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Team Physician Helps San Diego Padres Stay On The Diamond

Audio

Aired 4/5/10

Spring Training is over and the San Diego Padres get their season started later today. But who is helping them stay healthy? Joining us on Morning Edition is Dr. Heinz Hoenecke with Scripps Clinic. He is the head team physician for the San Diego Padres.

PAMELA DAVIS (Host): Spring training is over and the San Diego Padres get their season started later today. But, who is helping them stay healthy? Joining us on Morning Edition is Dr. Heinz Hoenecke with Scripps Clinic. He is the head team physician for the San Diego Padres. Dr. Hoenecke, fans might not know about how medicine keeps their favorite players on the diamond. How are medical advances in sports medicine keeping players injury free?

DR. HEINZ HOENECKE (Team Physician, San Diego Padres): Well, it’s been challenging role to play with the team. We work very closely with the trainers and with the coaches to carefully evaluate the players as they get ready for Spring Training. As they build up their strength and their endurance and skills for throwing. We’re starting to use some very specialized techniques in order to obtain information about the players’ strength and their range of motion. We’ve actually developed some innovative techniques using the Wii game controller to evaluate range of motion on the players and detect early on when they’re performance is starting to change to make changes to their rehab.

DAVIS: That sounds like fun to play Wii and still build-up your strength?

HOENECKE: We’re using strength measurement devices and also we’ve used the Wii device in order to measure range of motion, all the players at the beginning and at the end of the season and as we need to during the season because one of the most important things that happens is that it allows us to tell when a player may need treatment from the trainer or perhaps a rest for when they lose rotation in their shoulder and having each player has their own characteristic range of motion. So, this has been a helpful tool for us and fairly fun and also innovative.

DAVIS: You know, a lot of players once they’re hurt have to have surgery and they have a long recovery time. But, arthroscopic procedures have been gaining momentum.

HOENECKE: Right, well historically if a player would start to get some soreness in their shoulder, they’d have trouble performing, they kept trying to play and ultimately things would get so torn up that they’d have to have a large surgery and the results of which were not very successful, frankly. Now, with the use of MRI and arthroscopic techniques, we’re actually able to detect these smaller injuries earlier and intervene early enough to allow them to continue to play. It’s been helpful as we develop these on the player’s field to use theses in our recreational athletes, also.

DAVIS: Scripps Health is marking its 30th season as the official medical staff of the Padres. Tell us how treating athletes, and specifically the Padres has changed over the last few years.

HOENECKE: Since Ray and Joan Croc, the previous owners of the Padres chose Scripps Clinic 30-years-ago to take care of the Padres, we’ve continued the same philosophy since that time. It’s been a very integrated approach because we’re a multi-specialty clinic, we’re allowed to use all of the different specialties to help care for them. We’ve got internists, ear-nose-and-throat, podiatrists, and the physical therapists. So, we use a multi-physician approach to be sure that we’re keeping on top of all the issues at once. As you know, many of these are medical issues. There may be cardiac issues or neurological issues or otherwise. So, the fact that we have this team approach from Scripps Clinic, I think that has been helpful for the Padres staying healthy.

DAVIS: What is it like to work with professional athletes?

HOENECKE: It’s exciting. It’s a challenge. I mean, you could use a comparison to a race car, for example. When they go out to pitch, they’re stretching their ligaments nearly to the breaking point, and it requires a really careful collaboration between the player, physician, trainers and the coaches to detect when they should give it their all, how far they should go, how many innings they should pitch and that’s what this Spring Training is about, accessing everybody as they go on. And slowly building their skill, strength and endurance and making that call about when to go full and how long to go.

DAVIS: And that’s Dr. Heinz Hoenecke with Scripps Clinic. He is the head team physician for the San Diego Padres.

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