Peak athletic performance goes beyond orthopedics

It requires the perfect integration of our physical and mental abilities

NJBIZ STAFF//March 7, 2022//

Peak athletic performance goes beyond orthopedics

It requires the perfect integration of our physical and mental abilities

NJBIZ STAFF//March 7, 2022//

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In life and sport, optimal performance is not just about skills – intellectual, athletic, or anywhere in between. Performance, instead, requires the perfect integration of our physical and mental abilities, to convert potential into excellence. In fact, for an athlete to really learn what he or she is physically able to do, it is becoming common to first ask, “what are we cognitively and emotionally committed to doing?” And for today’s sports medical teams, the answer to this question is critical not only for the growth and development of today’s athlete, but for injury prevention and management.

Historically, the athlete-care model has focused on a primarily orthopedic-driven, musculoskeletal-centric approach. That paradigm is shifting. –

Historically, the athlete-care model has focused on a primarily orthopedic-driven, musculoskeletal-centric approach. That paradigm is shifting, and at Baker Street we are strong proponents of this shift, as we help drive the clubs we work with — from professional to scholastic — to a primary care-integrated athlete care model.

This requires a uniquely trained medical team to provide care along the continuum of injuries and illnesses. From acute evaluation to return to sport, to managing complications and coexisting medical issues, the team must provide comprehensive management plans to optimize health and performance.

These efforts, in turn, impact and drive performance, training, recovery, and quality of life. This is a shift from the previous model in that it is a holistic and broad approach, and one that integrates all components of performance to work in unison to best benefit the athlete.

A total health approach

Traditionally, physical health, mental health, and skill development have not been well integrated. As a result, care provided to athletes has been fragmented, even at the highest levels of sport. Consequently, it has at times prevented athletes from developing to their full potential, or recovering adequately from injury. For example, how a player takes direction or responds to injury can be affected by how well athletic and medical staff members communicate and coordinate care.

For the health of a team and its athletes to perform at an elite level, the primary care physician/modern team care coordinator must work directly with team physicians, psychologists, athletic trainers, physical therapists, performance, strength and conditioning staff to ensure adequate player development, preventive strategy implementation, and coordinated injury management, thus enabling a smooth return and fitness to play.

Establishing a solid organizational structure in this manner can enhance communication, secure accountability, and elevate confidence throughout the team, from players, to staff, and management. Simultaneously, it can reduce injury rates, time to diagnosis, errors in management, and man games lost–the number of games athletes sit out due to injury or illness.

Therefore, athletes and organizations are evolving to better understand the value of medical integration.

Athletes who focus on physical and mental health are more equipped to adapt and take control of the moment because they are likely to experience improved confidence, are addressing issues related to depression and anxiety, and are free to concentrate on performance. When these opportunities to grow are integrated with athletic skill building opportunities and top-notch coaching, athletes can thrive on and off the field, court, or ice.

A truly integrative care model for the athlete also relies on psychology and mental health providers. The Baker Street model includes psychologists who are available to support athletes with mental, behavioral and emotional needs, as well as mental skills trainers who work with athletes to improve their on-field performance. It is vital that this group works collaboratively within the medical care team. As a dually trained clinical/sport psychologist, Dr. Joseph Galasso and his team work with medical staff, orthopedics, and trainers to help provide athletes with the access to mental health care that they need and deserve. It is common to address issues related to stress, injury recovery, trades, and performance.

Understanding an athlete’s cognitive and emotional ability can affect growth and development. As a result, identifying how each individual learns, and how they react, will enable the performance team to properly develop athletes to their fullest potential.

A care model for women

Through experience working with numerous professional women’s and men’s teams, including the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, WNBA, NWSL, and PHF, among others, we’ve seen clearly and emphatically that women’s sports need and deserve equal care. However, access to the same resources as men’s sports to optimize potential or performance rarely exist. To complicate matters, women’s specific needs and wants are often not recognized or addressed, and what men need for growth and development rarely translate well for women. Fittingly, there is no plug-and-play solution.

Providing a collaborative care coordination model facilitates integrating empowerment with equality, performance, and lifestyle management specifically to meet the needs of women in sport and in life. For example, a coordinated care model could help limit the negative impact that socioeconomic — pay differences between men and women — and psychosocial — gender, sexuality, and child rearing — factors could have on all aspects of player or team-organization performance, growth, and development.

The result? Within the Baker Street model, there are similarities in terms of application, however, there is a clear difference in utilization. We are working hard as an organization to level the playing field in terms of the services that are available to athletes, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or sport.

To create sustainable change, a team must integrate organization-wide alignment, effective coordination of care, and integrated player development.

The Baker Street model is unique in that it provides a fully integrated and proven plan, ready to be augmented to a specific application. In several instances, Baker Street has been called upon by teams and leagues to organize and develop their medical practices and procedures. On the team/organizational level, Baker Street has engaged in culture and identity building projects to help teams re-establish their mission, vision, and identity. On the micro-level, the team provides blue ribbon medical/behavioral services to players, coaches, and executives.

However, one factor remains consistent throughout each project: a continued evolution of comprehensive and integrated care will in turn drive sustainable change and optimal performance.

Dr. Mike Farber is the Founder & Chief Medical Officer of New Jersey’s Baker Street Health & Human Performance. He has been providing care for professional athletes and/or serving as team physician for numerous professional sports teams since 2001.