April 20, 2023

In the inaugural season for St. Louis CITY SC, there is so much excitement and work happening on the pitch and behind the scenes. Of course, the players are putting in serious effort training and performing at their best, but who is keeping an eye on their ever-important health? We are! 

Washington University Orthopedics was chosen by the Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion club to pair the best soccer talent with the best sports medicine talent in the city. As the club's team physicians, our doctors are on-site for training in the Washington University Orthopedics High Performance Center and pitch-side during CITY home games. 

Each team physician has an important role that offers the team access to their specialized care and expertise. From all-over healthcare and recovery intervention, to acupuncture and concussion care, the WashU Ortho team physicians lead the club. 

Robert Brophy, MD - St. Louis CITY SC Medical Director and Sports Medicine Expert  

Robert Brophy, MD, leads the CITY medical staff as the medical director. Preparations began even before the first team was recruited, like assembling the team doctors and athletic trainers, as well as getting the proper supplies and equipment required by the MLS. 

On game day, Dr. Brophy is in the locker room before the players take the pitch. He evaluates players with ongoing and new issues to ensure they are safe to play. This includes monitoring recovery progress if a player has already been injured, and active previsions for issues of ongoing management. From the time of kickoff at center pitch, to the final whistle blow, Dr. Brophy is on the CITY bench ready to jump into action if a player sustains an acute injury.  

In conjunction with the the athletic training staff, Dr. Brophy meets with the medical staff from the visiting team, the ambulance crew, and the fourth official before each game starts to make sure they're all on the same page. This coordinated effort ensures proper communication and effective intervention if the need arises. If a player from the visiting team sustains an acute injury, Dr. Brophy provides care and assistance with emergent needs. 

Dr. Brophy's care of the team isn't limited to just match day. He's in the training room a few days a week for frequent evaluation; he is the most in-the-know member of the club as it relates to player's health. Sometimes, players come to the clinic for imaging like X-rays and MRIs. Or, if a player has a health concern that could be affecting their performance outside of sports medicine and the scope of orthopedic care, we help arrange consults with other providers. 

Devyani Hunt, MD - Team Physician and PM&R Expert 

Another large component of athlete wellness is physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), another specialty in orthopedics. Devyani Hunt, MD, is a team physician with PM&R expertise, also known as a physiatrist.

Dr. Hunt also sees players weekly during training for evaluation and treatment. Physiatrists and sports medicine specialists understand and compliment the skills of the other. Both Dr. Brophy and Dr. Hunt focus on all areas of the body through their specialized lens of care. They work together to determine the player's current level of function and determine what might be in the way of improvement. Dr. Hunt will provide acupuncture to players when the need arises. Acupuncture can help manage pain and speed up recovery by reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow to a targeted area.  

Dr. Hunt collaborates with the training staff to ensure each point of contact with the players is optimal for their health and performance. Outside of the training room, Dr. Hunt will occasionally serve as the bench doctor, and be the back up for many other matches. She also got to enjoy a game as a spectator when WashU Ortho leadership gathered to cheer on the team. 

Mark Halstead, MD - Team Physician and Concussion Expert

Mark Halstead, MD, serves as the venue medical director, a critical league-mandated role to watch for and assess head injuries for both teams. He works with a 'spotter,' someone who remotely watches four video feeds of the game, reviewing any possibility for concussion. Dr. Halstead also reviews footage of any injuries since the live-action happens so quickly. In doing so, he can identify who may need further concussion evaluation on or off the field.

Sports-induced concussions are something all athletes and teams want to avoid. We know the benefit of helmets in some sports, like football and hockey, is to protect players' heads. But soccer players don't wear helmets and they use their heads to pass the ball and score goals. There might not be a totally safe way to head the ball, but MLS players are very skilled at this technique which requires appropriate timing and excellent control of the head and neck muscles. Headers are unique to the sport, and cause for extra medical expertise in the realm of concussion care. 

Ultimately, Dr. Halstead has to decide there is no concern for a concussion for a player to be cleared to return to play. Follow up assessments are crucial because concussion symptoms may not present right away and a player might feel completely normal after the initial hit. Concussions are injuries to the brain and we can't replace brains, so it's important to take these injuries seriously.  

The MLS requires a high level of expertise to be a team physician, including fellowship training and a minimum of five years of experience treating high-level athletes. These requirements are more stringent than some other sports and ensure they players are cared for by the best of the best. 

From professional athletes, to youth players, Washington University Orthopedics is here for the journey. Request an appointment online or call (314) 514-3500.


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