I doubt any doctor associated with sports medicine has ever heard of such a thing as a fumbling shot. If it were an effective medication to prevent a football player from fumbling, every football coach in the country would insist his team doctor immediately administer this shot to every player on his team that handles the ball!
I was fortunate to be the team physician for the El Dorado Wildcat football team for most of the 29 years I was a surgeon in the town. Shortly after Cathy and I arrived in the town I was contacted by Dr. Paul Henley, another surgeon who had been in El Dorado for least 25 years. He was a member of the El Dorado School Board and had been Chairman of that board for at least the previous 5 years. His association with the school system had begun years earlier when he agreed to serve as the team physician which he continued until I arrived. He convinced me I needed to serve as team physician until he retired from the school board, and then I should take his place as a board member. His exact words regarding the matter were, “The school board needs a doctor as a member, and you would be the perfect one.” What I didn’t realize at the time was school board members were elected in a general election and not appointed.
I agreed to serve and was honored to have been asked. I wanted to begin community service as quickly as possible, and this was an open door to use my professional skills. Another motivational factor in my decision was our son John Aaron. He was 4 years old, and I wanted to involve him in as many sports activities as possible because I could see his potential. He was quick, fast and with excellent hand-eye coordination, he rarely dropped a ball when we played catch with either a football or baseball. I wanted him on the sidelines with me so we could spend that time at the games and travel together to the out-of-town games. On our first away game John and I rode the team bus which was exciting for both of us. He kept looking at the player one seat ahead of us, and when the player happened to turn around, John asked him, “Are you really an Arkansas Razorback?” John hadn’t quite made the distinction between the Wildcats and the Razorbacks since all he had heard about when we lived in Georgia were the great Razorbacks! When I learned our riding on the team bus prevented 2 lower tier players from making the trip, I drove my car to all out-of-town games, and that gave John and me additional time alone to talk.
One of the major responsibilities of the team physician was in organizing the pre-season physicals for the high school as well as the junior high school athletes. This required not only getting enough volunteer physicians to serve, but coordinating how it was accomplished. There were usually between 250-300 physicals to be done annually for all the sports teams and the cheering squads of the two schools. Without a solid plan, such a task would have become utter chaos. We obviously had to separate the boys from the girls, and I assigned one doctor responsible for the girl’s physicals which were much less involved than the athlete’s physicals. This was prior to the institution of girl’s competitive athletics in El Dorado. I was able to enlist at least 8 doctors most years and 4 or 5 nurses to take vital signs and help with the paperwork. Fortunately the paperwork was not complicated or extensive.
One of the doctors who was able to volunteer most years was Dr. Jim Sheppard, a family physician. Jim was born and raised in El Dorado, and I had known him and his family for many years. Jim was an excellent athlete who played high school football for the Wildcats and was skilled enough to play for the US Naval Academy for a couple of years. Jim’s familiarity with the football program and his wonderful sense of humor made the task of the physicals a lot more fun.
The location for the exams changed several times, but this particular year we were doing the exams in the chemistry lab of the high school. There was plenty of desk space to write our findings and the isles seemed to make the traffic flow more efficiently. The young men had all stripped down to their underwear, and there were 4 or 5 lines of players, each going up to a doctor. Unknown to me Jim had brought a 50 cc syringe with a spinal needle attached which made the injection unit approximately 10 inches in length. He had filled the syringe with some unknown yellow liquid which gave the syringe an even more ominous appearance. He had it lying on the table behind him for just the right moment.
The right moment approached him in the form of a skinny 15-year-old 7th grader who was experiencing his first football physical. He certainly had no expectation of what was next when his turn came to be examined by Dr. Sheppard. While the doctor was listening with his stethoscope to his heart and lungs and probing his abdomen for abnormal lumps, the young man was asked what position on the team he would be playing. The answer proudly given was “running back!” Dr. Sheppard then slowly reached behind him and brought out the awesome syringe and held it up while squirting a small amount of the yellow liquid into the air. The promising all-star running back’s eyes widened greatly just before he asked, “What is that for?” Dr. Sheppard said, “This is a fumbling shot which we give to all running backs to keep them from fumbling the football for a whole year. You said you were a running back, didn’t you?” “Naw sir; I play on the line. I don’t carry the ball at all.” To which Dr. Sheppard quickly said, “Son, you’re awfully skinny to be playing on the line. Maybe I need to get you a weight-gain shot.” Feeling totally trapped and considering switching to track, the rising star was speechless, when Dr. Sheppard finally confessed there would be no shots given that day. Had it not been so inappropriate I think the young man would have hugged the doctor right there.
Later when we learned some of the “things the doctors said to few students were causing them to be fearful”, we changed our approach from being too jovial to more serious. After all our doctors didn’t want the reputation of creating fearful Wildcats even before the first hand-off of the season was made!