San Francisco Doctors Cover All the Bases for Local Pros
By Rob A. Seide
When local athletes and dancers need medical attention, whom do they turn to? Orthopedic physicians at Sutter Health’s CPMC.
Allan Pont, M.D. has been the team physician for the Oakland A’s since 1984. In 2011, Jon Dickinson, M.D. became the team orthopedist and is now in his second year. Previously, Dickinson spent eight years working with the Golden State Warriors basketball team. He attends half of the 82 A’s home games seated mostly in the dugout or field seats. “I played baseball in college, so I’m a big fan!” he explains.
Not surprisingly, in addition to ankle sprains, muscle strains and pulls, shoulder and elbow injuries are baseball players’ most common complaints. Dickinson says, “The need for professional athletes to perform at high levels is different from the need of the average ‘weekend warrior.’ But essentially we see the same injuries.” Dickinson, who goes to spring training and accompanied the team on a recent trip to Japan, also treats players on visiting teams. After evaluation and diagnosis of a problem, Dickinson says his most important function is to propose a treatment regimen specific to the injury. It is similar to what he does for his post-surgical patients seen in his office. For both, physical rehabilitation is key to recovery, though because most athletes are already in superb physical shape, they rehabilitate faster. They also devote more time to their rehabilitation. “When a player is injured, they undergo several hours of rehab daily, so they can recover quicker than the average person,” says Dickinson.
From Baseball to Ballroom
Richard Gibbs, M.D., was the perfect choice 20 years ago when the San Francisco Ballet selected him to be its supervising physician: Before going to medical school in his 30s, he was a professional dancer. “The first thing I did was call Dr. John Callander, who was a highly respected orthopedist. He helped me establish a medical facility on-site at the ballet. We probably have the most complete program in the country for professional dancers.”
Dr. Callander, since retired from his own medical practice at CPMC, continues to treat the dancers – as does his son, CPMC orthopedic surgeon Peter Callander, M.D., and members of Peter’s orthopedic medical practice: Keith Donatto, M.D., and Rowan Paul, M.D.
Says Gibbs: “The expertise these physicians bring is invaluable. As you can imagine, foot and ankle injuries are most common among the female dancers because they are ‘on point’ all the time. Keith Donatto has treated every tendonitis you can imagine that might occur in the foot and ankle.”
Not Just for the Pros
Many nonprofessional dancers – those who do it for activity or artistic expression – are among the mostly 20- to 40-year-old patients Donatto treats in his practice. He says, “Dancing is a passionate activity. For professionals, it is their life – so they face their treatment and rehab with that level of determination. It is extremely important for them to get back to dancing as soon as possible. We carry that same mentality back to patients we see in our everyday practice.”
Callander explains, “My job is to deal with tears, swelling and acute injuries of the hips or knees that can be repaired, usually with arthroscopic ACL reconstruction or with partial meniscal repair. Because the dancers are younger, they don’t need joint replacements, although I perform many replacement surgeries on retired dancers.”
Recently, CPMC sports medicine specialist Rowan Paul, M.D., joined this prestigious team. Gibbs says, “Dr. Paul is very up to date on aspects of injuries in sports medicine, especially overuse, which is often the case here at the ballet. He brings a portable ultrasound the size of a briefcase, which is especially helpful in detecting and determining good sites for steroid injection treatment.”
As with treating the Oakland A’s, perhaps the most important part of these physicians’ jobs is making the proper diagnosis, which is where their expertise is especially helpful. Gibbs says, “Without a proper diagnosis, it’s difficult to get a dancer back to dancing because we need to guide the specific rehab needed to be done in physical therapy.”
All these physicians volunteer their time to help local athletes and dancers – no one is paid. “This is a wonderful opportunity for me to help out the arts and something I enjoy because I get to spend my time treating these dancers. We have an amazing troupe – one of the best in the country, if not the world,” proclaims Callander.
For more information on these surgeons and the Joint Replacement Center, go to cpmc.org/jointcare.