Dr. Caldwell reflects on his experience in medically grading players in the NFL

August 14, 2020

Dr. George Caldwell recently spoke with the Sun Sentinel regarding his experience as Head Team Physician for the Miami Dolphins (NFL) and the role team physicians play in medically grading prospective players. In his 17 years working for the Miami Dolphins, Dr. Caldwell was responsible for detecting health issues in players that could lead to a temporary halt in their football careers. Dr. Caldwell is of course referring to the combine, an event where players go through physical exams and tests to display their abilities. The setting is of high stakes for all participants- the players, the doctors and the club. During the combine, a team of doctors review the athletes to provide the football clubs with their assessment of the players’ health, potential and length of play in terms of a contract. A quite different setting for doctors, Dr. Caldwell says, “The combine is the only time you’re working for the club more than for the patient” adding, “I don’t mean that in a bad way. Every time I dealt with a player, though, he was a patient. But you’re there to talk to the club about what you see”. 

In addition, the team of doctors are also able to asses a player’s condition on a scale. The scale runs from a one, where no medical issues are present, to a five, where the player is at a high risk to fail. It is the responsibility of the doctors to accurately advise the clubs on their assessments of each player; however, the club will ultimately decide whether or not to proceed forward with the player.  Another issue facing doctors while assessing an athlete is the possibility of misinformation. “Sometimes people are asking them to hide certain things- ‘don’t talk about your hamstring pull, don’t share what medicine you’re taking” says Dr. Caldwell. In such a setting, doctors remember the patient comes first and want the players to know about any physical issues or risks they may have. As the start of the NFL 2020 season is just around the corner, the team of doctors at each club will be right at the forefront of an exhilarating and compelling upcoming season. 

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