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gold medal Olympic Insights

Dot Richardson, MD


This year's Olympians will boast a physician as one of their own. Dot Richardson, MD, is a resident in orthopedic surgery at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles. She'll bat leadoff and play shortstop when women's softball makes its Olympic debut in Atlanta. With 11 straight international titles behind them, the US women are virtual shoo-ins for a gold.

  • Name: Dot Richardson, MD
  • Age: 34
  • Home: Orlando
  • Sport: Softball
Olympic notebook: Women's fast-pitch softball makes its debut in this summer's Olympic Games; Richardson will play shortstop on the US Olympic Team.

Have you had any injuries in your softball career?
I broke my arm while batting in the 1990 World Championships in Normal, Illinois. A ball was coming toward my head. I put my forearm up and got a fracture in the ulna. I got on first base and eventually ran all the way home with this broken arm. It was painful, but I made it home and scored.

I went to the emergency room and they put me in a cast right away. I was angry. I was just livid. In my mind, I was like, "I can play, give me the cast afterwards. This is going to take a long time to heal. What's a few days in the World Championships, which only comes around every 4 years?" But they wouldn't put me in a game with a cast.

If you had been a physician treating a patient in your position, what would you have done?
Probably the same thing. I think he put me in a cast on purpose so I wouldn't go out there and play. He knew that I was in that mode of competition and I wasn't thinking totally logically. And you don't. Those are the tough calls for a physician; you need to weigh what is good for the patient both mentally and physically.

Is the player's mind-set often an obstacle to good medical care?
You'll see a lot of softball players play with small hurts. A lot of us are from the old school: We don't run for healthcare right away. We're used to the pain in the shoulder or in the arm. In the past, we've never had athletic trainers or physical therapists or physicians working with the sport. Now at the elite level, we're getting exposed to the whole realm of healthcare.

What would be helpful for physicians to know about softball?
Flexibility is important for the softball player. We don't tend to stretch as much as we should. In terms of injuries, the most I'm aware of is rotator cuff injuries—this being a throwing sport. Some of the pitchers have trouble with their neck—muscle strain. And of course, lacerations and contusions with sliding. Ankle sprains occasionally.

Are you planning to specialize in sports medicine?
Yes. I'm interested in the shoulder and knee right now. Two days after the gold medal game in the Olympics, I'll be back in my residency program.

Jacqueline White is a contributing editor of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.