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    CPMC Doctors Cover All the Bases for Local Pros

    Oakland A's baseball team
    Photo Credit: Michael Zagaris, Oakland A's.

    When the Bay area’s finest athletes and dancers need medical attention, who do they turn to? Orthopedic physicians at CPMC.

    Jon Dickinson, M.D., is in his second year as team orthopedist for the Oakland A’s baseball team (where CPMC’s Allan Pont, M.D. is the team physician), having spent the prior eight years working with the basketball players on the Golden State Warriors. Brought onboard by General Manager Billy Beane, he attends half of the 82 A’s games (the others are covered by William Workman, M.D., of Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation), seated mostly in the dugout or field seats. “I played baseball in college, so I’m a big fan!” he explains.

    Not surprisingly, shoulder and elbow injuries are the most common complaints baseball players have, in addition to ankle sprains, muscle strains and pulls. According to Dickinson, “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 the players on visiting teams. Few surgeries are performed on these athletes. After evaluation and diagnosis of a problem, Dickinson says his most important function is to propose a treatment regime specific to the injury. In fact, he says the biggest difference between ball players and the Average Joe is the amount of physical rehabilitation the players receive. 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.

    “We don’t have a lot of traumatic injuries, like in football,” explains A’s head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta. “So what’s important about Jon’s job is his knowledge and experience, his bedside manner and making sure a guy can play 162 games in 185 days.”

    Dickinson says he sees about 90 patients and performs 10 surgeries each week in his private practice – mostly hip, shoulder and knee arthroscopies. During the baseball season, players hurt during practice come to his office, especially if an x-ray is needed. Injuries sustained during the game are seen immediately by Dickinson on the field or in the clubhouse after the game. “If it’s a minor injury, the player can stay in the game.”

    Says Paparesta: “Jon is a part of the team, as much as the coaching staff and front office.”

    San Francisco ballet performers
    Frances Chung and Pascal Molat of the San Francisco Ballet in McGregor’s Chroma ( ©Erik Tomasson)

    Richard Gibbs, M.D. was the perfect choice 20 years ago when the San Francisco Ballet selected him to be their supervising physician: before going to medical school in his 30’s, he was a professional dancer. “The fist thing I did was call 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."

    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 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 because the female dancers are “on point” all the time. Keith Donatto has treated every tendonitis you can imagine that might occur in the foot and ankle.”

    “I’ve been working with the ballet for 12 years, treating about 40-50 dancers a year,” says Donatto. “They are probably some of the most finely-tuned athletes in terms of understanding balance and being in tune with their bodies.”

    Many non-professional dancers – those who do it for activity or artistic expression – are among the mostly 20-40 year old patients Donatto treats in his practice. “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.”

    Gibbs says having a hip specialist like Peter Callander is enormously helpful. “Professional dancers do about two million jumps a year! And they work with their legs turned out at 90 degrees, so we get quite a bit of hip pathology.”

    Explains Callander: “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.

    “Basically, we treat the dancers like football players. We need to tend to their injuries in a tight timeframe so they can get back into the game – or back on the stage – performing at their peak.”

    Recently, CPMC Sports Medicine specialist Rowan Paul, M.D. joined this prestigious team. Explains Gibbs: “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 As, perhaps the most important part of these physicians’ jobs is making the proper diagnosis, which is where their expertise is especially helpful. Explains Gibbs: “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 these athletes – no one gets 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 he best in the country if not the world,” proclaims Callander.

    Donatto, also a ballet enthusiast, agrees: “For me, this is where I should be.”


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