Providing front-row care for NFL players
When St. Louis Rams players take a hard hit on the field, they know there’s another team in the stadium that is there just for them. It’s a team of 31 medical professionals on hand to provide care for the most minor to severe injuries.
Led by Matthew Matava, MD, Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and head team physician for the St. Louis Rams, the doctors, athletic trainers and other medical personnel are there to ensure immediate care for the players.
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“Football has the highest injury risk in professional sports, and some injuries can be catastrophic,” says Dr. Matava, who has been working with the Rams for 14 years. “That is why we have experts in every field throughout the stadium.”
Onsite medical staff includes orthopedic specialists, athletic trainers, ophthalmologists, dentists, primary care specialists, an airway management physician, paramedics, and oxygen and X-ray technicians, to name a few. Each person has a position to play at each game, whether on the sidelines, in the stands or following the players from above the game in the press box.
Thanks to their vantage point, Dr. Matava says he and fellow medical team members can be on the scene within seconds when needed.
“Unlike a patient who has a traffic accident and must be rushed to the hospital, we are there actually watching the collision occur, and we take it very seriously,” he says. “The health and safety of everyone on the field is our No. 1 priority, whether the team is winning or losing. The stakes are too high to take chances.”
This same expertise is what patients at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Orthopedic Center receive from their physicians.
“The experience we bring from working with professional athletes can be used with athletes from area high schools and universities to individuals,” Dr. Matava says. “We apply the same principles we use with pro athletes to amateur athletes. We all have the same anatomy and physiology, but we don’t all put our bodies through the severe forces experienced by a professional football player.”
Bringing that same doctor-patient relationship to the football field has made Dr. Matava a natural teammate to the Rams’ head athletic trainer, Reggie Scott, when they are working with players.
“We see things the same way, and we always go in as a unified voice when it’s time to talk to a player about an injury,” Dr. Matava says. “Reggie is with the players all the time, so he understands what they are going through on and off the field.”
Now in his fifth season with the Rams, Scott says the team has benefited greatly from the research and evidence-based expertise Dr. Matava and his fellow Washington University physicians bring to the players.
“When Dr. Matava and the other doctors say this is the best practice in caring for a player, they have the substance behind it,” he says. “In the last several years, there has been an increased push for player safety. On game day, we are providing the optimal care for our players.”
Since 1995, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University have been the team physicians for the St. Louis Rams and we are dedicated to provide the highest level of care to athletes of all ages and abilities. To be treated like a pro, visit BarnesJewish.org/ortho or call 844-STL-RAMS (844-785-7267) to schedule your appointment.