When Luke Murray watches a soccer game, he doesn’t pay much attention to the score.
He’s more interested in how the players are moving. And more focused on players meeting health goals, rather than scoring goals.
A member of the Spectrum Health Medical Group Sports Medicine staff, along with physician Olusanjo Adeoye, MD, Murray works closely with the Grand Rapids Football Club semi-pro soccer team, diagnosing injuries and creating effective treatment plans.
Stationed on the sideline of a sun-drenched soccer field during a recent practice in Cascade, Michigan, Murray’s portable exam table proved a popular player hangout.
“How you feeling?” Murray asked Sean Conerty, a Grand Rapids Football Club midfielder whose ankle injury from last year recently began flaring up. Murray had already given him 12 exercises to help with ankle mobility.
The goal is to keep the players healthy through coordinated and integrated access to top-notch health professionals in order to help maintain a high and consistent level of play.
“I think I went too hard last game,” Conerty said, jumping up on the padded exam table.
As Murray proceeded to wrap the athlete’s ankle, Conerty explained how it gives him a sense of security having a trained medical professional available at practice, and at home and away games.
“I love knowing someone is here and will be able to help,” Conerty said. “I don’t have to hold back as much. If you have to go get help on your own, it’s not cheap and it’s not easy. When you’ve got someone over here watching everything, you’re just comfortable.”
After Murray finished helping Conerty, forward Scott Doney approached the exam table.
Doney has had ankle problems in the past. Murray promptly wrapped them with gray tape then white tape to help prevent future problems.
“It’s fantastic we can get this kind of treatment at every training session and at games as well,” Doney said. “We keep him busy.”
As players trotted around the field, Murray kept a close eye on their motions, especially those nursing injuries.
“We just try to make them as confident as we can,” Murray said. “There’s a bigger chance of injury if they’re not going 100 percent than if they are.”
Murray said he sees everything, from ankle injuries and hamstring strains to concussions and ACL tears. Treatments include therapies such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, massage, rehabilitation exercises and cold and heat therapy with the direction and collaboration of the team physician.
“You can often see me on the sidelines stretching guys out to keep them warmed up, which helps prevent injuries,” Murray said.
He attends all practices and games, home and away.
“I find it gratifying to help an athlete return to play after he’s had an injury,” Murray said. “It’s rewarding to help somebody who strives to push and be the best they can be. I believe you see players return to play faster more often than not when there is an athletic trainer there every day with them.”
Being there to see the injury can also help speed recovery.
“You can identify treatment when it first happens and can start a rehabilitation treatment right away,” he said. “Maybe the player will think it’s something minor, but I can identify if there’s a bigger problem. I can get them to see a doctor and diagnose the problem more in-depth.”
Dr. Adeoye is directly involved with every player injury, according to Murray.
“I report to him every day with an injury report,” Murray said. “I go through it with him player by player and he decides whether he thinks we need to get somebody in. It’s a very open conversation between me and the doctor. We have constant conversations every day making sure we are helping the athletes as much as we can.”
Dr. Adeoye, a Nigeria native, said he’s been playing soccer since he could walk. When the opportunity arose to serve as the Grand Rapids soccer team’s physician, he couldn’t pass it up.
“It is a sport that I’ve always been passionate about,” Dr. Adeoye said. “The collaboration between (Grand Rapids Football Club) and Spectrum Health is truly about serving the community. Professionally, the goal is to keep the players healthy through coordinated and integrated access to top-notch health professionals in order to help maintain a high and consistent level of play.”
And as anyone who follows sports knows, a high caliber of play revs up fans.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the community’s response to having this team in Grand Rapids,” Dr. Adeoye said. “It has become a source of pride for the fans and community. I am honored to have become part of that this year.”
Team founder Matt Roberts said he’s also pleased with the collaboration.
“We’ve had a very good partnership with them,” Roberts said. “On our off days they provide times for our guys to come in and get treatment. It’s been really great to have them give us so much help in so many different ways.”