George C. Branche, III, MD, is board certified in orthopedic surgery with a focus on arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder and knee. He is an avid tennis player and was once a ranked player who played in national tournaments. Today, he specializes in sports medicine and treats both amateur and professional athletes at the Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic. Read Dr. Branche’s profile.
Every summer in late July and early August, pro tennis players descend upon Washington, DC, for the Citi Open Tournament, one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments on the men’s and women’s tennis tour. For the last 25 years, I’ve led the tournament medical team as the medical director.
As an avid tennis player myself, it’s been a joy to help players deal with injuries and play their best.
Managing Tennis Injuries
As tournament physician, my main focus is to manage injuries. Having insider knowledge of the sport helps a lot. I can draw on my background to understand how a player’s grip or swing might be causing pain, for instance.
In some ways, caring for tennis players is different from managing other sports injuries. Tennis players don’t get an off season; they’re on the courts year-round. Additionally, they don’t get paid if they miss a tournament because they’re out with an injury. Those factors can put a lot of pressure on tennis players to play through the pain.
My job is to help players decide if they can manage an injury while they play, if they need some time off or if they need surgery.
Staying in Touch
Tennis is unique in other ways, too. It’s an individual sport, so tennis players don’t have teammates looking out for them. Plus, tennis pros are nomads. They travel the world from tournament to tournament. In other words, they might have a different doctor every week.
That lack of continuity in their medical care can make it hard to manage injuries or treat problems over the long term. That’s one reason why I take time off work during the tournament, so I can establish a relationship with players during the 10 days they’re in Washington.
I also keep in touch with many of the players over the course of the year. Thanks to electronic medical records and modern technology, it’s a lot easier for me to do that now than it was when I started with the tournament 25 years ago.
It’s been really rewarding to develop those ongoing relationships and help players overcome conditions that could have affected their career.
While I love helping the pros at the Citi Open every summer, the rest of the year I am just as excited about bringing that level of care to my local patients, including plenty of youth tennis players and other amateur athletes.
If you need help managing a sports injury or treating any orthopedic condition, learn more about the Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic, where I practice.