Levy’s thoughts on 45 years as Ti­cats’ doc­tor

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON

On how foot­ball play­ers have changed since 1972:

“Mostly in nutri­tion and off-sea­son train­ing. Back then the pay scale was so dif­fer­ent: these guys worked at Stelco or had other jobs to com­pen­sate. Their di­ets were not great. Those were the days when you’d have a huge steak the night be­fore; it wasn’t carbs, it was high pro­tein.

“We had four pre-sea­son games, and a long train­ing camp. And that’s when they’d get into shape: so by the fourth week they’d ei­ther be all beaten up: it was sur­vival of the fittest.”

On how sports team train­ers have changed.

“Back in the Jimmy Simp­son days, they were guys who played foot­ball who learned how to tape. It’s gone from an art to a sci­ence. Jonesy (Ray Jones) was good as a trainer and a char­ac­ter, but then you get into train­ers who’ve been ed­u­cated specif­i­cally for ath­letic in­juries. You got Chris Puskas and then Carly Van­der­gri­ent, who were tops in their class and had re­ally good education for it.”

On why he likes work­ing with ath­letes, pro­fes­sional, am­a­teur and week­end war­riors:

“I guess it’s the drive to ac­com­plish, to bet­ter them­selves and to bet­ter their teams. And with a lot of things in medicine, the prob­lem is com­pli­ance: you give a pa­tient some instructions and some pro­to­col on how to get them­selves well, but a lot of peo­ple just ex­pect, ‘Give me surgery or give me some­thing to get me well.’ They’re not will­ing to be par­tic­i­pants in their own re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and good health. I of­ten found ath­letes are, if any­thing, too com­pli­ant; they want to be back yes­ter­day. It was al­most a plea­sure pulling on the reins be­cause you knew they had a di­rec­tion, you knew you had a mo­ti­vated pa­tient who was go­ing to get them­selves well.”

On the em­pir­i­cal value of sports medicine:

“I think there’s a lot that’s been done in sports medicine that helps medicine in gen­eral. Dr. Bob Jack­son is an ex­am­ple, learn­ing to us­ing the arthro­scope when he was in Ja­pan. The idea ini­tially was to get the player back quickly, it’s not in­va­sive, and re­duces the dam­age. Arthroscopy has blos­somed into some­thing you can do for gall blad­der and other things.

“There’s a lot more knowl­edge now of how im­por­tant ex­er­cise is to health, how im­por­tant nutri­tion is to health.

“This has re­ally come out of sports medicine and sports sci­ence.” On what it means to be a team doc­tor: “I watched Ti­cats games at Civic Sta­dium sit­ting on my fa­ther’s knee when I was four or five. I re­al­ized when I be­came a team physi­cian that you are no longer a fan but an ad­vo­cate for the player’s health. De­ci­sions are not based on what’s best for the team at that moment but what is best for your ath­lete/pa­tient. As much the player, or a coach, may urge you to let them go back, you must re­mem­ber he has a fam­ily and a fu­ture and that no one game is worth the price that many have paid for mak­ing in­juries cause life­long dis­abil­ity.” On foot­ball and hockey: “Foot­ball is a col­li­sion sport, it’s not a con­tact sport. Hockey is a phys­i­cal, hard game, with lots of big hits. Af­ter­wards, three peo­ple come in for ice packs. In foot­ball, 15 come in to be as­sessed af­ter a game, and five of them won’t play the next game. In a sea­son you might have six guys re­quir­ing surgery.” On con­cus­sions: “Cer­tainly by the ’80s we started re­al­iz­ing it (the ef­fect of con­cus­sions). That peo­ple weren’t quite the same in the sec­ond half. This is be­fore we knew about sec­ond im­pact syn­drome where if you get con­cussed twice in the same game, you could bleed in the brain and end up with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects, but I knew some­thing was wrong.

“We didn’t have the side­line con­cus­sion pro­to­col. My trick was to ask the sim­ple ques­tions: count back­wards by two from 10, say the months back­ward, but I’d also get other play­ers who play on the same team, de­fence or of­fence, and ask them to call out num­bers and see if he knew where he needed to be.

“Back in the ’80s we were al­ready tak­ing hel­mets away from peo­ple and hid­ing them. Some­times coaches didn’t like that at all be­cause the play­ers are al­ways go­ing to say, ‘I’m ready, I don’t know what his prob­lem is.’” On ter­ri­ble in­juries: “I re­mem­ber more the player’s re­ac­tion to it than my own, be­cause the doc­tor has to stay ob­jec­tive.

“I re­mem­ber Steve Sta­pler dis­lo­cat­ing his hip. It was the first time I saw that on the field — you see it in emer­gency rooms af­ter car ac­ci­dents — and I didn’t see it again un­til it hap­pened to Johnny Sears last year.”


David Levy helps Ben Zam­bi­asi off the field dur­ing a game in the 1980s.

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