A Professional Athlete’s Insights

Story by Jennifer Ale-Ebfahim

Injuries are part of participating in sports and any type of injury can cause pain, decreased performance, and even permanent damage. For the professional athlete, time away from the sport to heal could also mean reduced income potential for their family, so it is critically important to have access to high quality care quickly. 

Orthopedics and Sports go hand-in hand, as orthopedic surgery requires strength, agility, focus, determination, teamwork and stamina, which are all similar traits an athlete needs to possess in order to be successful in their chosen sport. Team physicians serve a crucial leadership role, as they are committed to not just providing on-field care, but also visiting training rooms, seeing athletes in clinic, performing surgery (if necessary), educating coaches and trainers, and assisting the professional athlete recover from his or her injury. 

Meet Nicolau Neto: Goalkeeper for the Kansas City Comets

Neto, as he is known in the Soccer World, joined the Comets in 2019, wherein previously he had a great career playing under Coach John Klein at Columbia College. He was named conference player of the year, newcomer of the year and first-team all-conference goalkeeper, in addition to being named an All-American and making the all-national-championship-tournament team. Neto is a 6 foot-4 goalkeeper with tremendous feet to match his wingspan, while guarding the goal. Unfortunately, Neto injured his right knee late in his first season (2019-2020) with the Comets. 

No one wants a serious knee injury that may keep them from playing for a season, so it was great that Dr. Wesley Frevert was present at the sideline and could quickly assess the injury and give Neto choices for treatment right away to help him recover. Due to COVID-19, the season was cut short and Neto was able to choose a non-surgical treatment option that included an injection with extensive rehab.  

The Kansas City Comets-MASL utilizes the services of Rockhill Othopaedic Specialists as their Team Physicians. Considering that most soccer injuries are musculoskeletal in nature it is important for the treating physician to be present at the time of injury as witnessing the injury allows surgeons to treat the athlete more effectively, while crafting a treatment and rehabilitation return to play plan. Rockhill sends a Sports Medicine, Hand & Upper Extremity and/or a Foot and Ankle Surgeon to each home game, so that they are present to provide accurate diagnoses, appropriate treatments and order diagnostic testing and/or rehabilitative treatments, all while working with the Comets training team. This type of synergistic care is valuable to professional athletes as they have more to lose than just play time!

In his second season, Neto suffered a different injury, this time it was a right wrist injury caused by falling onto his outstretched hand. Neto had just been named to the Week 5 Team of the Week for the MASL, as he had 12 saves over the San Diego Sockers.

Sideline treatment was to tape the wrist, ice it and be seen in the office the next day for x-rays to ensure there was no further damage.  X-rays were negative for a fracture, but since Neto’s wrist is crucial for his sport, an MRI was ordered which revealed a small minor tear of a ligament in his wrist. Neto commented that he was very happy with the care given by the Rockhill Team Docs and Jeremy (Rockhill’s Comets ATC) and Sean (Comets ATC) as they worked together seamlessly to eliminate a stressful time, Neto stated “They help put bodies back together for athletes at a professional level.”  

Dr. Chris Maugans, (Hand/Upper Extremity Specialist) treated Neto with a custom made orthoplast splint that was taped to his hand and forearm and fit into his goal keeper’s glove. This allowed him to finish the season and continue tending goal during the play-off games. 

According to Dr. Chris Maugans, “When a torn ligament or broken bone occurs, a professional athlete has an advantage in their resources such as professional trainers as well as rehab equipment and facilities. Most professional athletes are very motivated and in good physical condition which helps get them back to their daily profession and high-level of competition.”

Strong motivational factors, such as income potential pushes many professional athletes to return to play, when the amateur athlete can take a bit more time recovering at a slower pace. In addition, Pro Athletes have access to a full spectrum of trainers helping them with specific treatments on a daily basis when amateurs usually work and can only attend targeted therapy sessions a few times a week. Neto stated that professional athletes feel more comfortable on Game Day having the Team Physicians onsite, ready and willing to assist them if anything should happen. 

Neto and the Kansas City Comets had a great 2020-2021 Season, finishing in 3rd place during the regular season before falling in overtime to the Ontario Fury on April 3rd in the MASL  Playoff Semifinals. Neto was named to the 2021 All MASL Honorable Mention Team.

It is critical for professional athletes to have quick access to care during and after an injury to receive high-quality care. It is the team physician’s duty and responsibility to continue to care for each athlete’s unique injury and work with the athlete to achieve his or her treatment goals. This ensures the athlete can get back to doing what they love most — competing!


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