Red Sox Medical Director meets with Army Surgeon General, MEDCOM Experts
January 28, 2014
By Ron Wolf
Dr. Larry Ronan, medical director for the Boston Red Sox visited the Office of the Surgeon General on January 14, for a briefing on the Performance Triad and an update on progress made in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the Comprehensive Solder Fitness Program.
Ronan's meeting with Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Army Surgeon General and the Commanding General for the Army Medical Command, focused on health issues affecting both professional sports and the military. The doctor also sports a 2007 World Series ring.
Professional sports face much of the same health issues that the military does Ronan pointed out, since both have a similar population: young and generally healthy, but with often poor habits and practices when it comes to sleep and nutrition.
He cited as an example, many young professional ballplayers come who from poor countries such as the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and have not developed good practices for eating and sleep habits. Ronan pointed out that one key to success for professional athletes is to develop good habits with those behaviors.
Ronan suggested that both professional baseball and military health care personnel meet their team members somewhere in the middle to promote healthy behaviors. Natural and organic foods may be optimal but young team members will eat fast food anyway. Even while poor health choices may be made, he stressed that encouraging optimal behaviors still needs to be ongoing.
He pointed out that additional research was needed for concussion and TBI. Developing metrics has been critical to understanding the impact of TBI research and whether protocols and recommendations are effective. And while technology can be a key part of promoting healthy behavior, more integration of applications and devices that promote healthy behavior are needed, he said. Ronan also expressed a keen interest in learning about outcomes from ongoing Army Medicine research on TBI.
The doctor pointed out that one of the Performance Triad components--Sleep--has already been a matter of concern to professional baseball. He noted that when East Coast teams travel West to play games, fewer runs are scored, a matter likely attributable to lack of sleep. As an aid to players, the Red Sox have even added a sleep room to the clubhouse so players can take a nap before games if needed.
The goals of Army Medicine and professional sports often seem to be intertwined, and their goals to have a healthy population to ensure optimal performance are similar. Musculoskeletal injuries, TBI, poor nutrition or sleep habits, and caffeine and stimulant use are among the issues that partnerships, such as the partnership between Army Medicine and the National Football League, are addressing.
Dr. Ronan suggested that more partnerships would be a benefit for both sides. Poor sleep habits are a risk factor, he mentioned, for TBI. He left convinced that "we are working on the same things [albeit] at different angles and for different reasons." Dr. Ronan praised Army Medicine "for measuring everything you are doing," with the ultimate aim of "drawing out stronger qualities in people."
In addition to his work for the Red Sox, Dr. Ronan is an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior advisor to the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT), which is a consortium of Boston's leading teaching hospitals and universities. He was previously a personal physician to the late Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy.
Dr. Ronan is also a consultant on medical issues with a worldwide reputation: he has traveled to such critical health care areas as Iraq and the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina, to offer his expertise. He also consults on global health and education initiatives, and offers guidance on care for wounded Soldiers and civilians in war zones.