Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

18 February 2015

First Woman to Head MLB Doctors Group

As a sports fan, I have always been intrigued as to why women dominate the medical field, but not sports medicine. You rarely think of them until you see your quarterback get knocked down or someone slides into second base and catches their cleat on the base. This is why I perked up when I learned that Dr. Kathleen Weber is poised to become the first woman to lead the Major League Baseball (MLB) Team Physicians Association in 2016. She is the Director of Primary Care/Sports Medicine and Women's Sports Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

This was an important interview for me for two reasons. The first reason is my daughter. She is 11 and aspires to make soccer her career. She has a big wall sticker of soccer phenom Alex Morgan above her bed and wears a pink headband like Alex. I want to do whatever I can to help her reach that goal, but I stop short of being overbearing and pushing too hard too soon. Being able to speak to a professional who has seen what pushing too hard looks like was a gift.

My other reason for talking with Dr. Weber is professional. As someone who works with and studies about women in science, I have sometimes been told, "At least medicine isn't an issue anymore." Clearly, there are still systemic issues in medicine in regards to when it comes to women beyond their representation in medical school. To realize that in 2015 we are still celebrating and marking "firsts" for women doctors is remarkable -- and not in a good way. I hope that Dr. Weber's work will inspire young women who aspire to be athletic trainers and physicians and practice in any locker room and sideline.

I recently chatted with her about sports, being a first and the difference in athletes by sport:

VLF: What does it mean to you to be the first woman elected to be the president-elect of the Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association?
Dr. Weber: It is a great honor for my work to be respected by my colleagues. It is a privilege for them to trust me with this leadership role.

VLF: What do you hope to accomplish in this role?
Dr. Weber: I plan to continue the community and leadership that our organization provides. This includes continuing to improve our academic meetings where we discuss issues such as safety. Safety is a big issue in baseball.

VLF: We know that in terms of safety, concussions are a huge issue with football, but what are the big concerns in baseball?
Dr. Weber: In baseball it is mostly overuse issues. Hamstrings, pitchers elbows and rotator cuffs. Concussions are an issue, but not as big an issue as in football. But there is research occurring to develop a cap for pitchers to protect them from balls that are hit straight back to them. We also are always working on ways to better protect the catcher.

VLF: How influential is your position and organization? Does MLB listen to your opinions on safety?
Dr. Weber: I also serve on the Medical Advisory Board which does present recommendations to MLB. We do find that they listen to our findings and expertise.

VLF: I was impressed that you work with so many different teams from baseball to basketball, but also women's football. What differences to you see between the sports and even between men and women athletes?
Dr. Weber: To me they are more alike than different. For one, every athlete wants to win. Their common denominator is that they all have a high drive to be their best. They all work very hard. I will say that the difference is how they express frustration and emotion. But male athletes are just as emotional as female athletes.

VLF: As the mom of an 11-year-old girl who plays soccer and dances, what advice do you have to keep our children in shape?
Dr. Weber: First of all, kids should be having fun. Once you stop having fun you lose the urge to compete. Also, your daughter playing soccer and participating in dance is good. Kids shouldn't specialize until they are much older. Specializing too early is what causes repetitive injuries.

VLF: What advice would you give kids who have Olympic or professional sport dreams?
Dr. Weber: I tell kids that they need to work hard and have fun. Learn to eat well and rest well. Kids need to learn how to recover from injuries. They should enjoy their family and do well in school. As for parents, you need to give them access to good coaches. If a coach shows you that he or she is a jerk, walk away.

Note: Interview is from notes, not a transcription. Ideas were summarized and/or combined for space.


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