Game On! MedStar Health Sports Medicine Physicians Assist the Safe Reset of Pro Sports
September 15, 2020
Columbia, MD – MedStar Health is proud to join medical teams across the U.S. and Canada working to finish professional sports seasons delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer, leagues like the NBA, NHL, and WNBA built “bubbles” to protect players and staff from virus exposure. Inside each bubble, strong safety measures like daily testing, physical distancing, symptom monitoring, and more were implemented to help resume play. As the official medical provider of the Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics, and Washington Wizards, several MedStar Health sports medicine physicians volunteered to serve in bubbles to support their respective teams and leagues.
Liz Delasobera, MD, with the Washington Capitals in Toronto, Canada
“It has been important for me to do this to show my commitment to the team,” says Washington Capitals Head Primary Care Physician and Liz Delasobera, MD, who joined the NHL bubble in July, “We’ve had a great relationship for the last five years. I’ve gotten to know the players really well as well as a lot of the staff.”
Delasobera, who also serves as the medical director for MedStar Health Urgent Care, says she had already been in close contact with the Caps players on a daily basis regarding COVID-19 testing and symptom checking before they traveled to Toronto. Then, the players were asked to only leave their homes to go to practice. She says having everyone in the bubble has made the monitoring process easier.
“This has been an environment when you feel really safe and there’s less concern because everybody’s being tested every day. The bubble has been perfectly maintained, so there’s that sense of freedom,” she says. “There’s been a lot of dedication from our players to the process. They’ve been really dedicated which has been helpful for us to maintain the bubble.”
Melita Moore, MD, with the Washington Mystics in Bradenton, Florida
Washington Mystics Team Physician Melita Moore, MD, says that her bubble experience with the WNBA has been exciting and rewarding, including the camaraderie built among the players, coaches, and medical staff.
“The WNBA athletes are amazing women and the one thing I love about working with them is that they’re so very grateful,” Moore says. “For the medical coverage that I’ve been able to provide, these athletes have just been over the moon excited. We’re all in this bubble together. So not only do I see them on the court and in the medical area, I see them in the line for breakfast too. It’s always nice for them to say, ‘Hey Doc,’ and thank me for their care.”
Moore says she has also been moved emotionally by the league’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name movement. Before each game, both teams pause to remember a different female victim of violence. Moore says the powerful gesture never fails to inspire.
“I take pride in being a member of this WNBA bubble in any capacity, not only as a team physician but as a black female in America. The Black Lives Matter movement and the Say Her Name movement resonates for me, for my friends, and my family. To know that I am part of something bigger than basketball has been the most rewarding experience for me in my professional career.”
Bryan Murtaugh, MD, with the Washington Wizards in Orlando, Florida
Not far from Dr. Moore in Bradenton is Bryan Murtaugh, MD, treating players inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida. Murtaugh is the head primary care physician for the Washington Wizards and a sports medicine physician with MedStar Health.
“It’s amazing what the NBA has done,” he says. “They’ve taken some of the best athletes in the world and put them together in the middle of a pandemic for three months and created the safest possible environment for them. You have rival teams sharing the same hotels and practice facilities. It truly does create a unique dynamic for sure.”
During his six weeks in the NBA bubble, Murtaugh, the players and other staff members couldn’t go anywhere without scanning a bracelet which gives access to his daily COVID-19 test result, temperature screening data, oxygen saturation score, and more. If any of this health data raised a red flag, the area would remain closed off. His credentials also help with physical distancing by alerting him when others wearing the same credentials are nearby. Murtaugh says the enormous effort of these safety precautions is not taken for granted.
“It’s an unprecedented time not only for sports but for sports medicine. If you’re going to look back at this, some will say it’s historic. It’s never been before,” he says. “I’m honored to be helping in any way I can. It’s a testament to all the hard work and planning that went into making this happen. It’s a testament to the people at the Wizards, MedStar Health, and the NBA who make this work.”
Since play resumed this summer, none of these three leagues have reported any positive COVID-19 tests.
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