With hockey season in full swing, the medical teams have been busy as well. We sat down with the team physician, Dr. Joel Boyd, to see what it’s like providing medical coverage for professional athletes. Dr. Joel Boyd has been the Minnesota Wild Team Physician since the Wild came to Minnesota back in 2000.
What does it mean to be a team physician for the Minnesota Wild?
Our responsibilities really start at the beginning of the year with the preseason physicals. We see all of the players, not just the Wild, but our affiliate organizations such as the Iowa team as well. All of the players actually come in for preseason physicals. With the veterans we want to see if things have changed from before and with the new players we want to know if they had any significant injuries from a musculoskeletal standpoint. Everyone gets the full once over to make sure they are ready for camp and the season.
Then as we move into the season, you have the more acute type of injuries. Often times we’re not there at practice. If an injury occurs the player will either need to come to our clinic or we go see them in the training room and that can vary depending on timing and circumstance. If it’s a situation where it’s a home game, which we have to be present at, we are responsible for both the home and away team. We have an office that is in a good position between the locker rooms and allows for players to come in and be treated.
How often are you with the team?
We’re at every home game and sometimes we travel with the team for away games. Those are the main times that we interact. Occasionally, if we have time we’ll go to practice. The team would love for us to come to every practice. We would like to be there too, but we also have our other jobs. If we have a day off or half day off, we swing by, especially if there’s something going on and we just want to follow up with a player and the training staff. If we travel with the team we are with them the whole time. We eat when they eat and we’re with them during their morning skates.
Do you travel with the team?
It’s in a bit of a transition right now across the league. Some teams have hired physicians to travel with them full time. I like the way that we do it. The General Manager allows us to travel with the team when we can. He welcomes us on any trip. I think it’s important to travel with the team because it helps with team building, even from our perspective. The players get to know us and we get to know the players when they’re not injured, not just in that acute moment. The trust level builds significantly when the players see that we’re there with them and going through their day-to-day. The players get a lot out of that. So when something does happen and there’s a significant injury the communication is so much easier.
Where do you spend your time during the games?
We have an office that’s located along the main corridor and sits between the two benches. The players have tremendous access to our office space, but walk across the hall and we have access to the away locker room.
What’s the most common injury you see?
It would be great if it were something glamorous, but the most common injury is lacerations. We sew up a lot of players unfortunately.
Also, contusions from the puck. We see a lot of contusions around the feet and the ankle. You have this puck flying around 80-90 miles an hour. When you get hit with it, it hurts a bit. When you start to get into more musculoskeletal injuries, knee injuries are just as common as shoulder injuries.
Then from a medical stand point, it’s some of the more normal things. These are all young people, young people get colds and the flu and as we found out last year, the mumps. All of those things come up as well.
What do you enjoy most about working with professional athletes?
I enjoy the competitiveness and the desire to achieve in almost any sport, but especially with hockey and with the Wild players. They’re young men who are trying to band together for a common goal and they need each other. None of them can do it by themselves. I think it’s very special when they come together and are working in concert, it’s special to see. Then to be able to help them achieve that is special for me. To have players come back and contribute something else I enjoy. I tell people all the time, I’d rather be a spectator any day of the week, I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I’m just there to watch the game. I just happen to have one of the best seats in the house. But when they do need something, that’s when I get excited because I want to be able to provide that.
What’s been your most rewarding moment in your career?
I think in my career having the chance to be the Wild team physician because I think people overestimate how often these opportunities come about. They’re few and far between. There are a lot of people involved in high school sports and at the college level, but it’s rare to get to this level of being able to take care of a team.
How is the atmosphere different in the playoffs versus the regular season?
I think the playoffs in hockey are the best playoffs. I’m not just saying that because I’m here, but having experienced it. If your team is in it, the whole city, no matter where you are, whether you’re in Denver or Boston, there’s that niche of hockey enthusiast that just go crazy. There’s nothing like being in an arena where everyone is beside themselves over their team. Then to have the type of excitement that we’ve seen over the years with the Wild.
The Wild first started in 2000 and then in 2003 we went to the semifinals in the western conference. We never dreamed that we would go as far as we did, but somehow the magic kept happening. Winning two game 7’s in a row was the most unbelievable feeling ever. I’ve been around big basketball and football games and there’s something to be said especially when it’s a series that you don’t get in football. You get it kind of in basketball, there’s that final excitement. I think it’s even harder to score when it’s hockey than in basketball. You know when it happens, it happens especially last minute, it’s coming down to the wire and there’s just nothing like it. It just gives you the goosebumps all over.