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Am J Sports Med. 2005 Oct;33(10):1545-51. Epub 2005 Jul 11.

Team physicians in college athletics.

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Harvard University Athletic Department and Health Service, New England Baptist Hospital Sports Medicine Section, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA USA.



There has been little documentation of what constitutes the clinical work of intercollegiate team physicians. Team physicians could be recruited based on the needs of athletes.


A multidisciplinary team of physicians is necessary to treat college athletes. Most physician evaluations are for musculoskeletal injuries treated nonoperatively.


Descriptive epidemiology study.


For a 2-year period, a database was created that recorded information on team physician encounters with intercollegiate athletes at a major university. Data on imaging studies, hospitalizations, and surgeries were also recorded. The diagnoses for physician encounters with all undergraduates through the university's health service were also recorded.


More initial athlete evaluations were for musculoskeletal diagnoses (73%) than for general medical diagnoses (27%) (P < .05). Four percent of musculoskeletal injuries required surgery. Most general medical evaluations were single visits for upper respiratory infections and dermatologic disorders, or multiple visits for concussions. Football accounted for 22% of all physician encounters, more than any other sport (P < .05). Per capita, men and women sought care at an equal rate. In contrast, 10% of physician encounters with the general pool of undergraduates were for musculoskeletal diagnoses. Student athletes did not require a greater number of physician encounters than did the general undergraduate pool of students on a per capita basis.


Intercollegiate team physicians primarily treat musculoskeletal injuries that do not require surgery. General medical care is often single evaluations of common conditions and repeat evaluations for concussions.

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