By Jim McElhatton (File Photo)
For decades, Stanford Lavine was the dean of sports medicine in the Washington area, treating a few of the biggest names in professional sports, including members of Washington’s professional football team.
Naturally, his son, Peter, followed him into medicine and the two worked together. But while the father treated high-profile professional and college athletes, the younger Lavine — who has treated his share of stars, too — took a keen interest in amateur and high school players.
When the elder Lavine died in the late 1990s, his son downsized the practice. Now he works here, in Alexandria, and in D.C. Countless athletes have passed through his office and across his operating table, giving him a unique perspective on the changing face of high school athletics in the area.
“The kids today are much bigger and stronger than they used to be,” Lavine said in a recent interview. “They’re hitting each other much harder, but a lot of these athletes aren’t as well trained in the ways the professional athletes are.”
Simple stretching, staying hydrated and wearing the right gear could prevent many of the injuries that land athletes in Lavine’s office. Also, according to the nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide, most sports injuries among the 38 million children participating in sports happen during practice.
Not all of the injuries are immediately obvious. About 90 percent of sports related concussions happen without loss of consciousness, according to the group. Lavine also sees patients with back ailments, but many times the sufferers do not know when or even how the injuries occurred.
“You see a lot to back injuries that go unnoticed because it’s not something where they’re carried off a field,” he said.
A glance at the sideline of any professional event and even most college games usually brings a team of physicians and other medical professionals into view.
In high school, that’s a rare sight, Lavine said, though many schools do have qualified trainers on hand.
“The higher up the chain you go, the more sophisticated the medical attention is,” he said. “All of the attention is on professional sports, but the number of high school athletes is much greater and injuries go unnoticed by comparison.”
Football accounts for most of his patients, if only because of the sheer number of players on a team’s roster. A lot of basketball players who seek his treatment come with knee problems, but he also sees foot and ankle injuries, fractures and shoulder dislocations in athletes participating in a variety of other sports.
Despite his decades of education, training and practice, Lavine said nothing — not even medical school — teaches you how to navigate the tricky and emotional aftermath of a sports injury.
Whether professional agents or overeager parents, there often are forces at work that prompt an athlete’s return to the playing field before he or she is ready, he said. When an injury occurs, Lavine finds himself, at times, playing the role of counselor to both parents and student athlete, especially those chasing the dream of big scholarships and professional contracts.
“It’s something you have to learn if you’re going to keep things under control, because you’re going to have a lot of forces against you and you’re going to have to be able to say, ‘No,’” Dr. Lavine said. “You’ve got to let them know that what you say goes, because your concern is with the patient.”