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Dr. Burton Elrod and partners attending 2016 NFL Combine


Posted on: Mar 3 2017

February 23th -29th the NFL will hold its 2016 scouting combine in Indianapolis.  This invitation-only event will showcase the physical skills such as speed, agility, and strength of over 300 of this year’s top NFL draft hopefuls.   In addition to the physical events such as the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, and 3 cone drill, each athlete will have a medical and orthopedic physical exam, which is a crucial part of this event.  NFL team doctors from all 32 teams will work in groups to provide medical and orthopedic physicals to each of the attending athletes. Nashville’s Burton Elrod MD,  head team orthopedic surgeon to the Tennessee Titans will once again be attending this year’s combine along with 3 of his partners – orthopedic surgeons Dr. Jeffrey Willers MD (Foot and Ankle Consultant to the Titans), Dr. Thomas Dovan, and Dr. Colin Crosby. 

“The combine is a chance to meet some of the nation’s best athletes, which is an amazing opportunity; however it is also very intense because you have to determine the physical health and history in detail of these players and you are seeing 350 players in 4 days.  There is so much on the line, both for the athletes and for the teams.  These are potential candidates for the Titans and the NFL draft, in-general”, says Dr. Elrod.

So…what is this like for the athletes? 

Each room has a team of physicians from 5 NFL team working together.  Athletes come through the rooms for their physical exams dressed in only compression shorts, ready to be examined top to bottom.  The NFL team physicians work together on the physical exam and review any diagnostic tests such as X-Rays, MRIs, nerve conduction studies, CT scans, etc. of each athlete.  “There is an entire fleet of MRI’s onsite that are brought in for the event; so if we feel the need to examine or evaluate anything with an MRI, it is done on the spot,” says Dr. Jeffrey Willers. 

“In the end the physicals are not pass/ fail, per say, but rather each athlete is given a grade based on their health and injury status,” says Dr. Burton Elrod. 

Dr. Tom Dovan expresses how the sheer volume of athletes examined is impressive, “It’s hard to believe the number of injuries that we assess over a 4 day period. There is such a vast variety of injuries and patterns seen in these elite athletes – more than we would typically see in months of practice”. 

Dr. Colin Crosby adds, “The NFL combine is an amazing opportunity to evaluate some of the most elite athletes in the world.  What I find impressive is how many injuries these athletes have sustained at this point in their careers, but how most – due to access to top notch care – have been able to continue to function at the very highest level”. 

Despite that, a team looking to offer an athlete millions of dollars to play for their organization has the right to know if the athlete has an injury that could affect his potential to continue to play for years to come. 

Dr. Crosby continues, “The NFL Combine is a profound behind the scenes look at the NFL and one really realizes how the greatest commodity these athletes have is their health.”

In addition to examining the draft hopefuls, the members of the NFL Physicians Society also have their Annual Meeting during the NFL Scouting Combine.  This is an opportunity for fellowship and for the team physicians from all 32 NFL teams to discuss and share medical and sports medicine knowledge with one another.  

Dr. Jeffrey Willers states “It is so valuable to get this many sports medicine orthopedic surgeons together in one place presenting and sharing knowledge.  These meetings are in the evenings after the physicals are completed.”

Says Dr. Burton Elrod who has attended the NFL Combine for 20 years now, “The other NFL team physicians are like colleagues, we reach out to each other throughout the year even though we only see each other a few times/ year:  At the combine and on the field.”

Dr. Burton Elrod, Dr. Jeffrey Willers, Dr. Thomas Dovan and Dr. Colin Crosby are 4 of the 12 fellowship trained sub-specialist orthopedic physicians at Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Nashville and Franklin, TN.


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