Orthopaedics: The Best Centers in Cincinnati
UC Health Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
Stretching the Lines of Sports Medicine
On a cold Saturday morning, Dr. Jon Divine, medical director of University of Cincinnati Athletics, stood in a parking lot with the parents of an athlete to show them their son’s MRI. The parents were concerned about the health and recovery of their son, and so was Dr. Divine. When sports medicine professionals share the sense of urgency that athletes, parents and coaches have, a superb sports medicine program results.
“In sports medicine, everything needs to get done yesterday. From the athlete to the coaches to parents of the athletes,” says Dr. Divine.
“Our practice, whether it is here or in the office, is set up to deal with that. In other words, let’s say an athlete has been injured on the lacrosse field. We need to get an MRI to that athlete and the parents and coaches to show that she tore her ACL, so they can plan accordingly and can get the surgery done in a timely manner.”
Dr. Divine, who is trained in family medicine with a certification in sports medicine, understands that caring for athletes requires a high level of drive and commitment. “There are six of us that are on the medical staff for the athletic department. We take turns to cover each event.”
The medical staff has to be ready at all times to deal with an injured athlete. Dr. Divine’s role with the athletes is to deal with injuries or illnesses that happen to active people. This includes providing care for 550 to 600 intercollegiate athletes, as well as a large number of students who play intramural sports.
As the region’s only academic health care center, UC Health is uniquely positioned to provide state-of-the-art care to the university’s athletes. The combination of a world-class healthcare system and a Division I college athletic program drives physicians like Dr. Divine to go beyond basic care for athletes. With the support system of UC Health, Dr. Divine can invest in his athletes in extraordinary ways, which is appreciated by the parents and coaches of these athletes.
For example, Dr. Divine and the sports medicine staff are using specialized, optical technology to make scientific strides in the treatment of concussions. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is an eye machine typically used in the clinical world to examine retinal damage and neuro-degenerative changes in the eyes. “We have picked it up thinking that maybe there is something to this with head injuries,” says Dr. Divine. “Anything we can do now to help us to diagnose and treat concussions is huge. We started using the OCT machine two years ago. We have a theory that a lot of concussion symptoms are visual based or linked between the eye, the retina and the optic nerve, all which affect the brain.
“Instead of looking at the eye from straight ahead, it actually turns it 90 degrees and we can look at an image of a layer of cells within the retina and pick out the damaged area that is there.”
Dr. Divine says he became frustrated with not being able to help athletes reduce recovery time from concussions by being proactive. The medical advice was to just rest and let nature take its course, but
“I wanted to research how we could help nature along a little bit while keeping safety at the forefront for athletes anxious to get back into the game. We have tried to really promote that with our rehab program, especially with concussions. This curiosity has motivated us to find safe alternative treatments we could include for our concussed athletes to get better quicker, usually involving lower (intensity) exercise with balance and strength training exercises.”
This research has led to higher standards within when dealing with concussions. “Five years ago, we adopted a policy on managing concussions similar to what professional leagues have,” Dr. Divine says. “The NFL, for example, has asked that an independent doctor, not the team doctor, evaluate men and women athletes suffering from concussion.”
In addition, internal studies are a large part of the medical staff’s research. Every year the football team, during its two-week training, become test subjects. “We take our show on the road and do most of our data collection for our research,” Dr. Divine says. “We do things like measuring reaction times with light stimuli and looking at the eye with the OCT machine. All things related to concussions. We are in our fourth year and the research is finally beginning to come to fruition, including some publications coming out that will validate our research.”
When Dr. Divine stands in a parking lot on a cold Saturday morning with the parents of an injured athlete, he’s not doing so out of obligation. His interest goes beyond mere duty; it’s motivated by a deep concern for his athletes and a determination to stretch the established lines of the sports medicine world.