Team physician


Game On: A Day in the Life of a Team Physician

Baptist Health Orthopedic Care

It’s game day for the Florida Atlantic University Owls, and scoring touchdowns is just one of the goals ahead. The players also hope to get through the four quarters with no injuries, but if a mishap occurs the Baptist Health Orthopedic Care team is at their side.

Team physicians, orthopedic surgeon James Ross, M.D., and primary care sports medicine physician Alex Mafdali, M.D., work with the players throughout the season to help prevent medical problems and handle injuries at games and in training ― whether it’s a torn meniscus that needs surgery, a rolled ankle that requires rehabilitation, a shoulder dislocation, a concussion or any other issue requiring medical attention.

“Game-day hype is real,” Dr. Mafdali says. “When I walk out into the stadium and I see our fans yelling for our athletes and I see the smiles on our athletes’ faces, that’s what really hypes me up. I’ve seen how hard these players work and how they have put everything out there.”


(Watch as team physicians, orthopedic surgeon James Ross, M.D., and primary care sports medicine physician Alex Mafdali, M.D., work with the players to help prevent and handle injuries. Video by Steve Pipho.)

But inspiration for game days really begins much earlier, he adds. “It starts as soon as the last game is finished.” That’s when physicians begin evaluating players for any potential problems that could keep them sidelined.

“A typical day for me at FAU involves coming to the training room, seeing athletes in my doctor’s office here and examining them for active injuries or chronic injuries, discussing treatment plans that may involve medical imaging, perhaps injections and occasionally surgery,” Dr. Ross says. On game day, the physicians usually arrive several hours before kick-off and are on the sidelines for the game.

The two work closely with the team’s athletic trainers and coaches with the goal of keeping players healthy and getting them back to action as soon as is safely possible if they have had an injury.

“For me, it’s the most gratifying experience to see the athlete that I operated on six, nine months ago go out and score a touchdown or make a big tackle,” Dr. Ross says. “It’s just amazing to see the excitement on the player’s face, knowing what they’ve gone through to get back to that level of play.”

The doctors also understand that for some of the players, college football is a stepping stone to a professional career, making proper performance training and medical attention all the more essential. This season, seven former FAU Owls are playing for teams that include the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and two others are part of the practice squads for the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills.

It helps that many college teams today have access to high-tech equipment. For example, at FAU’s newest training facility, which opened in 2019, players can use an underwater treadmill, placing less weight on injured joints and allowing them to begin rehab sooner than in the past. “This, combined with many other techniques that we use in surgery and the rehabilitation process, really helps advance our athletes quicker through their rehab process,” Dr. Ross explains.

Caring for the team is a responsibility the doctors take seriously. While they say it’s not necessary to be a huge sports fan or a former athlete to be a team physician, it makes the job more enjoyable and even changes their view on play. “I’ve watched football my whole life and when the kickoff is happening, I would watch the kick returner,” Dr. Mafdali says. “But now I see my eye shifting to the midfield, knowing that that’s where high impact is going to happen and potentially someone can be injured. I’m also making sure after every play that everyone’s walking out of that huddle or off the ground and that there’s no injuries.”

In addition to treating pro and college athletes (Baptist Health Orthopedic Care partners with the Florida Panthers, Miami HEAT, Miami Dolphins, InterMiami CF and others), the physicians are keen on helping the community. They see everyday patients, from weekend warriors to seniors with back pain, in their off-campus offices. They also work with high school teams and provide monthly medical conferences to help educate athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical students and others involved in sports medicine.


Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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