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Five Questions with Connecticut Whale Team Physician, Mark Dundas, MD

March 14, 2023
by John Ready

Team physicians are medically licensed providers who are either a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) and are responsible for the overall medical care for athletes competing in individual, team, and mass participation sporting events.

Often seen on the gridiron, courtside, or near the ice, team physician coverage typically includes athletes of all skill levels, which can range from youth, high school, collegiate, semiprofessional, and professional sports teams.

By virtue of their work with musculoskeletal injury prevention and recovery along with medical conditions encountered in sports, team physicians commonly specialize in orthopaedics or subspecialize in sports medicine.

They integrate medical expertise, coordinate with certified athletic trainers and other health care professionals, as well as educate athletes, coaches, and, in the case of youth sports, parents or guardians. They are also ultimately responsible for granting the clearance required to participate in athletic activity and the return to play following injuries and concussions.

Mark Dundas, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Orthopaedics at Yale School of Medicine and a physiatrist with Yale Medicine, offers an inside look to what it is like serving as the team physician for the Connecticut Whale Women’s Professional Hockey Team.

What is involved with being a team physician?

In providing care for a team, I perform their entry physicals before they can start playing and help prevent any small issues from becoming bigger ones during the season. Once the season is underway, I am at the Connecticut Whale home games in case there is an injury during play. I also make myself available to see a player if they get hurt in practice or at an away game. This involves me either going to the rink to see players at practice or sometimes they will get added to my regular clinic schedule. When injuries happen, the athletic trainer, coach, and general manager will expect a timeline for each player’s return. I also perform exit physical exams when the season concludes to make sure the players receive the best possible care in the off season and can safely begin preparing for next year.

How do athletic teams and their players benefit from having a team physician?

Injuries in sports happen. I develop a baseline understanding for how each player moves before the seasons starts, so if there is a change or an injury, I can quickly pick up on that. Having a trusting relationship with your team physician I think helps players be more open and honest in discussing their symptoms.

When everyone else is watching the game, what are you looking out for?

Like the fans, I usually follow the puck. I probably watch players skating off the ice more than the fans to see if there is an issue that needs attention. I would say, as a physician, I do not enjoy illegal cross checks or players slamming into the boards as much as the fans. I also worry about plays in the corners since that tends to be where many injuries occur.

What is something about your role that people may not know?

Being a team doctor is like being on-call while you are in season. Beyond just the game coverage itself I am responsible to try and help address medical issues the players experience throughout the week, even if it is not an orthopaedic matter, so the athletes can focus on the ice.

What do you enjoy most about this role?

The Connecticut Whale organization has made me into a big hockey fan. I really enjoy getting to work with the amazing women and staff. The players are incredibly dedicated to both the team and their sport. For me, it is fun to help them continue playing the sport they love to the best of their ability. Watching these highly motivated athletes work hard, return from an injury, and then succeed, like any patient, is extremely gratifying.

Submitted by John Ready on March 10, 2023