Exactly who do you think your knee belongs to?

By Deane Barker

Javon Walker recently had surgery outside of the Raiders organization, which is a big no-no. Your team paid good money for your body, so you don’t do anything without prior approval.

This article sheds some light on the relationship between players and their team doctors.

Many veteran players feel the qualifications to become a team doctor are questionable because they suspect a lot of the hires are based upon the amount of money the orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic group offers to pay the team to be its “official” health care solution. Just as important, the team doctor, by definition, works for the team and is beholden to its interests, which aren’t always aligned with a players’s interests.

Additionally, I’m sure many players feel like the team doctor is much more loyal to the team than them, and would clear them to play against their better judgment to make the owner happy.

This exact thing was explored in depth in a great book called You’re Okay, It’s Just Bruise by Rob Huizenga. Huizenga was the team doctor for the Oakland Raiders. However, he was just the generalist – the “general practitioner” for the team. The most important doctor on a team is the orthopedist, since 99% of all issues are musculoskeletal. In general, the orthopedist is paid many times more than the generalist. Huizenga tells of the Raiders’ aging orthopedist clearing players who shouldn’t been allowed within a mile of a football field. The risk of paralysis apparently looks smaller next to the risk of missing the playoffs.

(I noted with some interest that this exact same relationship was depicted in the Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday. The team generalist (Matthew Modine) is constantly at odds with the team orthopedist (James Woods). I suspect a lot of that dynamic was taken from Huizenga’s book.)

This is item #94 in a sequence of 114 items.

You can use your left/right arrow keys to navigate