Many of our doctors serve as team physicians for a variety of professional, collegiate and high school sports teams. Luga Podesta, M.D. is one of those. Specializing in non-surgical sports medicine, Dr. Podesta has served as a Team Physician for the LA Dodgers, LA Avengers Arena Football team, and the LA Riptide professional lacrosse team, among others.
This season, Dr. Podesta is joining the LA KISS arena football team as team physician. While there are differences from sport to sport, Dr. Podesta says there are also many similarities from sport to sport when working as a Team Physician.
“Our job is to make sure our athletes aren’t returning to play with an injury that could lead to a permanent or catastrophic injury,” he says.
Specific challenges faced by the Team Physician for an arena football team are much the same as faced by the physician working with an NFL team. “Football is a collision sport; players will get hurt and they will play with injuries,” says Dr. Podesta. “It’s a matter of figuring out what injuries are safe for them to play with, and which injuries are not safe to continue play.”
A 2008 study published by Dr. Podestain the American Journal of Sports Medicine,Injury Patterns in Professional Arena Football,found similar injury patterns in both the field and arena game. The primary difference between injuries in arena football and the NFL is that more arena football players suffer stress fractures and fractures in the foot due to the harder playing surface.
The pressure is on for physicians working with collision sports like football, hockey and lacrosse teams compared to sports like baseball, Dr. Podesta explains. “In football, the physician can actually have an impact on the game. For example, in baseball, if a player comes out of the game with an injury, they’re usually done for the outcome of the game,” he says. “Whereas in football, lacrosse and hockey, there’s a lot the physician can do to treat the players on the sidelines and get them back into the game. That’s where the team physician really becomes valuable to the team.”
To prepare for the season and potential injuries, physicians practice different routines for different injury scenarios, such as on field management of spinal injuries. To diagnose and treat injuries for the LA KISS, Dr. Podesta and other physicians working with the team, including two other Kerlan-Jobe sports medicine specialists, Michael Banffy, M.D. and Vernon Williams, M.D., will use musculoskeletal ultrasound to diagnose soft-tissue injuries on the field. They will also have x-ray technology available at the stadium to aid in diagnosing skeletal injuries and computer based neurocognitive tests to help diagnose concussion.
Though they are well prepared, Dr. Podesta hopes this first season with the LA KISS will be a quiet one as far as injuries go. “You really hope you’re more of an observer than a participant,” he says. “You prepare for all scenarios, including back injuries and concussions, but hope you never have to treat serious injuries.