What Does it Mean to be a Team Physician: Q & A with Dr. Sarang Desai, D.O. - Orthopedic Surgeon of the Foot & Ankle

What teams ARE you currently with?

Currently, I am the official team physician for the Dallas Sidekicks professional indoor soccer team and have been for the past four consecutive seasons. I look forward to returning to the Sidekicks’ sideline after their break this season. I also serve as the foot and ankle consultant for the Texas Legends NBA D-League team and the Allen Americans professional hockey team. Beyond that, I also treat many athletes from all over North Texas; from kids to professionals.

What does being a team physician entail?

Most people think a team physician’s job is done at the end of each game, but in reality they play a much bigger role beyond the game. All team physicians are required to provide ongoing medical care to the athletes before and after the game; and even during the off season. Team physicians also provide additional care by providing education on injury prevention to the athletes, coaches and administrators in order to maintain the overall health of the team and individual athlete.

What type of relationship do you have with the players?

A good team physician has to be close to the team and its players in order to establish a trusting relationship to treat injuries. As the team physician, it is very gratifying to see players that I have treated heal and get back to the game. When one of my players is injured, I feel their disappointment just as I feel their happiness when they heal and return to the game.

What is game day like?

I typically get to the venue well ahead of the game so that I can touch base with the team’s athletic trainers. We will discuss any players with existing injuries and make sure they are healing well so they can get back on the field. During the game, I am responsible for taking care of any injured athletes including the visitor’s team. As the team physician, I have to watch the game through a different lens, unlike a regular spectator. I am constantly keeping a close eye on players in case an injury occurs. It is important for me to identify how the injury happened because this tells me a lot about potential structures that could be injured and other factors regarding the injury itself. During the game, I am also keeping a close eye on how previously injured athletes are performing. Once the game is done, I will perform post-game evaluations on the players and meet with the team’s athletic trainer to make sure we have a plan until the next game.

What makes someone a great team physician?

Being available and flexible for the players and the team is a big part of the job. Sometimes that means adjusting your clinic or surgery schedule to work an injured player in. When and where injuries will occur is unpredictable by nature, and being available and flexible is important when you are the team

physician. It is my job to be there for the players, when they need me, so they can get back into the game. Most importantly, being the team physician means that I must stay up to date and educated on the current procedures and technologies in orthopedics in order to provide the athletes with the best care available.