How Being a Former College Athlete Helps Me Be Better Sports Medicine Physician

Sports can be major part of someone’s identity. I know it was for me. I loved several sports growing up, but baseball was always my favorite. For good or bad, it became part of my identity. I loved playing, I loved practicing, and I loved the comradery with my teammates. I loved most everything about the game of baseball. So, I decided that I wanted to play baseball in college, and if given the chance, I would certainly love to play baseball professionally and see where it might take me.

But all in all, I just loved playing baseball. The chess match between the pitcher and the hitter is always fun to watch and was my favorite. As a defender, you need to know what you are going to do if the ball is hit to you or where you need to go if the ball is hit to someone else. This keeps you focused and allows you to just react. Seeing if you are fast enough to steal 2nd base before the catcher can throw you out tests the basic of human athletics – how fast can you run from point A to point B. Baseball was, and still is, my favorite sport. We all have some sport or some activity we like to do.

No one likes to be injured; however, it is part of the game and something we all will experience sometime in life. Some sports have more contact and have a larger potential for injuries. But, every sport has the potential for injury. Injuries slow us down and just get in our normal way of life. No one has extra time to go to the hospital or doctor’s office. But if you play sports long enough, you will most likely sustain some type of injury. Everyone, especially athletes, want to make a full recovery so we can get back to normal life as quickly as possible and continually playing our sports. For me personally, it was an injury to my shoulder. When you play a sport where you throw a ball, if you injure your shoulder, it can be a big deal. And while baseball was what I loved to do, it was also a way of life for me at that time. It was how I paid for my education. If I couldn’t recover from this injury, I could possibly lose my scholarship and my ability to pay for my education. It wasn’t something I took lightly.

As a sports medicine physician, I’ve been on both sides of the issue. I have been the athlete who has an injury and wants to get back to doing what I love as quickly as possible. And now as a physician, I want to get people back to their way of life as safely and quickly as I can. I’ve been there. I’ve been the patient in the doctor’s office. I understand the things that are going through the patient’s mind. That was a major reason why I chose to pursue additional fellowship training in orthopedic sports medicine. I wanted to try to balance getting a patient back to their activities and former way of life while making sure their bodies have had a chance to completely heal from the original injury.

Treating people also takes a whole team. While the physician may be viewed as the leader for a patient’s treatment team, other people’s participation is vital. Any of the other providers such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners and office staff can facilitate communication with the patient, even when they don’t have an appointment. But the physical therapists are usually the ones down in the trenches with the patient. Physical therapists work with patients multiple times a week and spend more time face-to-face with the patients than anyone else. They often play the biggest role of when to push the patient and when to back off during the rehab. Having the experience of being a former athlete and working towards a common goal with your teammates has been invaluable part of my training.

I love working with kids, high school athletes, college athletes, professional athletes, weekend warriors, senior adults and everyone in between. My goal is to help you recover from your injury and get you back to your life as quickly and safely as possible.

Written by: Dr. Ryan Mitchell, Orthopedic Surgeon at OrthoKnox


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