Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Still a star, not on the field but in his own field

April 22, 1995: Texas Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez, who will miss up to three weeks because of a herniated disc in his lower back, was re-examined by the team's spine consultant in Dallas. Dr. Drew Dossett reported that Gonzalez made improvement but still has soreness.
August 21, 2002: Cowboys receiver Raghib Ismail will have neck surgery today to repair damage from a collision with a teammate last week in practice. ... Dr. Dan Cooper described the injury as a huge herniated disk. ... Ismail will have the disk removed and the two vertebra around it fused together. The operation will be performed by Dr. Drew Dossett, who was responsible for the same procedure on many pro athletes, including former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston.
August 10, 2016, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: An emotional Prince Fielder announced on Wednesday that his 12-year baseball career is over after doctors recommended that the slugger stop playing after a second cervical spinal fusion surgery. Dr. Drew Dossett of Dallas, the Rangers’ spine specialist, confirmed the recommendation and performed surgery July 29.
September 1, 2016, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: (headline) Tony Romo likely to be out first 8 weeks for Cowboys. (in story) The compression fracture to Romo's L1 vertebra must fully heal before Dr. Drew Dossett clears Romo's return.

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      Dr. Andrew Dossett -- Drew to those of us dating to Shreveport in the late 1970s -- doesn't need or want the type publicity his profession brings.
      He'd just as soon athletes remain healthy.
A too-familiar scene: Dr. Drew Dossett (left) escorts Cowboys
quarterback Tony Romo to the dressing room after a 2015 season
 Week 2 injury (broken collarbone) in Philadelphia.
      But he is ready to serve as team physician -- and the neck-spine-back specialist -- for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. And that's just a small part of the job.
      He is a big man, in every sense -- as a husband and father and friend, professionally, and physically. At 6-foot-5 1/2 and 230 pounds, he even stands tall on the Cowboys' sideline among the giants now playing in the NFL.  
      Dr. Dossett is trim enough to look as if he could still play football. Then again, he is 55 years young.
      "The [NFL] players are Tarzan," he says and then jokes,  "I might look like Tarzan, but I am more like Jane."
      He can empathize with the athletes and their injuries. He was quite a football player in his day, those late 1970s -- a star linebacker at a strong program in high school (Jesuit of Shreveport), an All-American, one of the nation's top recruits, and then for one season in college with one of the country's top teams (Southern Cal).
      When Dr. Dossett has to tend to the injured athlete -- say Tony Romo -- he knows the feeling. Devastating and repetitive injuries to his left knee took him out of football before his sophomore season at USC. Visions of perhaps playing in the NFL one day were gone.
      He's in the league, though, through medicine. And it is easy to say he's in a select league of knowledge and respect in his specialty nationally.
      If there are athletes -- high school, college, pro -- with back, spine or neck issues, anywhere in the South or anywhere period, good chance they will be treated by Dr. Dossett of Dallas. 
      Cowboys and Rangers fans might know this: He has operated on Romo twice, Prince Fielder twice, Bobby Witt, Rusty Greer, Jay Novacek ... and that's just a partial list. Roy Oswalt, then pitching for Philadelphia, came to Dallas to be checked by Dr. Dossett when he was having issues.
      Not long after beginning his residency, he joined the Rangers as assistant team doctor in 1994. He's been to spring training regularly.
      And his first prominent athlete he treated: "When I just started my practice, I cut my teeth on Juan Gonzalez." 
      Then the Home-Run Derby champion, owner of a new contract from the Rangers, $30.7 million -- huge for the time -- the young outfielder  "ruptured a disk in his back tying his shoes in spring training," Dr. Dossett recalled. Rehab worked, preventing an operation, and Gonzalez went on to further stardom in Texas (two-time American League Most Valuable Player).
      Another Rangers' star, a Hall of Famer, he treated: catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "Pudge had back issues," Dr. Dossett said. "I took care of Pudge for a long time."
      He was a consultant with the Cowboys for three years, then became one of the team doctors -- with W.B. Carrell Clinic partner Dr. Dan Cooper, the lead Cowboys' physician -- in 1999.
Dr. Drew Dossett
      He has been a consultant with the Dallas Stars since 1996, and with the Dallas Mavericks, and the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Texas A&M, Baylor, etc.
       He is one of Shreveport's great success stories, similar to Terry Bradshaw (from football to broadcasting and entertainment) but not as well known.
       And while he might not even be the best-known orthopedics doctor from North Louisiana treating athletes -- that is Birmingham-based Dr. James Andrews, who pole vaulted from Homer High to LSU to renown as a surgeon -- Dr. Dossett is nearing the level of Dr. Andrews' acclaim.
