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Q&A: Joshua Dines, Mets assistant team doctor

Long Island Business News—May 24, 2013

Dr. Joshua Dines has always been athletic and a sports fan, so it’s no surprise he decided to pursue a career in sports medicine. But Dines, who recently moved his practice from Great Neck to Hospital for Special Surgery’s Uniondale offices, doesn’t focus only on weekend warriors or high school athletes: He’s worked with the U.S. Davis Cup tennis squad and is an assistant team physician for the New York Mets. We checked up with him on sports injuries, steroids and the health of the Amazins.

How did you start working with Major League Baseball? I did a sports medicine fellowship in Los Angeles with Dr. (Frank) Jobe, the person who invented Tommy John surgery. We worked with the Dodgers and the Angels a little bit. It fostered my interest in medicine via baseball.

What does the start of baseball season mean to you? Now that I’m with the Mets, it’s earlier. It’s exciting. I love baseball, I’m a fan of it, I play fantasy baseball. It’s the start of all those things. I like going to the games, too, but it means more work.

Are you at every game? There are physicians at every home game. We’re responsible for covering the Mets and the away team. When the Mets are on the road, the home team’s doctor will help. I cover about 20 to 25 of the home games.

Are you in the dugout? There’s an office in the clubhouse that’s kind of a training room with a desk for the doctor, and there’s a box near home plate that seats about six people where we can sit and watch the game. The majority of the game is fun, but you see things that wouldn’t register to the common fan. A player winces or pulls up, and then it kicks in: This is work. You have to be ready.

The Mets seem to have a large number of injuries, year after year. We live in New York, so the New York press picks those up. That’s what their readers want to read about. The Yankees have nine or 10 guys on the disabled list, and injuries are up throughout baseball, across the board.

Why? Aren’t athletes training better these days? You’d think as people pay more attention to nutrition and stretching, there’d be a decrease in injuries. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing that. For each person, it’s different. Some people don’t train enough, and they’ll be susceptible to injuries over a 162-game season. Others train too much. Big picture: Injuries are going up.

Are there more injuries because science is better at detecting them? With MRIs, we can diagnose injuries we couldn’t previously. That factors in. The other factor is the finances of baseball. You used to say “shake it off” and they’d play until they couldn’t play anymore. But these contracts are for so much, you want to protect your investment.

OK, so, you’re paid by the team – how do you ensure you’re looking out for the patient? It’s very easy. You treat the player the way you would treat anybody else. You do the appropriate thing, and when you do that, the team appreciates it. It benefits the team.

How have steroids affected what you do? I have no role. We don’t prescribe them. Major League Baseball does the testing. Clearly, steroids were more rampant 10, 15 years ago. Maybe that’s why people were able to play through some things then more than now.

Is it difficult predicting when players will return from injuries? It’s very tough. Every hamstring injury is different. Every shoulder surgery is different. It’s more of an art than a science.

What’s it like to tell a player he can’t go back yet? This is their livelihood. Every injury could be career-ending. You have to be honest with them, so they know what to expect.

How about non-pros … what sports-related injuries are hampering the average Joe? I see a lot of shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle injuries. For weekend warriors, it’s rotator cuff tears, acute ankle sprains, tendonitis and tennis elbow.

Are you seeing more or fewer injuries on Long Island? I’m probably seeing more, because my practice is getting busier. I don’t suggest that’s because more injuries are occurring, but people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s are staying more active.

OK, from MLB to the Davis Cup, what’s your most exciting professional sports moment? I was at Citi Field for Opening Day, which was great. They put a lot of runs on the board. Matt Harvey pitched a couple of great games. He’s fun to watch. When the U.S. team won the Davis Cup in 2007, it was great to be in the locker room. You could see how hard these guys worked, see how much it meant to them. They were drinking champagne from the Davis Cup – that was pretty amazing.

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