Robin West, MD, is board-certified in orthopaedic surgery and orthopaedic sports medicine. She is Chairman of Inova Sports Medicine, Lead Team Physician for the Washington Nationals and Head Team Physician for the Washington Redskins.
Baseball fans across the country marked opening day (March 29) on their calendars. Behind the scenes, as Lead Team Physician for the Washington Nationals, I have been busy preparing for months with my sports medicine colleagues – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
In this role, I’m responsible for overseeing the medical care for major league and minor league players. That process starts with preseason physicals for all the players. Our medical team heads south for spring training to examine the players and evaluate any injuries.
During the season, we attend all the home games, where we’re responsible for both Nationals players and their opponents. We’re also involved in helping the team prepare for the draft. We review the medical records of all the free agents and help the team decide, from a medical standpoint, who is healthy enough to sign.
Staying One Step Ahead
As team doctors, we’re prepared to treat any injuries that come up. Our ultimate goal, though, is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
One important way we do that is by getting to know all the players, especially new teammates we haven’t worked with before. We spend time going over their past medical histories so that we can do our best to stay ahead of any issues.
In preparing for the job, we also have to get familiar with the biomechanics of the sport. I also work with the NFL, and the types of injuries we see in football are often quite different from those I treat in baseball players.
If a pitcher comes in with shoulder pain, I have to really understand what’s happening throughout the body. It can be something very small, like a strain in the abdominal wall that leads to hip pain, which alters the pitcher’s mechanics and ends up leading to a shoulder injury. Sports medicine is often a lot like putting together a puzzle.
Part of the Team
To fit all the pieces together, teamwork is key. When we’re evaluating players, the room can get crowded. Orthopaedic surgeons, primary care doctors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, nutritionists, strength-and-conditioning coaches and sports psychologists all have a part to play in keeping players healthy.
I feel fortunate that our medical team works together seamlessly. We each have a distinct role to play and we all share the same goal: keeping players healthy and preventing injury.
For me, the team dynamic is one of the best parts of the job. I’ve played sports my whole life and I love being part of a team. And it’s great that many of my Inova Sports Medicine colleagues are also part of the Nationals medical team:
- Robert Najarian, MD, Team Physician
- Brandon Bryant, MD, Team Physician
- Peter MacArthur, MD, Team Physician
- Seth Blee, PT, DPT, CFMT, CSCS, Team Physical Therapist