In his role as medical director of the Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship, Joe Noland, MD, jokes that he has "all the responsibility and none of the authority."
He’s being modest.
Dr. Noland assembles a medical team that includes an orthopedic surgeon, an athletic trainer, an X-ray technician and a dentist. All are on site for every practice and game during the week-long event at Sprint Center in March.
"Our main duties are to take care of the teams, cheerleaders, referees and anyone associated with the Big 12," Dr. Noland says.
Throughout the week, Dr. Noland and his staff are likely to see ankle sprains, knee and shoulder injuries and lacerations. But, given the time of year in which the tournament occurs, it’s not unusual to treat colds and influenza either.
Although he has the advantage of having The University of Kansas Hospital nearby, Dr. Noland and his team do most of their work within the Sprint Center.
“Given that it’s not really a clinic, it’s amazing what is available to us," Dr. Noland says.
All the materials needed to treat sprains, fractures, dehydration and general aches and pains are available. In addition to an X-ray machine, doctors also have the ability to burn X-ray film onto a disc. This allows players to take the X-rays with them when they return to their campus.
College players aren’t like his typical patients, who have the luxury of time from stabilization to diagnosis to rehabilitation and return to normal activity. The players Dr. Noland treats during the tournament are impatient to get back on the court.
“When treating these types of injuries in the middle of a tournament, the question is if you can get them back on the court tomorrow,” he says.
While all of the teams travel with an athletic trainer, Dr. Noland estimates about half opt to not bring a physician to the tournament. He said the outstanding reputation of The University of Kansas Health System, which is the preferred healthcare provider for the Big 12 Championship, makes the decision easier for teams.
“As they get to know us better, they are probably more comfortable not sending a physician with their team,” he says.