Teamwork and Expertise Make the Partnership a Success
Since Ray and Joan Kroc, the previous owners of the Padres, chose Scripps Clinic in 1981 to take care of the players, the physicians have continued to practice medicine with the same philosophy.
“We take a team approach to the care we deliver,” explains head team physician Heinz Hoenecke, MD. “It works for the players and all the other patients we care for throughout San Diego.”
Scripps Clinic’s team consists of more than 500 physicians from 50 medical and surgical specialties. The wide range of services and experts allows the players to receive comprehensive health care services – from prevention to treatment.
“We not only offer our own expertise but we also enlist the talents of hundreds of specialists throughout Scripps,” says team physician Jan Fronek, MD. “Virtually any health-related issue the patient experiences, we can address.”
Collaborating to care for the Padres
While the integrated model of care at Scripps Clinic provides the right environment to help the Padres get well and stay that way, the specialized skills of the organization’s sports medicine specialists are required to care for the Padres. Trained to prevent, recognize, manage, and rehabilitate injuries related to sports and exercise, they have an in-depth understanding of the intense physical pressure a professional athlete puts on their body.
“They are pushing themselves to the limit. When baseball players go out to pitch, they are stressing their ligaments nearly to the breaking point,” says Dr. Hoenecke. “Caring for them requires a really close and careful collaboration between the player, physician, trainers and coaches. Together, we decide when they should give it their all and how many innings they should pitch. There is a lot at stake for the player.”
Being involved in those high stakes situations can translate to better care for members of the recreational sports community, according to Dr. Fronek, the Padres head team physician for more than 20 years.
“In order to help keep the players in top shape, we have to be on top of our game,” says Dr. Fronek. “That high level of expertise and care is applied to everyone who seeks our services.”
The demographic of those needing the services of orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists is undergoing a shift as the large portion of the population ages.
“We are now seeing people in their 50s and 60s come into our offices with the same types of injuries common in young professional athletes,” says Dr. Fronek.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons calls the trend “boomeritis.” It refers to the growing number of sports injuries among baby boomers.
“In their quest to stay healthy and fit, the middle-aged are embarking on more rigorous athletic regimens. That’s resulting in a higher number of traumatic and wear and tear injuries,” explains Dr. Fronek. “Our experience treating the elite athlete has made us well-prepared to meet the needs of the average recreational sports or exercise enthusiast.”
A relationship with deep roots
While caring for weekend warriors and workout fans over the past several decades, Scripps Clinic’s association with the Padres has grown deep roots.
”We’ve really had a unique opportunity to get to know the players as they progress through their baseball careers,” says internal medicine specialist and team physician Harry Albers, MD. “The close relationships can result in better care.”
The team physicians not only care for major league players. In many cases, they treat the athlete’s immediate family and some members of the ball club’s staff. Plus, they provide consultation services to about 200 players from the Padres’ minor league chain.
It’s a big job – one that brings the team physicians tremendous satisfaction.
“The collaboration with the Padres has allowed us to meet and treat a unique group of people,” says Dr. Fronek. “People who are able to play at that level need more than athletic ability. They have to be so much more. We feel very fortunate to have been chosen to provide their care.”