Dr. John Labis is assistant professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of musculoskelatal radiology at Houston Medical Hospital in Houston, Tex. His patients include professional, college, and high school athletes as well as the general public. I recently sat with him discussing football injuries in the living room of Linda and Joe Collette, John’s parents.

“In my profession, the designation NFL stands for ‘Not For Long.’ The average professional football player has a career of about three years. It’s a collision sport with players who seem to get faster, bigger, and stronger each year.”

“Are players pressured to play injured?”

“Not in my experience. A player with a low grade muscle pull or hamstring will probably stay in a game. With more significant injuries, the decision to play or not to play is made by the orthopedic surgeon.”

“I have to ask you about head injuries.”

“I don’t read films of patients with head injuries. My patients have injuries from the neck on down. I can tell you, however, that a recent study found that 40 per cent of professional football players retire with some form of brain injury. It’s a very serious problem.”

“Do professional athletes receive better care than the general public?”

“Not in my hospital. It’s a collaborative effort between the radiologist who reads the films and the surgeon. We go over each case together. It doesn’t matter whether the patient is a professional athlete or someone off the street. I love the diagnostic side of the work. It’s really fun to point out a slight physical abnormality on a film, which can change the way the surgeon approaches the case.

“An interesting time for me comes at the end of each season. We make many operating decisions then so that a player can have several months to recover. We also medically evaluate a trade prospect. Always remember that professional athletics is a business. Teams invest in players, and for the investment to work the trade prospect must be healthy.

“The best example is with pitchers in baseball. We check elbows and shoulders. A dead arm is one where the fastball is losing speed. The body is amazing, but it can only take so much. Over several years and thousands of pitches, minor injuries accumulate. I have recommended that a player not be purchased or that he be given a one-year contract for medical reasons.”

Every time I speak with a doctor about their profession I am in awe about how much they know. After talking with John, I am convinced of one thing: if ever I was to have a significant orthopedic problem, I would want him reading my X-rays.

On another matter, Patsy McCornack informs me that this Sunday, the 21st, Featherstone Center for the Arts will hold its annual Potters Bowl from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Come and purchase a beautiful bowl — potters have been making them all year —and have it filled with a rich variety of wonderful soups. Rolls, drinks, great desserts, and music are all included for a ticket price of $45. The rain date is set for August 22.

One final note: The East Chop Association will hold its August meeting at the Beach Club this Saturday, August 20, at 10 a.m. I hope to see you there.

Send East Chop news to herricklr@verizon.net.