Newswise — DETROIT (December 22, 2020) – As the Detroit Pistons prepare for the start of their 2020-21 season, two Henry Ford Health System sports medicine doctors are playing point guard to keep the players, coaches and staff healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vasilios (Bill) Moutzouros, M.D., and Ramsey Shehab, M.D., are the medical leads for the team, for which there are strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols mandated by the NBA for all players and team personnel. The medical team includes athletic trainer Alex Garland, part of the Henry Ford Sports Medicine team that includes more than 30 athletic trainers who support sports programs at high schools, colleges, universities and professional teams including the Pistons and Lions.
During the offseason, Dr. Shehab and Garland managed the testing of players. Once the season tips off December 22, that function will be performed by an outside testing vendor chosen by the NBA.
“We realize this is more than just about playing basketball and getting the NBA season underway. It’s about keeping the players healthy,” said Dr. Shehab, “This virus is potentially life and career-threatening for the players, and we have to take every precaution to take care of them long-term, not just this season.”
Last April, Pistons Head Coach Dwane Casey told ESPN that Dr. Shehab “has probably been the most important person I communicate with each and every day.”
Dr. Moutzouros, who serves as the team’s head physician and focuses on the players’ orthopedic surgical care for musculoskeletal injuries, said much more is known about the virus since the early days of the pandemic. “We now have a better feel for the virus, and we’re in a much better place thanks to a true team effort,” he said.
Dr. Shehab takes care of all of the player’s medical needs and daily monitoring unrelated to orthopedic care. The Henry Ford medical team also conducts medical evaluations of newly drafted players and free agents.
This season, the NBA will enter its 75th season by playing a reduced 72-game schedule. Dr. Shehab’s focus will be on the day-to-day monitoring of symptoms and medical needs of the players.
“The players had about 10 days to get ready for the first preseason game on December 11, which presented a significant challenge, especially for the athletic training staff and Dr. Moutzouros in terms of managing muscle-skeletal injuries and the players’ health as they prepare for a long and busy season,” said Dr. Shehab.
The NBA’s health and safety protocols for the 2020-21 season are extensive and very detailed, “The league is employing the same core principals they used in the Orlando bubble last season and applying it to every teams’ site,” said Dr. Shehab, who along with Dr. Moutzouros will be tested daily and before each game. They’ll also be subject to a point-of-care test at each game.
In addition to sanitation and regular testing, the NBA is using technology to monitor the players’ daily symptoms. All players are required to use high-tech solutions to measure and report daily symptoms through the NBA MyHealth app.
Dr. Shehab receives the app’s daily reports and can monitor any potential illnesses among players that need further investigation. He and Dr. Moutzouros are also required to monitor their own symptoms using the same app. “We also have meetings every week with team doctors across the league because protocols change as we learn more about COVID-19,” said Dr. Shehab.
A typical day for Drs. Shehab and Moutzouros starts by driving to the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center early each morning where they receive a swab test in the facility’s G-League dressing room, an isolated area which has been set aside for daily testing of players and team personnel.
“It’s what we’ll have to do all season, get tested every day. It will feel like being in that movie ‘Groundhog Day’,” said Dr. Shehab. On weekends or days when they can’t be at the testing facility, a saliva at-home test is available to them which is then priority-shipped to the league’s lab located in Utah for next-day results. “If I’m negative, I can enter the Pistons’ facility the next day. You cannot step into the building unless you have a negative test the prior day,” said Dr. Shehab.
“The reality for us in dealing with the pandemic has brought our medical team, our performance team, our coaches, players and front office,” said Dr. Moutzouros. “We have our own little community and trying to be as good as we can to not have the virus impact our team.”
About Henry Ford Health System Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes six hospitals including Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit; Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals; Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; Henry Ford Allegiance in Jackson, MI; and Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital – an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
Henry Ford Health System also includes Henry Ford Medical Group: Henry Ford Physician Network; more than 250 outpatient facilities; Henry Ford Pharmacy; Henry Ford OptimEyes; and other healthcare services. Our not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan – HAP – provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.
As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows annually in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.
Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals. For more information, go to henryford.com.