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Washington Sports Medicine Physician Returns for Fifth Year of 'March Madness'

The month of March came in like a lion for Medical Director of Washington Sports Medicine Russell Nord, MD. An orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Nord returned for his fifth year as a tournament physician for the West Coast Conference (WCC) Basketball Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Sharing the job with another physician who is a long-time colleague, Dr. Nord covered games for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“I am constantly impressed with these young people,” says Dr. Nord. “They are all very enthusiastic and dedicated to the sport. Plus, they are so polite and respectful. They are truly a credit to their respective schools.”

As a tournament physician, Dr. Nord’s job is to treat anyone who gets hurt – sometimes including fans, cheerleaders, team mascots, referees and members of the tournament staff as well as players. While some teams already had team doctors, many others did not, so Dr. Nord and his fellow tournament physician would assist the teams’ athletic trainers when players needed help. He also would help out if a team’s physician wasn’t an orthopedic surgeon and needed his perspective and assistance.

“Most of the teams this year did not have team doctors,” he notes. “During the men’s quarter finals, especially, there were a fair number of injuries. As physicians working on the sidelines, we are most involved with injuries that can be managed quickly – such as dressing a cut or stitching it up so that the player can return to the game. It’s great when you can treat someone and help the player get back to the game right away.

“We also have to recognize when a player has suffered a game-ending injury,” he adds. “We don’t want to disqualify a player from returning to the game unnecessarily, but our top priority is player safety. We did have some injuries this year that required players to leave the game, such as one player who suffered a knee injury, but most players were able to get back in the game. And, fortunately, I didn’t have to treat any injured cheerleaders or team mascots this year.”

Another aspect of serving as a tournament physician involves organizing what medical equipment to bring to the games and determining which facilities in Las Vegas are best suited to care for specific types of injuries, according to Dr. Nord.

“My experience over the previous four years helped me learn a lot about the capabilities of the various medical facilities in Las Vegas,” he says. “Still, things change from year to year, with new facilities opening and other ones closing. I also have gotten to know the training staff members for the various teams over the years. It helps that we have learned how to work with each other well. Basketball is an incredibly fast-paced game, and seconds really matter.”

Having worked with a number of local high school football teams for several years, Dr. Nord is very familiar with the responsibilities of a team physician.

“Working as a team physician for local schools, I get to watch kids throughout their high school athletic careers,” he notes. “I have seen players suffer season-ending injuries and then come back the next year. It’s rewarding to see athletes bounce back and succeed. Since this was my 5th year as a tournament physician, I’ve had a similar opportunity to see some of these athletes come back to the tournament after a serious injury in a previous season.”

During the WCC tournaments, Dr. Nord sometimes covered up to four games a day, treating a variety of injuries and other conditions, while providing logistic support as well.

“In general, the injuries you see in basketball are different from the ones you see in football, but injuries can happen in any sport,” he notes. “For example, there were no concussions while I was working the basketball tournament. In basketball, the women players are more predisposed to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, perhaps because of the anatomic differences in the knee in females. With the men, who have more weight to throw around, there are more injuries incurred when there is a loose ball on the floor.”

Although Dr. Nord’s main sports and been soccer and volleyball, he has always been an avid basketball fan.

“I went to Duke University for my undergraduate degree, and that is a big powerhouse basketball school,” he explains. “The WCC tournament has a similar air of excitement. The atmosphere at Orleans Arena was positively electric, and it was packed for the big games. This is such a big deal for these athletes, to get far enough to advance to the ‘Big Dance.’ They’re playing for their dreams. I enjoy being able to contribute to the players’ safety and well-being, which is what I strive to do for all my patients – including student athletes and ‘weekend warriors’ who live active lifestyles.”

Learn More

For more information about the Washington Sports Medicine Program, visit and click on the link for Sports Medicine Program under the “Services” tab.

The West Coast Conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) includes a number of local Bay Area college teams, including the University of San Francisco, Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, and Santa Clara University. Other schools in the WCC include Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California; University of the Pacific in Stockton, California; Pepperdine University in Malibu, California; University of Portland in Oregon; and University of San Diego in southern California.

This year, Gonzaga defeated St. Mary's in the Men’s WCC Tournament on Tuesday, March 8, by a score of 85 to 75, to win the championship and earn an automatic entry to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

In the WCC Women’s Tournament on March 8, San Francisco University upset BYU, 70 to 68, for the conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. For more information about WCC sports, including this season’s basketball tournaments, visit