This article was written by Melinda Wilson, ATC, Rachael Jones, DPT, Alicia Dodd, DPT and Amber Rutledge, Receptionist from the Winfield Clinic.
Baseball may be “America’s sport,” but football runs deep in the veins of the general populace, especially in the South. We have huge pre-game parties; we buy big screen TV’s; we organize weddings around a football schedule; and the minute one season ends, fans immediately begin the countdown to when the next season starts. Like the United States Postal Service, “be it rain, sleet, or snow…” even unbearable heat, we are there supporting our team. We make consistent sacrifices for the game, yet we never step onto the field. Why? Simply put, for the love of the game. It unites us with a comparable passion, a similarity with our fellow man, even a common enemy; all this for the love of a game, a glorification of war mingled with skill, speed, and strength to defeat the enemy, push back the opposition, and hopefully, pull out a win. We “bleed” crimson, orange and blue, red and blue, orange and white, maroon and white, etc. With such significance, how then can we apply this in both our daily lives and working relations?
Firstly, let’s break a football team down into positions. You have a division in the coaching staff and players. The players can be divided into offense, defense, and special teams. Furthermore, divisions subsist of corners, tight ends, quarterbacks, receivers, centers, kickers, etc. On the coaching staff, such positions are head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, assistant coaches, and so forth. All are united by one goal; drive the ball across the plain and win the game. Like any well-oiled machine, each part must run smoothly, flawlessly in order to provide a quality product. If at any point one of these subsets breaks or cracks, the machine shatters. The goal is lost. The game is forfeit.
Now apply this metaphor to sports medicine. We, too, are a team categorized into divisions with common goals; be it clinical or administrative. We can think of the administration as the referees, the “game callers,” monitoring the daily working processes of “the machine.” Clinical Staff such as physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, speech therapists, exercise physiologists, and athletic trainers and so on are the coaching staff. It is through our various disciplines and our playbook, or patient protocols, in which we rehabilitate our players. Our head coach is the referring physician; our orders begin and end with him.
Each of these positions has a job to do. We come to work each day like the proverbial “football team,” our metaphorical field being the clinics, weight rooms, and school settings to which we sojourn. We share this commonality: to see the athlete get back to doing what they love. We have to have our game faces on and a shared passion to come together for achieved success. Bottom line: communication is key from the beginning of injury to the return of the player. Devising and developing a thorough game plan allows the continuation of the dichotomy that is the therapist/patient relationship. It is through our group effort that our “hail Mary pass” comes to fruition when we get to see our patients once more taking the field.