Unique Challenges of Managing Injuries on the Sports Field

Scott Lynch, M.D.

IMAGE COURTESY OF JOE HERMITT, THE PATRIOT-NEWS.

Orthopaedists are on-site to manage injuries sustained during play and competition at many collegiate sporting events. With 17 years as a team physician, including the past two years for the Penn State Nittany Lions’ football team, Scott Lynch, M.D., Penn State Hershey Bone and Joint Institute, relays his unique perspective, “Dealing with injured athletes on the playing field is very different from being in the emergency room or clinic; imagine 107,000 people evaluating your performance.”

Privacy for athletes must be a priority, especially when there is media coverage of the event. “Many games are covered by the media, so I ask team support staff to form a circle around me and the injured player. It’s important to establish calm, especially because we need the patient to cooperate,” says Lynch.

Planning ahead is key, including knowing where athletes should be taken for different levels of injuries and the easiest path to the training room. He also recommends talking to the emergency medical services crew before the game, to know how to call them to the field and where to exit the stadium or building.

One of the most unique aspects of sports field injury management is seeing the injury take place. Lynch explains, “I watch the on-going play. I’ve witnessed the mechanism, and have a fairly good idea of what may be going on before I ever touch the patient.” Lynch then determines the level of severity and whom best to handle: an athletic trainer or a physician. “With more serious injuries, such as fractures, the athletic trainer and I work as a team. I try to reduce some fractures and dislocations on the spot,” he said. “But you don’t want to create a big scene. If you can’t get it reduced relatively quickly and easily, remove the player from the area or transport him to the emergency room.” Some open fractures and other serious injuries, such as a suspected spine injury, require the patient to be transported to the hospital.

Lynch also serves as a physician for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (PIAA) high school state and district championship competitions, including wrestling and track and field events, in addition to professional athletic organizations, including the Harrisburg Senators and the Hershey Bears. He notes, “Football is often associated with the greatest risk of injury, but injuries in other sports are also common. And it’s not just orthopaedic injuries, you may have eye, abdominal, or head injuries. You have to be prepared for everything.”


Scott Lynch, M.D.Scott Lynch, M.D.
Director of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine
Associate Professor, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
PHONE: 717-531-5638
E-MAIL: slynch@hmc.psu.edu
FELLOWSHIP: Sports medicine, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio
RESIDENCY: Orthopaedic surgery, Medical Center Hospital of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
MEDICAL SCHOOL: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


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