The Augustana Viking 2019 Men’s Basketball team has made the Sweet 16 and are hosting the Division III Sectionals, March 8-9, 2019. Sure to be cheering them on is Augie alum and Viking team physician, Dr. J.C. Clark, who specializes in sports medicine, knee arthroscopy and ligament reconstruction, shoulder and elbow arthroscopy and reconstruction, and total shoulder joint replacement.
Meet ORA Orthopedics Surgeon: Dr. J.C. Clark
Name: J.C. Clark
Years in Practice: 9
Specialty: Orthopedic surgery, fellowship trained in sports medicine and shoulder
Hometown: Monmouth, IL
Team Physician: Augustana College, Rock Island High School
What is your role as a team physician for Augustana College and Rock Island High School?
As a team physician, my main role is “availability.” My mentor in residency, Peter Indelicato, M.D., who covered the Florida Gators for over 30 years taught me this. As a team doc, you are always on-call for the team, night or day, all year-around. Thus, I tell the trainers at Augie and Rocky they can text or call me anytime and they do, which is great because it keeps us all on the same page.
So, my main role is to get the athletes the medical attention they need as soon as possible whether it is something I can take care from an orthopedic standpoint or something I need to call another specialist about.
You have a special relationship with Augustana College, don’t you?
Well, let’s just say if you cut me, I would bleed navy and gold. Being a descendent of Swedish immigrants who came over in the 1880’s, growing up in the Lutheran Church in Monmouth, and having a mother who went to Augustana, some would say I had no choice about where I was going to college, but I think I was just lucky to have a path already paved for me.
So, I consider myself first and foremost, a Class of 2000 Augustana alumnus. Then, when you factor in that my wife was in the Class of 2001 at Augustana, currently assistant coaches the Augustana women’s soccer team, and was the first female soccer player in Augustana history to be inducted into the Tribe of Vikings Athletic Hall of Fame, the involvement becomes deeper and personal.
Augustana is what anchors my wife and me to the Quad Cities and factored into our decision to come back to the QCA after I completed my training. I feel privileged and honored to cover the Augustana athletic teams.
Is the team strong?
The Augustana Men’s Basketball team is strong again this year, but the hungriest I’ve ever seen them. The seniors have been so close throughout their careers at taking it all you can tell there is an extra fervor to their play. NCAA tournament time is all about momentum. Anything can happen on any given night to any team in the nation. I am looking forward to see how they stack up against some very accomplished teams.
What made you decide to become a team physician?
From the start, I went into orthopedics to become a team physician and practice sports medicine. For instance, my senior thesis in high school was about new techniques to reconstruct the ACL. Then, at Augustana, I minored in sports medicine and developed a post-op rehab protocol for ACL reconstruction. So, you can say, that from a young age I have been critically thinking about these topics. Ultimately, I take pleasure in getting an athlete back into the game after a major injury, because I fully appreciate the enjoyment and satisfaction that people derive from competitive sports.
What is different about caring for the college athlete?
From an orthopedic perspective, the injuries are a little different. Since college athletes are skeletally mature, you don’t see growth plate injuries, which are devastating to the younger athlete’s skeleton. However, the injuries in college athletes are generally more severe and higher energy because you have bigger bodies delivering larger forces. Thus, they may spend more time on the disabled list.
From a social perspective, the athletes at the Division III level are playing for the love of the sport. There aren’t professional careers, full-ride scholarships, or draft status on the line. Other careers await them at graduation. Thus, we will sometimes get an Augustana athlete who decides to stop playing sports as injuries pile up and start to take a toll on their body, demonstrating a mature perspective on life.
This is what I like about covering a Division III school like Augustana that differs from the pressure cooker situation that I saw at the University of Florida while I was in my orthopedic residency. Injuries in that situation sometimes affected the athlete’s future potential earnings or their following year’s scholarship status.
What do you like about covering high school sports, especially Rock Island High School?
Covering high school sports is awesome because it is exciting to watch young athletes grow and change so fast as they mature into young adults. I am starting to see kids graduate who were just freshman when I first started covering Rocky, which is also fantastic. It’s an honor to cover Rocky, with its storied sports history and exceptional athletes. I can’t imagine another high school in the QCA with tougher athletes than those at Rocky.
When you are not working as a team physician, how do you spend your free time?
Actually, I try to combine being a team physician and spending time with my 3 boys. I will try to bring them to as many Augie events as possible so they will come to an Augie football or basketball game with me. We have a lot of fun.