By Chuck Finder
True, she grew up a fan and participant of classical
ballet – and ultimately followed Freddie Fu
as the primary, everyday orthopaedic
physician for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. But she also directs the UPMC
Center for Sports Medicine
programs for mobility and mature athletes,
performs orthopaedic surgery on athletes and non-athletes alike, and also serves
as the head team physician for a variety of athletic teams, working over the
years with the University of Pittsburgh,
Steelers and more.
So when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Town Meeting
series, sponsored by PNC, decided to hold a panel discussion about “Sports: Why
We Care So Much,” Dr. Wright was a natural choice. On July 23 at the Heinz
History Center, she sat on the dais between Penguins CEO and President David
Morehouse and former Pirates pitcher Don Schwall to her right and Steelers
coach Mike Tomlin and NASCAR/Indy race-car owner Chip Ganassi to her left. And she joined them in a wide-ranging
discussion on sports: Pittsburgh’s special passion, “heroes,“ fandom and more.
Of course, some folks among the 300-plus people in the
crowd along with moderator David Shribman, Post-Gazette executive editor, posed
to her questions about the medical side of sports. Dr. Wright was asked about
injury prevention, women vs. men when healing from
injuries (no real differences) and athletes caring too much or returning too
quickly to their sports.
“This is a major discussion within sports medicine itself
right now,” said Dr. Wright. “For the sports doctor, it’s an interesting place
to be. Because my primary responsibility and the owners’ primary responsibility
is the athlete – but from two different perspectives. It’s a sizable debate
whether it’s our responsibility to get them back as fast as possible because
they have a contract to fufill or whether we do the surgery that’s going to
take them six months to get back, which
means they’ll lose an entire season.
“It’s a very hard dichotomy. And I’m not going to tell
you we have the answers now.
“For our young athletes, we’re on the side of the pendulum
where we hold them out if that’s what it takes.
Because at 11, we don’t know. Or
at 16 , we don’t know. Or even at 22 and in college, we don’t know what their
future is. I think it’s two different
populations. But for a physician it’s an interesting place to be.”
Labels: Freddie Fu, Pittsburgh sports, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, Vonda Wright