AAMC medical staff fields impressive lineup of team doctors
The examining table is sometimes a muddy field, and the “office” is often one end of a wooden bench. Here, doctors pop dislocated shoulders back in place, temporarily set broken bones, and diagnose concussions, sprains and muscle spasms. Often they deliver the bad news that you can’t go back into the game. But that’s why they are there.
Team doctors. They give up their Friday evenings during football season, or crack of dawn summer mornings when they run with the track team, or Wednesday evenings when they coach a children’s soccer team. These are the AAMC physicians who donate their time and expertise to ensure that children, teens, college students, and professional athletes are in good physical shape and are treated quickly when they are injured. Many of them were athletes in high school and college and enjoy keeping up with “their” sport.
Orthopaedic surgeon Marshall Steele, M.D., who played basketball at Annapolis High School and was instrumental in setting up a team doctor’s program in the county, said, “When I started practice in the 70s, the only team doctor around was pediatrician Sherman Robinson, who had been on the sidelines at Severna Park High School football games since 1962. Looking at what he was doing, I could see there was a real need for physicians working with the high school athletes, primarily for football, because that’s where you have the impact injuries.”
Dr. Steele initiated a program within his practice, sending athletic trainers to practices during the week and physicians to football games on Friday nights. “There were always ambulances at the games, and they were there for the really serious injuries needing transport to AAMC. We were there to examine injured players to decide whether they could return to play. At first, not all the coaches appreciated our being there, but they soon saw the wisdom in letting a physician make the call rather than themselves. We’ve developed relationships with schools that have lasted decades in some cases.”
Robert Verklin, M.D., who was one of the first physicians to join Dr. Steele as a team physician, said, “We’ve held Saturday clinics for players injured the night before. We also do mandatory training for coaches, and for years we sent athletic trainers to the schools. It made a big difference in the county sports programs.” He said that, unfortunately, the cost of sending athletic trainers to practices soon became more than the doctors could afford, so some schools now provide their own trainers.
But the relationship between doctors and local sports teams flourished. Dr. Steele encouraged physicians throughout the AAMC medical staff to volunteer, and many physicians have developed their own relationships with schools and sports programs. Dr. Robinson, the “grandfather” of team doctors who volunteered his time for 35 years, said after several physicians began volunteering, “We had a little competition— but we were friendly opponents. And there was room for all. We started volunteering for football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling; you name it, we did it.”
It’s made a difference to the athletes. Primary care physician William Dabbs, M.D., Broadneck team doctor, said over the years he’s been volunteering, “Coaches have become a lot better educated about injuries, but are still happy to let the doctors make the determination about whether an injured player can return to the field no matter what the score is. They appreciate having us as part of the team, so they can fully concentrate on their coaching and the game.”
Besides high school football, AAMC physicians serve as team physicians for track, wrestling, lacrosse and soccer, from elementary school teams to the Naval Academy to the Bowie Baysox.
Many of the physicians who volunteer for a particular sport do so because they played the sport in high school or college and want to continue participating, if only from the bench. Family practice physician Scott Eden, M.D., has been assistant crosscountry and track coach at Annapolis for eight years.He was an NCAA All American in cross country in 1973 and 1974. “I’m here because it’s a way I can give something back to a sport I love.”
Pictured above are some of the AAMC medical staff members who were available at the time of this article. Thank you to all AAMC medical staff members who reach out to our community in so many ways.