Can Playing Baseball in Youth Lead to Better Surgeons?

An interesting article by Thomas Dodson titled “Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, I Learned Playing Baseball” appears in the 2016 Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (vol. 74, pp. 1709-1710). In the article the author tries to tie in how the game of baseball can teach oral and maxillofacial surgeons much of what they need to know.

The author opens by talking about how he is saddened by the lost of Dr. William Harrison Bell who was a prominent surgeon in the field. He then explains that himself and the doctor who passed were both very big into baseball as youths. Dr. Dodson played first base in college and Dr. Bell was a minor league player. Dr. Dodson said that all the doctors he has worked with at various institutions all have been enthusiastic about baseball. He wonders if there is something that causes oral and maxillofacial to like baseball.

The author says

“While baseball may seem to the unindoctrinated to be a bunch of players randomly chasing a ball, in fact, the flight of a hit is remarkably predictable based on the type of pitch being thrown. Fielders know exactly where to stand and how to execute a double-play with reflexive precision.”

He says that like in baseball there are greats and heroes in oral surgery. The road to greatness in both is a long path. He then says that oral surgeons need confidence. He later goes on to say that the greatest single pitcher is not expected to get through all 9 innings. The fielders are also there to help the pitcher with outs. He says that as surgeons you also need to rely on your team. This can include the front desk person or a scrub tech.

The author later says that baseball has changed little in 100 years but oral surgery has changed a lot. The author says

“As I’ve come of age in OMS, I have been forced to modify game strategy on more than one occasion. Specifically, I have learned when to play ‘‘small ball’’ and when to ‘‘swing for the fences.’’ Getting on base in any way possible, e.g. a walk, a single, an error, is still getting on base.”

The author ends that like in baseball the most ideal way to get from point A to point B is not always a straight line. He says that innovation and new solutions come from looking where no one else is looking. He ends by saying

“I enthusiastically share his [Dr. Bell] belief that ongoing research and innovation are essential to our sustainability as a specialty.”

Frankly, I found this article to be a bit rambling and it was a bit hard to see all the ties in with baseball with oral and maxilofacial surgery, but it is what is is.

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