      Do a search on Facebook for "Dr. Andrew Dossett" and you will find a dozen thank-yous for his work -- surgery and rehab -- in treating people who were hurting, severely limited in movement, and maybe faced with the threat of paralysis. There are notes from a rodeo bronc rider, a barrel racer, and ordinary folks. 
       "Most of my time is spent treating people like you," he said earlier this week. "Athletes, the high-profile cases, might be 5 to 10 percent of my work, but 90 percent of the heartbreak is with everyday people."
       Dr. Cooper, a specialist in reconstructive knee and shoulder surgeries, said Dr. Dossett gives the Cowboys "a nationally recognized expert in athletic spine injuries, with lots of credentials. There are only two or three guys like him in the country. That's a value that we can really rely on."
        Plus, Dr. Cooper added, "Number one, he is a true friend, a loyalist as someone working under me [with the Cowboys], especially in the early days when I joined the team.
        "Drew taught me about football. He knows the game, how it is to train, the weight room. He totally gets the culture of what it takes, and he conveyed that to me in the early days. He understands the coaches, understands the players, what it takes to rehab after an injury. A lot of people don't realize what it takes. Drew gets it."
       "You don't play football for your health," Dr. Dossett said. "Nothing about it is healthy. The mass and velocity of the game creates such a force, and the players are just so much bigger, stronger and faster today."
       More potential work for the doctors.
       But his loyalty is to the profession, not entirely to the team or the athletes.
       One of the first Cowboys players to hear from Dr. Dossett that it would be in his best interests to end his career, after the 1999 season, because of a spinal injury was Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin. This past August, the same message was given to the large Rangers first baseman, Prince Fielder.
       "Drew understands the gravity of it," Dr. Cooper said, "and he has the fortitude to tell people what they need to hear. Some might try to talk him out of it, but he won't waver."
       About Irvin, Drew offers what he calls a "Dossett-ism": "Never make a decision that ends both of your careers." (Think about that.)
       On Fielder, "You have to do what's best for him, and in this case, it was that he not play anymore. You have to look after the best interests of the player, not the best interest of the team."
Drew Dossett, Jesuit High
School linebacker
       Dr. Dossett will be with the Cowboys for their Sunday night NFC East showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. But he will spend Friday and Saturday back in Shreveport to see his mother and to attend the 40th anniversary reunion of his high school's state championship football team.
       The school, founded in 1902, was all-male Jesuit High when Dossett attended (1975-79) and is now coed Loyola College Prep, still located on Jordan Street as it has been since 1938.
       In the 1976 season, linebacker Drew Dossett was a developing star, for most of the season the only sophomore starter on a senior-heavy team. With an almost unyielding defense -- eight games in a row without giving up a touchdown -- the Flyers went 14-0, joining the 1967 team as unbeaten state champs.
       His loyalty to the school and to his teammates is one reason the reunion is happening, just as it did in 2006 at the 30-year mark.
       John James Marshall was the senior quarterback of the 1976 team, later a talented sportswriter at the Shreveport Journal (full disclosure, we were co-workers there, 1982-87) and then the paper's final executive sports editor. He is back at the school dealing in media relations, publications and alumni functions.
       The '76 team had a 30-year reunion in 2006, and Dossett was an instigator of that, Marshall said. "In mid-September [this year], Drew called and said, 'Are we doing this again?'  
       "We think the world of him," Marshall added. "He always cares about the school, he calls, he stays connected."
       Going to Jesuit, Dr. Dossett explained, "was the most formative thing I've ever done. No question about it. The Jesuits (Catholic order) have been educating kids since 1515. It is the most egalitarian education you could ever receive.
       "It is about being fair, about doing the right thing, making the right decisions, even if it is, say, at 3 a.m.," he added. "If you're fair, if you do what's right, it works out."
       He is such a believer in the Jesuit teaching that four sons -- he and wife Natalie, married for 10 years, have a combined six children (four his, two hers) -- attended Dallas Jesuit High School.
       More education: One child is a sophomore at University of Georgia, one is a freshman at University of Alabama, there are graduates of Georgia, University of San Diego and University of Colorado, and the oldest son is a graduate of the Naval Academy and a Navy SEAL, with an MBA from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) who now works for Google.
       The Dossetts lived in the Bluffview area of North Dallas. But we know Dr. Drew is also at home with the Cowboys, Rangers, etc., and this weekend, back home in Shreveport, where his journey began.
        Next: A football star, a career cut short

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