Written by Dr. Brett Spain:

Watching the events of the Little League World Series has reminded me that every young boy and girl involved in sports dreams of participating and excelling on the grandest stage of competition. Whether it be catching the game-winning touchdown at the Super Bowl or scoring a perfect 10 at the Olympic games, there is always a goal to be attained.  As a competitive baseball player throughout my life, I was no different.  However, it became more challenging to achieve these aspirations when the calling to become a physician grew and  I was forced to choose between two burning passions.

Early in my residency training I was convinced that pursuing a career in sports medicine was the best way to fulfill all of my dreams.  I have been fortunate to care for athletes at every level of competition, and none more so than my recent excursion to the FINA World Aquatic Championships held in Kazan, Russia from July 25th to August 8th, 2015.  These 16th World Championships are held every 2 years and showcase talents with names like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte.  As an Olympic qualifier these events are not short on thrills and agony.

My role at this years event was to provide medical care and poolside game coverage for the Men’s and Women’s Water Polo National teams.  The number 4 and number 1 ranked teams in the world respectively came to earn gold medals or return stateside disappointed.  Water polo is a sport that combines swimming, overhead throwing and aggressive contact between opposing athletes.  Thus, there is no shortage of injuries to head and neck, shoulder and legs.  In addition to musculoskeletal injury and concussion management I was responsible for all the general health problems these world class athletes may face while traveling to a foreign nation with very different foods and sanitation practices.

I am proud to report that no major injuries were sustained in competition and every athlete was able to participate in every minute of each match under my care.  While the men’s team defeated Australia in their final match to earn a disappointing 7th place; the women’s team edged a very strong squad from the Netherlands and won the gold medal by a score of 5-4!

This experience is one I will never forget. It has filled me with the national and professional pride of reveling in a big win and knowing that our athletes were able to compete at such a level with the medical support of my and the athletic trainers’ care. I have included two personal photos of the girls with their gold medals and myself with the coaching staff after the event concluded.