Mount Sinai Health Tip:
Mount Sinai | November 9, 2018
As America’s top tennis players get ready for Fed Cup and Davis Cup, Mount Sinai’s orthopedic sports medicine surgeons, Alexis Colvin, MD, and James Gladstone, MD, are also preparing. Both doctors travel with America’s tennis teams during these two important international competitions and sit courtside, ready to treat any type of medical condition these elite athletes may experience.
Dr. Colvin, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, will soon head to Prague for the Fed Cup Final, where the United States will be competing to repeat as champion.
Dr. Colvin is trained to anticipate any medical problems that may arise and has her own routine for preparation. Leaving nothing to chance, she packs all the medical supplies she will need and carries them onto the plane with her to make certain she has what’s needed upon arrival. For Dr.
Colvin, this marks her 10th year as a US Open player physician and her sixth year as a Fed Cup team physician. She has been Chief Medical Officer of the USTA for the last five years and has recently transitioned to Chief Medical Officer of the US Open.
Dr. Gladstone, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon and Chief of the Sports Medicine Service at the Mount Sinai Health System, has traveled with the U.S. Davis Cup team for six years, most recently to Croatia in September for the semifinals.
Traveling as a doctor for a professional sports league is a unique role that requires extensive preparation to ensure you are ready to treat any potential ailments, from tennis injuries to a simple cut or allergy.
During these international competitions, there’s a jam-packed schedule of events, practices and matches. For these doctors, the work starts well before the first game and continues for the duration of the tournaments. They scrutinize the players for any signs of trouble, knowing some of their medical histories as the player’s personal doctor would. They also have a strong bench: If they need a consult on any medical issue, they can call upon their expert colleagues in New York at the Mount Sinai Health System.
Dr. Colvin and Dr. Gladstone both completed additional training to specialize in the field of sports medicine. What they see and experience when working with athletes, at all levels, reaffirms the need for such specialized training.
During her fellowship at one of the nation’s leading programs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dr. Colvin cared for players on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins. She has also served as a physician at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Dr. Gladstone completed his sports medicine fellowship at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala., under the tutelage of James Andrews, MD, and William G. Clancy, Jr., MD. He also serves as a physician for the U.S. Ski Team.
Their experience is invaluable because tending to the needs of elite athletes has become increasingly more complex in recent years. The clinical focus has shifted beyond traditional medicine to more of a full-body approach to care, including flexibility, cross-training, nutrition and psychology. There’s a need for a more “holistic” approach that looks at the overall needs of the patient and not just an injured limb. This may be one contributing factor to why more top players, like Roger Federer and Serena Williams, are able to continue competing as they reach an age when a generation ago they might have been long retired.
It’s much the same for recreational players and tennis enthusiasts, who now understand that they, too, should pay attention to this broader approach if they want to maximize their performance, avoid injuries and extend their own playing careers, even if they are not about to turn pro. In this, they can learn some lessons from the pros and the doctors who care for them.
“Recreational players need to pay attention to their equipment and should be aware how important it is to cross-train,” Dr. Colvin said. “Most injuries are the result of overuse. So it’s important to know when you should take a break or whether it’s okay to get back on the court.”
Dr. Gladstone recently helped a promising junior player with a shoulder injury that had kept him from playing at his peak for two years. Performing surgery was a start. Just as important was working with the player afterwards to coach him through his recovery, which involved making sure he was getting the proper physical therapy and a trainer. Plus, Dr. Gladstone could help the young player determine how much pain was okay during the recovery and how much to push himself to get back to competition.
This guidance can be a big part of what sports medicine specialists do for professional tennis players.
“Being able to assess an injury is probably one of the most difficult things to do, whether it’s something you can play through and be a little sore or whether it’s something more serious and you may injure yourself even more, so you have to shut down,” Dr. Gladstone said.