Even before they began, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia were fraught with problems. Troubling issues ranged from protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin and terrorist threats to stray dogs roaming Olympic venues and news reporters’ tales of unfinished hotel accommodations. Sadly, the disturbing media coverage dedicated to these issues detracts from what the Olympics should represent:  feats of incredible human achievement and international pride.

Dr. Gary Dorshimer, shown here in Sochi, Russia.

As the world watches events unfold in Sochi, there are legions of people working behind the scenes to ensure the safety and success of the games and the health of the athletes and visitors. One such person is, Gary W. Dorshimer, MD, FACP, FCPP, chief of the Section of General Internal Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, head team physician for the Philadelphia Flyers, team internist for the Philadelphia Eagles, consulting physician for the Adirondack Phantoms, and associate program director for the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Finland-v-Canada game Sochi

Photo taken by Dr. Gary Dorshimer in Sochi, of the Canadian and Finland ice hockey teams shaking hands at the end of the game.

Dr. Dorshimer travelled to Sochi where he served as an internal medicine consultant for the NHL. An Olympic veteran in his own right, Dr. Dorshimer served in the same role at the 2010 Vancouver, 2002 Salt Lake City, and 1998 Nagano winter Olympics. Board certified in Internal Medicine with an additional certification in Sports Medicine through the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Dorshimer’s career was impacted by sports from its beginning.

Q.   While a general internist/primary care physician, you clearly take a special interest in sports medicine. How did it all begin?

A.   After I completed my residency at Pennsylvania Hospital, two of my mentors, Dr. Edward Viner and Dr. Roger Daniels, asked me to join their primary care practice. At that time, Dr. Viner was the team physician for both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His appointment with the Orchestra had him traveling quite extensively which meant I was the one charged with covering the Flyers playoff games against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. To have just joined a practice and have such an opportunity – I was the proverbial kid in a candy shop. As for the Eagles, I have a colleague and former head team physician Dr. Arthur Bartolozzi to thank for that.  The Eagles were changing their primary care staff and he asked if I was interested in being their physician.

Q.   How long have you worked with the Flyers and Eagles?

A.   I have been the Philadelphia Eagles’ team physician for the past 16 years and am in my 30th year as team physician for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Q.   What is your role as primary care physician to the Flyers and Eagles?

A.   I attend every Eagles football game – home and away. I attend the majority of regular season Flyers home games and home and away playoff games – home and away. I treat various injuries and illnesses, whatever arises, for players of both teams. However, the most common injury seen in the athletes are concussions. Much to the surprise of many, internists and primary care physicians – not neurologists – evaluate and treat concussions. In addition to the players, I am responsible for treating the entire greater Philadelphia Eagles’ and Flyers’ families. This includes coaches and all other staff. Providing primary care for both of my home teams has been a tremendous and rewarding experience.

Q.   How long were you in Sochi?

A.   I was there from the beginning and came back to the States February 18. There are a total of 18 hockey games before the medal round which started February 12. To start, Dr. Peter Deluca, the Flyers’ orthopaedist, and I were with the players. After that, the orthopaedic physicians from Ottawa and the primary care physicians from Detroit replaced us.

Q.   How did you first get involved with the Olympics?

A.   I have been involved with the Olympics since the NHL’s first involvement at the Nagano games in 1998. The National Hockey League wanted their physicians to consult on all injuries and to help care for the entire NHL family. An orthopaedist from Vancouver, a dentist from Calgary, and I were the first asked to represent the NHL. We all served on the Executive Committee of the NHL Team Physician Society, of which I have been the Secretary and Treasurer now for 25 years.

Q.   What is your role exactly, as primary care physician consultant to the NHL at the Winter Olympics?

A.   I am available to see any NHL player on any country’s team for a second opinion consultation regarding treatment and return to play from injury. Individual team physicians serve as point of origin for players care and treatment. While I don’t attend the practice sessions, I am always available in case of illness or injury. I attend all games and am available to see players – as requested by them or their team physicians. I am also responsible for “return to play” decisions for any NHL player diagnosed and treated for a concussion.

Q.   You are obviously a sports fan and love what you do. How else has sports medicine affected your career?

A.   Sports Medicine has also shaped my professional career as an educator.  I am a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and am the Assistant Program Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). In my role at CHOP, I assist with Sports Medicine Fellowship recruitment and teach fellows. I really enjoy teaching and find it to be a fun part of my job. I get to expose fellows to the professional sports medicine experience through my work with the Eagles and the Flyers from the perspective of an internist. I also teach fellows the importance of the partnership between a team’s physician and athletic trainer and how to work with trainers. Athletes of all ages are not the same as other patients. Right off the bat, we teach fellows how physicians and athletic trainers need to work in tandem to take care of a team. We teach them how to interact with athletes and about the different issues unique to the diagnosis, treatment and rehab of athletes. 

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