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Leading Medicine Magazine, Vol 7, No 1 - 2013

Midway through the season, Foster elaborated that he enjoys chicken from time to time, although he is still largely vegan. But at the time, the Twitterverse came alive with scoffi ng, dismissal and second-guessing from football fans. Some critics went so far as to predict Foster’s new diet could actually affect his performance on the fi eld. Yet it was a careful decision on Foster’s part. He says he researched it for years after seeing a documentary in high school that made him think about where his body gets nutrition and energy. “I always told myself when I fi nished my football career I would become a vegetarian, but I needed the protein for my sport,” Foster says. “But in the past year, I started talking to doctors, nutritionists, other players and I realized I could make the switch now.” He consulted with the team’s dietitian and balanced his diet of fruits and vegetables with nuts and seeds and dried fruits to replace the protein one normally gets from meat. While Foster’s switch came with the full support of team offi cials and health care providers, he didn’t expect it to get so much attention in the media. “If I would have known what it would cause,” he says, “I wouldn’t have said anything about it. That’s another of the stereotypes of football. I guess people are not used to seeing athletes with that kind of diet. It’s not very common, I suppose.” Foster says some people also tried to talk him out of becoming a vegan. “People are always going to have their opinions and viewpoints,” he says. “Usually people with the strongest opinions are the least educated about a subject.” And deep into the current football season, Foster is looking like he will have yet another stellar year. LOOKING AHEAD Dr. James Muntz, an internist at The Methodist Hospital, has worked with Houston’s professional sports teams for 30 years. He is a team physician for various professional teams, including the Houston Texans, Houston Astros and Houston Rockets. Muntz has also worked with the Houston Dynamo and now-defunct teams Houston Oilers, Houston Comets and Houston Gamblers. He says he has certainly seen a change in athletes’ attitudes and depth of knowledge about their own health. “No question about it, professional athletes are more studied in the way they approach their physical training and their own health,” says Muntz. “They have picked up information from the Internet, as well as from their own education through their respective schools and teams, and talking to other athletes.” The physician has also seen a growing awareness among professional athletes about their health after their competitive days end. “It’s one thing to be a 300-pound football lineman when you are in your 20s, but it’s a completely different ball game to carry that kind of weight when you are retired and in your 50s,” Muntz explains. And players want to know what effect jumping up and down on a basketball court or pitching hundreds of innings of baseball will have on their joints and muscles in later years. In some cases, Muntz says, ex-players will take up a lower impact physical activity like golf or tennis just to keep in shape. Dr. David Lintner is an orthopedic surgeon at the Methodist Center for Sports Medicine, and is team physician for the Astros as well as medical director for the Texans. He says that athletes’ sophistication in their approach no longer surprises him. “They are always looking for an edge and this often extends to their health,” he says. “Sometimes they can go toward outlandish diets or supplements. I just try to point out that there’s just a lot of risk in trying unproven diets. And supplements come from an unregulated industry — you just don’t know what is in them. I give them the facts and suggest the right path to take.” The depth of information available about treatments, surgeries and recovery is also helpful in giving an athlete an accurate picture of what to expect after an injury. “With this new level of knowledge, athletes are far more involved in treatments and recovery from injuries,” Lintner says. “It used to be that athletes were almost passive in their treatment, they just did what they were told was best. Today, although the treatments are evolving, what’s changed is the patient’s participation in the decision-making process.” With athletes on a professional team or even a high school athlete and his or her parents, Lintner approaches each patient with a respect for this knowledge. “My job is to give the patient the best scientifi c information I can — to educate and provide reliable, honest guidance,” he explains. “Then I let the patient decide what steps to take next.” Another physician who sees athletes at all levels is Dr. Patrick McCulloch, an orthopedic surgeon with the Methodist Center for Sports Medicine and a team physician for the Houston Astros, who also works with Rice Athletics and the Houston Ballet. McCulloch says an athlete’s level of fi tness and coordination before an injury can help determine the quickness of recovery. “Not just the physical attributes, but an athlete’s mental attitude toward surgery and rehabilitation can also assist with recovery. Athletes are highly motivated patients who are willing to put in time Leading Medicine • Volume 7, Number 1 9


Leading Medicine Magazine, Vol 7, No 1 - 2013
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