Chinese national sports team physicians seek UC Davis expertise

Dr. Tanji and Chinese visitors © UC Regents
Jeffrey Tanji, left, co-director of the Sports Medicine Program, demonstrates techniques for evaluating sports injuries using ultrasound.

Posted June 9, 2010

A delegation of physicians from several of China’s national sports teams recently visited UC Davis Health System to learn American theories and clinical practices for the treatment and rehabilitation of sports and spine injuries. After visiting UC Davis, they traveled along the West Coast to visit a handful of other California medical centers, including University of Southern California and Stanford University.

The Chinese delegation of 25 physicians from the General Administration of Sports of China met with UC Davis physicians and clinicians from sports medicine, orthopaedic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology and spine-care services. They included physicians for Chinese Olympic gold-medal winners and national teams in swimming, weightlifting, boxing, speed skating, fencing, and track and field.

“There are differences in how their medical professionals and ours handle athletes,” said Brian Davis, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and a specialist in sports medicine. “The Chinese physicians are in the U.S. to learn more about techniques and protocols that we use here.”

One distinction is that sports physicians in China work full-time with athletes year-round. That is definitely a “stark difference” for physicians in the U.S., said Davis, “I can work with Olympic athletes as part of my training or go on trips with athletes, and physicians can work with the USOC, but it’s not the only priority.”

Dr. Davis © UC Regents“It’s exciting to see how the West is trying to incorporate more  Eastern philosophy, whereas the East is trying to incorporate more Western philosophy in their sports medicine practices.”
— Brian Davis

In addition, the work of the Chinese physicians tends to take place at large sports centers that are sponsored byt he Chinese government and number in the hundreds across the country. In contrast, the U.S. has just four such centers in Lake Placid, NY; Chula Vista, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Northern Michigan University (which covers only boxing).

In China, however, if surgical treatment is required, athletes are sent to local hospitals and treated by surgeons who are not necessarily trained in sports medicine. Here, according to Davis, athletes are much more likely to be treated by surgeons with that type of specialty training.

The visitors came to UC Davis because of its Sports Medicine Program’s reputation as a comprehensive, integrated center with nationally renowned physicians, state-of-the-art clinics, and a solid history of research and innovation in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The full day included lectures and tours. Jeffrey Tanji, co-director of the UC Davis Sports Medicine Program, spoke on the use of ultrasound medicine for muscle and tendon injuries; Amir Jamali, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, addressed surgical and nonsurgical approaches to hip impingement; James Van Den Bogaerde, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, and Eric Klineberg, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, covered new directions in surgical techniques for shoulders and the spine; and Davis talked about the biomechanics of shoulders and sports injuries.

The delegation toured clinics in orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, physical therapy, and speech and hand therapy. They also visited the spine center and the sports performance lab.

About the Sports Medicine Program

The multidisciplinary UC Davis Sports Medicine Program provides medical, surgical, preventive, rehabilitative and performance improvement services for athletes and individuals pursuing a physically active lifestyle. For more information, click here.

In addition to learning from their American colleagues, the Chinese physicians shared their expertise in traditional Chinese chiropractic and osteopathic practices, accupuncture and massage.

“We had great conversations,” Davis said. “Not just regarding sports care but general health-care principles between Chinese and American medicine. They were excited about the techniques we offer at UC Davis. Hopefully, the groundwork has been laid in setting up an exchange for the future.”

If all goes as hoped, the Chinese delegation will return next year; and sometime within the next 12 months, the first wave of UC Davis physicians — including Davis — will travel to China to learn about their training and practices.

“It’s exciting to see how the West is trying to incorporate more Eastern philosophy,” Davis said, “whereas the East is trying to incorporate more Western philosophy in their sports medicine practices.”