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Sports Physician

Typical Day

Frank Fracturemaster groans as his phone insistently vibrates on the nightstand. He rolls over to look at the clock—3am, of course—and groggily listens to the voicemail left by his college team's football coach. Coach Jackson has just gotten a rude awakening of his own. Josh, the team's starting quarterback, had gone to an all-night gym to get his throwing arm pumped up, and had overzealously piled on more weight than he could handle. The kid had felt something in the arm tear, and then he couldn't lift anything more than a piece of paper. With a game coming up in two days, could Frank get down to the team's training center to scope it out? Frank texts back a "Yes" answer, takes a two-minute shower, and throws on a team-imprinted warm-up suit. One of the nice perks of the job, Frank notes as he backs his Beemer out of the garage.

Frank meets Coach Jackson in the training center and follows him into the private exam room, where Josh, the player, is already on the table. Frank pokes and prods Josh's throwing arm and watches the kid wince when Frank touches certain spots. Although Frank has his suspicions about the injury, he wants to know the facts before he spouts off at the mouth. He sends Josh for an MRI at the local hospital, which always provides a fast turnaround for Frank's sports medicine patients.

Well, Frank figures, I'm awake now. I might as well finish up some paperwork until my private practice opens in the morning. Frank updates a few players' physical status reports, sifts through some emails, and reads a journal article before he starts to nod off. "Time for some breakfast and a super-duper sized coffee," Frank thinks as he locks his desk and heads downtown.

Now it's 9am and Frank is fueled and juiced up for the day. He reviews his appointment schedule with his practice manager, and notes he doesn't have an appointment for another two hours. Good—time to catch up on some more journal reading. With Frank's crazy schedule, reading his online journal articles is the only way he can keep up with the latest treatments and studies. He's in the midst of an article about alternative pain therapies when Coach Jackson buzzes him again. He's heard the MRI results are in, and he wants Frank to look at them and plot a course for Josh and the team.

After studying the MRIs in detail, Frank still can't give Coach Jackson a definitive projection on when Josh can get back in action. However, Frank is quite sure it won't be right now, as he wants to give Josh's arm a week of rest before reevaluating him. Coach Jackson doesn't take the bad news well, since now he has only two days to prep the second-string quarterback for the upcoming game. "Sorry," Frank thinks, "don't shoot the messenger."

With two appointments before lunch, Frank's got to battle through the traffic to his downtown office.

Frank's first patient is typical of many weekend warriors he sees. A mid-40s guy with a little too much testosterone, and convinced he can still play football like he did in his 20s, got into a pick-up game with his friends. He was happily tackling opposing team members, slapping his buddies on the back, when he slipped on some wet grass and executed a spectacular fall. Unfortunately, he twisted his leg on the way down, and now his knee feels like it's about to explode. Frank does the best physical exam he can, since the guy writhes all over the table when Frank even goes near the knee. Frank sets up another MRI session, along with a follow-up appointment in a couple of days.

On to appointment #2, a woman in her mid-30s who is training for a triathlon. She's been doubling her running mileage recently, and she's just developed a combination of hamstring pain and Achilles tendon discomfort. She's nowhere near ready to give up on the triathlon, but is smart enough to know when she needs professional help. With the woman's possibly interrelated symptoms, Frank knows he has to proceed cautiously. He prescribes an altered exercise routine that completely excludes running, and schedules another appointment for the following week.

Finally Frank's got an hour for lunch, but he's so crazed with paperwork that he asks his practice manager to have something delivered. While he's scarfing down his sandwich, Frank gets another call from Coach Jackson, who asks him to pop over to evaluate another team member. This hothead tight end got in a fight with a bozo who referred to the team as "a bunch of lightweights." In the melee that followed, Mr. Hothead, aka Joey, got clocked in the head, and now he's dizzy and can't focus on much of anything. Coach Jackson has asked the kid to go to the ER to be checked for a concussion, but the kid very cleverly has pretended not to hear him. Apparently Joey hates anything that smacks of authority.

Frank asks his receptionist to cancel his next two appointments, drives through town yet again, and meets Coach Jackson and Joey at the team's training center. Frank agrees Joey should be checked out, and dispatches another player to drive Joey to the hospital, where his mother will meet him. Privately, Frank tells the coach Joey is probably out for the game. Coach Jackson glares at Frank, but he's powerless to do anything about it, since Frank has the last word on medical matters.

Late afternoon, and Frank manages to make it back to the office for his last appointment. He meets a bubbly competitive high school swimmer who has her sights set on the upcoming Olympic trials. For the past week she's been experiencing vertigo, without any cause and with no real pattern in the occurrences. Clearly, she needs Frank's help to determine the vertigo's cause, along with a realistic plan of action. She's got to ramp up her training very soon, and the vertigo will stop her in her tracks unless it's resolved. "This one will require some detective work," Frank thinks. He'll have to evaluate her routine, track her symptoms, and follow his professional intuition. First he has to ask a pretty lengthy set of questions. Good thing this is the last appointment of the day.

Finally, Frank's workday is almost over, but he's got a night full of journal reading and report writing ahead of him. He should probably pick up dinner on the way home, too. Tomorrow, he's blocked out the entire day for the team's pre-game physicals, minus the two guys who are watching the game from the stands. Frank's got to be on hand for the entire game, but is scheduled to fly out for a professional conference right after that. He's got a backup sports doc lined up, but hopefully everyone can stay healthy until Frank gets back.

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