Larry Nassar is the disgraced former Olympic gymnastic team “doctor” who was sent away to prison for life after being found guilty of molesting hundreds of young female athletes. That part of the story has been well reported. However, no news source is asking the right questions, such as, “What is sport medicine?” or, “Was Larry Nassar a real doctor?”
I am more familiar with the different specialties in medicine and surgery than most doctors due to my interactions with authors for The Healthcare Channel. However, I have never understood the concept of sports medicine.
I have heard non-MD’s tell me they are going into “sports medicine” while also hearing regular MD’s tell me the same thing. I have seen family practice residents and orthopedic surgeons become “sports medicine” doctors. Even personal trainers have told me that they are a sports medicine doctor. I have been thoroughly confused.
Today, with the arrest of Larry Nassar’s boss, the former Dean of the Michigan State College of Osteopathy, William Strampel, I took the time to finally learn about sports medicine. Unlike most specialties in medicine and surgery, sports medicine is not one single entity. It is more of a concept, really.
Sports medicine began with college and professional “Team physicians” delivering dubious care to rush athletes back onto the field. The patient was not the primary concern, as has been well documented with the NFL head injury scandal. Orthopedic surgeons began paying professional teams to have the rights to advertise that they were the team doctor to the New York Giants, for example.
Larry Nassar was a Doctor of Osteopathy, or a DO. Osteopaths and traditional medical doctors can become sports doctors.
Colleges that produce osteopath “doctors” teach controversial methods of spine adjustment to treat ailments and illnesses. They are glorified chiropractors with a slightly more rigorous college curriculum. After one receives a DO degree, they enter into normal residencies along with MD’s.
Larry Nassar was found guilty of inserting fingers into female patient genitals, among other things. He undoubtedly rationalized in his mind that he was delivering justified osteopathic medicine.
Indeed, the former Dean of the Michigan State College of Osteopathy was arrested for possessing on his work computer photos of naked students and female genital. What Nassar did to his victims was probably taught at his school. On the same day that one of the gymnasts made an official police report in 2014 about Larry Nassar, the Dean sent Nassar an email stating, “Good luck. I am on your side.”
There are also “sports medicine” programs staffed by MD’s with full training in orthopedic surgery, emergency medicine, family practice, radiology, etc. However, I wonder what they offer to patients that normal orthopedic surgeons would not? Just because they are MD’s does not mean they are not also practicing voodoo quackery. For example, scoping knees and fusing spines have been shown to be futile in most cases, yet because these procedures make lots of money, top athletes, such as Tiger Woods, receive these unnecessary procedures.
Any parent with a child who has been referred to a sports medicine clinic should question everything. Are the MRI’s and CT scans necessary? Is the physical therapy or surgery justified with scientific evidence? Is the doctor and MD or a DO?