Chicago Cubs fans are feeling the excitement and energy of a remarkable season, and standing behind the players are legions of staff who help make the game possible – including the talented medical team who are always keeping the health of the players in mind.
One of those team members is Stephen Gryzlo, MD, ’90 GME, associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The Cubs’ head orthopaedic physician, Gryzlo, who has worked with the Cubs for more than 12 years, has seen both the team and the sports medicine field evolve, but also an increased focus on the importance of health by the entire league.
During a regular nine-month season, players participate in 162 games – more if they make it to the playoffs – and the team is on the road for at least half of those games. A small army of physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nutritionists and chiropractors are constantly checking in on the players’ fitness regimes, nutrition and overall well-being.
“The emphasis our team places on health allows our players to feel comfortable that their health is the most important thing as we go forward. Each one of them is a valued piece of the puzzle that makes the team better,” Dr. Gryzlo said.
Even with a team of world-class physicians and excellent training regimens, however, injuries are bound to happen. Infielder Addison Russell’s hamstring injury last season was a tough loss for the team, but luckily, Dr. Gryzlo and his team were able to put together a treatment plan for Russell’s speedy recovery.
“A hamstring injury is an eccentric injury, and it’s a little more common if there’s fatigue or weakness, but in the situation he was trying with extra intensity to get around the bases,” Dr. Gryzlo said. “Immediately following the injury, he was receiving treatments to keep the surrounding muscles intact and strong, and his joints mobile and flexible.”
Keeping up with training even in the off-season is one of the ways the players can make sure to prevent or recover from injuries.
“Baseball has changed from a 9-month long sport to one that is a yearlong commitment by each of the players,” Dr. Gryzlo said. “I think the intense scrutiny of their health throughout the season allows us to go into the off-season with a plan for them to be healthy into the next season and beyond.”
Dr. Gryzlo, a native Chicagoan and long-time Cubs fan, said it’s been wonderful to see the mix of rookie and veteran players working together with the same goal in mind: to bring home a win.
“I’ve always loved sports; the team atmosphere really appeals to me. At the end of the day, it’s fun to see their success and be part of it,” Dr. Gryzlo said.
Read a few fun facts from our interview with Dr. Gryzlo:
Are you a Cubs fan? I am. In fact, I spent some time in high school playing hooky so I could see the Cubs play on opening day.
What has been your favorite moment of the season? I’ve really enjoyed seeing the contributions of our rookies and their importance in making us a better team. I’ve also loved the openness of the entire team: The Cubs administration has really created a great environment for everyone involved.
Do you travel with the team? I don’t travel with the team during the regular season, but I am on-site during home games. Now that we’re in the playoffs, the entire Cubs medical team is traveling with the team.