HINSDALE – Dr. Brian Forsythe gets to hang out with some pretty cool patients – like, say, players on the White Sox and the Chicago Bulls.
Well, he doesn’t get to actually throw back a beer with them, but the Hinsdale resident, who’s a board-certified sports medicine, shoulder, knee and elbow orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, is one of 13 physicians on staff who are team physicians for Chicago’s pro sports teams.
Forsythe also was just named the official team physician for the Chicago Blitz indoor football club April 9. He also is a team physician for U.S. Soccer.
That means he gets to attend 30 to 40 games and matches a year, and yes, there are times the gruesome task of popping back a dislocated finger or shoulder, or worse, falls to him. But Forsythe looks at it philosophically.
“I’ve always loved sports,” said Forsythe, who played soccer as a student at Brown University.
“The reason I went into orthopedics is so I could stay involved in athletics,” he said. “A lot of us went into orthopedics because we enjoy staying close to the game. I think it gives you a heightened appreciation for how skilled these athletes are and how quickly they move and accomplish things on the field or court.”
To Forsythe, it’s the best job in the world.
“You get to work with people who are highly motivated and have devoted their lives to the sport and you’re part of it,” he said. “Maintaining their functionality for somebody who loves sports, it’s the perfect marriage.”
Forsythe has been taking care of the White Sox since he joined the group of team physicians 3 ½ years ago. How did he feel about taking on the pros?
“When you’re first involved with professional sports there may be a little bit of awe; it’s a starstruck phenomenon,” he said. “But it wears off quickly. You realize although they’re professional athletes they’re just like everyone else.”
Typically, he shows up an hour or two in advance of the game.
“In the training room you’re evaluating players who have chronic injuries as to whether they can play,” Forsythe said. “Whether they tolerate practice determines whether they play. Often it comes down to whether they can function and whether they’re safe to run.”
Forsythe can’t name names to maintain patient confidentiality, but he would say he’s tended to some pretty grisly injuries.
“There was a soccer game I was covering where an athlete sustained horrific fracture to the leg; the tibia and fibula were bent 60 degrees,” he said. “I was able to reduce the fracture on site and get his excruciating pain under control until he could get transferred.”
Surprisingly, at the highest risk at football games are the cheerleaders, who have a catastrophic injury rate six times that of the players, Forsythe said.
“It’s usually the flyers who are flown awry or dropped,” he said, noting one instance where a cheerleader was thrown backward and landed on the track, suffering cracked ribs and a bruised lung.
“It was harrowing,” Forsythe said.
Shoulders for Life aims to save young players from sports injuries
Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association physicians are launching Shoulders for Life, a public service campaign aimed at protecting young players from sports injuries.
According to Dr. Brian Forsythe, an orthopedic surgeon at Rush, and team physician to the White Sox, the Bulls, U.S. Soccer and the Chicago Blitz, shoulder overuse syndrome in young athletes has escalated to epidemic proportions, especially in overhead sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, gymnastics and volleyball.
“We recommend a three-month break each year to allow their bodies to rest,” Forsythe said. “Kids have become year-round athletes, and they never get a break.
Forsythe says little leaguers should adhere to pitch counts, and female softball players should avoid pitching 4 to 5 games in a weekend. Players should warm up. stretch, workout and cool down, and pitchers especially, should do their sleeper stretches.
“It also helps if they play more than one sport because there’s less chance overuse of a particular joint,” said Forsythe.