. I have noticed in the past that when patients come to see me, they have often done a lot of research on the internet trying to find out more about the injury. They often seem frustrated by the lack of information. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to start a blog, I extensively researched the internet and found that there actually is a lack of good medical information about sports injuries. I thought that I could fill some of the void, and in doing so, I could help patients and non-patients alike.
What I didn’t expect is that I would enjoy blogging so much. While I absolutely love my job – seeing patients in clinic, performing surgery, and covering games and events – sometimes a medical practice can be frustrating. But when I think of ideas for blog posts, I actually look forward to being able to open my laptop and start blogging. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but as the blog has developed, it seems like I’m enjoying it more. Plus, people telling me how much they enjoy reading the articles or The Post and Courier columns is very satisfying. As I said in Part 1, I never would’ve guessed that I would make it to 100 posts, but now that I have, I have no intention of stopping.
As for media interviews, again the obvious answer is that I enjoy doing them. It seems to me as a sports fan that there is a huge discrepancy between the actual nature of the injuries that occur in sports and the information that is provided by the media. There are a couple reasons for this discrepancy. First, the players and teams often do not want full information about an injury disclosed for competitive reasons. On top of that, journalists often do not have the medical background to understand what teams and team physicians tell them. That leads to reports in the media of a famous athlete having a generic diagnosis like “knee sprain” instead of a more detailed description of the actual injury.
Plus I feel that I’m actually not bad at media interviews (although I have a lot of room for improvement). It might be an extension of that same quality I described about explaining injuries to patients. I enjoy doing newspaper and magazine interviews, and I enjoy appearing on TV and radio doing interviews on a number of sports medicine topics. I have especially enjoyed my time working with the STOP Sports Injuries campaign as part of the AOSSM Public Relations Committee. I’ve done a huge number of interviews through both efforts, and I hope to continue for years to come.
I’m not sure ultimately where either blogging or media efforts will lead. I was speaking in Big Sky, Montana recently, and I referred my blogging and media work as my second job. Does that mean that I’ll look to move on to bigger and better opportunities? Maybe, as I’m thrilled with how popular my column in The Post and Courier has become. Maybe I’ll look to expand to national publications and television and radio at some point. Who knows – maybe I’ll be the Dr. Sanjay Gupta of ESPN one day. I don’t know, but I can tell you that I’m having a blast with the blog and media work right now.
So that’s it – my 100th blog post. Let me know what you think, and please keep the questions and comments coming.