June 20, 2016 - Dr. David Chao
Monday Morning MD: Female firsts
There have been a series of female firsts in the NFL this past year. First a woman was named an official, then the first training camp coach, followed by full-time coach. Now a woman is head team physician for the first time. Sarah Thomas was named the first female official last season and she performed well. Jen Welter was hired by the Cardinals as the first female coach when Bruce Arians appointed her to coach inside linebackers during the preseason. The Bills then made history by hiring Kathryn Smith as the first female full-time coach as Rex Ryan made her a special teams quality control coach. Now the Redskins have hired Dr. Robin West as the NFL’s first female head team physician. She certainly deserves the position as I know her as a top quality orthopedist from her time as an assistant team physician for the Steelers. It comes as no surprise that women can do any of these NFL jobs. Amy Trask was the CEO of the Raiders for 16 years. The Ravens have had Dr. Leigh Ann Curl as their lead orthopedist for over a decade. I know both to be well respected across the league circles. To me, the hiring of Dr. West is really a non-story, as women have held prominent places in medicine forever. The bigger sign of changing times in the NFL is not that a female was named to be a head team physician but that there was a news conference to make the announcement. Back when I was named head team physician, there wasn’t even an announcement despite being the youngest ever and younger than some players. Recently, it became common for teams to issue a press release to announce physician staff changes. A press conference is unprecedented and a sign of things to come with the increasing roles of team physicians. In my 17 years in the NFL, I am glad I never had to hold a press conference. Times are a changing in many ways for the NFL. Congrats to all the female trailblazers. MMMD 1: #1 priority of minicamp I wrote a month ago how the main priority was to get out of the offseason healthy. Typically, 50% of teams lose a significant player by end of minicamp. The Chargers ended minicamp practice early and even skipped the final day after and injury scare to Danny Woodhead. An ankle injury to the third down specialist in 2014 sent the previously playoff bound Bolts into a tailspin. Fortunately, injury was avoided, but the team also ended practice early. This follows the trend where the Jaguars changed their practice regimen this year after losing their first-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr. to an ACL tear last offseason. Expect the offseason safety trend to continue next year. MMMD 2: New “Injury” described After almost two decades as a NFL team physician, I thought I had seen every injury imaginable. This week, I learned about a new “injury”. The Bills held Karlos Williams out of minicamp practice because he was overweight. The Buffalo RB self-described it as an “injury of pregnancy” where he gained sympathetic weight with his expectant fiancée. Just when I thought I had seen it all... MMMD 3: Every club has a team dentist The Redskins announced Josh Doctson missed practice to get a tooth pulled. It is common to have dental issues and players get quick access. Players get top medical care and that includes dentistry. Every team has a team dentist that will take part in physicals with a dental check station. Also players don’t wait weeks to get in to see the dentist. The appointments are usually streamlined by a call from the team athletic trainer and often planned to not miss practice time. MMMD 4: Maurkice Pouncey had seven surgeries When the Steelers center was first injured, I knew he would need surgery and his season was in jeopardy. What I didn’t know is that Pouncey’s ankle would become infected and that he would require seven surgeries and a skin graft. Infections are nasty and can happen with any surgery as in this case when the wound does not heal properly. This revelation explains why Mike Tomlin was mum about Pouncey’s potential return during last season and why the Steelers wasted their only IR/dfr designation on Pouncey, MMMD 5: Concussion politics continue Two weeks ago, I wrote about the significant politics of concussions. This week, competing concussion researchers were at it again. Boston University was to present its highest public health award to the primary subject of the Concussion movie. Instead the award was rescinded and the former honoree claimed there was a “vendetta". I don’t know who is right or wrong (or if both are wrong) in this situation, but this is another example of unbecoming behavior for researchers and universities. Certainly it would have been interesting to see the university of one competing concussion research group honor a hated competitor. However, once the honor was set to be bestowed, I am not sure what forces come to play to make a university change its mind. I also don’t know why the researcher would claim a “vendetta” against him. Last time I checked, it was a privilege, not a right, to receive an award. The bottom line is that in science, researchers collaborate and share information. This is true unless you are talking about concussion researchers and that needs to change. It is about finding a solution and not claiming credit or assigning blame. MMMD 6: 10 person practice squad renewed Practice squads are traditionally fixed at eight players. Two years ago the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a two-year experiment to expand to 10. That has expired but word comes that new rule has been extended. This certainly makes sense as the NFL no longer has a developmental league with NFL Europe’s demise. MMMD 7: Dolphins bullying scandal fallout Almost three years later, three of the four major figures in “bullygate” are still out of the NFL. The target, Jonathan Martin, has retired from the NFL. The two fired Miami staffers have not found jobs in the league. The main accused bully, Richie Incognito, missed 2014 but has been with the Bills since 2015. Offensive line coach Jim Turner has not found another NFL job and is with Texas A&M. Head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neil was made a scapegoat and despite being called “the best I ever worked with” by Jimmy Johnson, could not land another job until now. Only this week, O’Neil has found a job as athletic trainer at Florida International University. Congrats and I hope he can put the false accusations behind him as there is always more to the story.