Derrick Rose's torn ACL. Joakim Noah's plantar fascitis. Rip Hamilton's back problems. Taj Gibson's sprained left knee. Nate Robinson's sore ribs.
One woman has seen it all. And more. And lived to tell the tale.
When Dr. Kathy Weber first began working with the Chicago White Sox in 2004, it was the first time a female physician had walked into the White Sox locker room. Eight years and two managers later, she feels like part of the team and the players are happy to have her around.
Dr. Weber, a sports medicine physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR), is the only female physician in Major League Baseball (MLB) and one of two female team physicians in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
As a sports medicine physician at MOR, Dr. Weber specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal issues. Besides her work as a team physician with the Bulls and White Sox, she’s head team physician for DePaul University, Chicago, and the Chicago Force, a women’s professional tackle football team. She has served on the MLB Physicians Advisory Board, the MLB Physician’s Executive Committee and currently the MLB and NBA Concussion Committees.
The 5'3, 110-pound physician grew up in a sports-minded family in Indianapolis. In high school, she played volleyball and basketball and went on to run track in college. As an adult she ran competitively, competing in an ultramarathon and running numerous marathons including the Boston marathon.
“I know what its like to put your heart and soul into a sport you love, " Dr. Weber told the Token Female, "I use my medical training and experience as a lifelong athlete to help professional athletes who are at the top of their game.”
After graduating with a nursing degree, she proceeded to get a masters degree in Exercise Physiology, and her medical degree from Rush Medical College, Chicago. Dr. Weber went on to complete her residency in internal medicine at Rush and a fellowship in sports medicine at the University of California Medical Center, San Diego.
Weber knows the importance of having positive role models.
Since 2002, she’s served on the Board of Girls in the Game, a Chicago nonprofit that brings the power of sports and leadership to inner city girls.
“I tell the girls what a role model once told me -- to strive for your dreams and do what you love."
Recently, Dr. Weber sat down to answer a few questions for me, including one I had to ask. About Derrick Rose. The answer may surprise you.
1) How did you come to the attention of Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Bulls and White Sox? Did he ever say why he hired you?
I really do not know for sure. Dr. Chuck Bush-Joseph, an orthopedic surgeon and managing partner at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, approached me about my interest, and in 2003, White Sox Head Athletic Trainer Herm Schneider interviewed me. I must have passed the interview because I got the job.
2) What does your schedule look like? Do you go to spring training with the White Sox?
I attend the first week of spring training to conduct player physicals, but I always return to Chicago the following week because of my commitment to the Bulls. I’m notified if anything happens though.
3) What was the initial reception like for you, and how is it now?
Ozzie Guillen was very welcoming. He told the players, “She tells you to do something. You do it…or you’ll hear from me.” The reception was great and my relationship with the team has never wavered. It is like a family. You get to know the players and there is a mutual respect.
4) What do you bring to the table that perhaps male physicians wouldn't?
They come to me for my expertise in sports medicine. I do not think gender is involved, but maybe they are able to open up to me a bit more because I am female.
For example, they sometimes are more comfortable discussing personal issues with me because I am a woman. Sometimes they confide in me about family stress and other health conditions that aren’t necessarily orthopedic-related. Since I am around the players a lot, I also notice when they are not themselves and I will approach them in a caring way to see if I can help.
5) What injuries do you see that trouble you the most?
Of course every injury is troubling in a way, but the most bothersome would have to be the ones that place a player on the DL (Disabled List), or are season-ending injuries.
6) Men are notoriously bad patients, at least in my experience.
A professional athlete knows his musculoskeletal system has to be in perfect shape because this is about his livelihood. So because I am the one helping them after their livelihood has been jeopardized, they are always good patients.
7) Athletes want to compete. They're often surrounded by 'yes' men (and women). How do you manage this highly paid individual when they want to come back too soon?
The players respect me for my skill set. Every player is assessed, educated and notified of their status or condition. It is most often a mutual agreement. If we tell them to stay out of the game, they usually listen. Again, this is about a player’s livelihood. If they return too quickly, they risk getting re-injured. The second injury could be a career ender.
8) Derrick Rose was quoted as saying that he "won't come back until
he's 110%." Have you had a hand in helping his rehabilitation? And by the way, do you concur with his estimation?
Derrick will return when he feels he is ready. He will be 150 percent ready.
9) What do you say to the young baseball and basketball players out there about injuries and your health? How do you avoid injuries and play at optimum potential?
In order for an athlete to be healthy and avoid injury, he/she must focus on the full spectrum—nutrition, fitness, flexibility, strengthening, breathing, recovery time. I don’t think it is a good idea for any young athlete to play a sport all year round. They need time off.
10) You also take care of the Chicago Force, the women's full-tackle football team. What injuries are you likely to see most often? And what is your opinion on the controversy surrounding concussions? Should football be stopped?
ACL, concussions, contusions, fractures, strains, and sprains occur (similar to men’s football). More and more research is being conducted on concussions, and the more we learn, the better we will be about preventing and treating them. I believe there are a lot of good aspects to team sports like football and I don’t think the game should come to an end.
I think it’s about making it safer, instituting tougher regulations and possible equipment changes.
11) What of the future of sports? Do you see an era of safer helmets, no
steroids, and better resources for taking care of our athletes?
I see potential equipment changes, because researchers are constantly investigating the causes and preventions of multiple injuries and how better equipment might help prevent injuries.
An athlete’s desire for an advantage or a “competitive edge” over an opponent is what drives steroid usage. More definitive, stringent testing is needed and the use of steroids in all sports needs to be regulated and closely monitored.