From Soccer Coach to Sports Medicine Doctor: Dr. Drew Watson

Dr. Drew Watson, UW Health Sports Medicine physician and researcherMadison, Wisconsin - Dr. Drew Watson may be the newest member of the UW Health Sports Medicine department, but he is no stranger to Madison or UW Health.


He first moved to Madison in 1996 after completing his undergraduate work at Trinity University in Texas. But what was only supposed to be a brief trip to visit his brother (who was attending UW at the time), turned into a seven-year stint, during which he met his wife and became heavily involved in the local soccer scene (he coached and served on the board of the Madison 56ers Soccer Club and the Madison Area Youth Soccer Association).


After moving back to Texas in 2003 to earn his graduate and medical degrees, and then completing his residency at Vanderbilt, Watson returned to Madison in 2013. Since then he has served as a primary care sports medicine fellow, a postdoctoral research fellow, a team physician for the Badgers, and a clinical instructor in the departments of Pediatrics and Orthopedics. He started his clinical practice July 1, 2015.


We caught up with Dr. Watson as he was preparing to start his clinical practice and establish his research lab at Research Park.


What got you interested in practicing sports medicine?


When I started my residency I wasn't sure exactly where I was headed, but after spending a few weeks in the sports medicine clinics at Vanderbilt I knew right away that Sports Medicine is what I wanted to do. Whether I am working with kids or adults, I always appreciate how eager and genuinely invested this particular group of patients is in getting better and returning to their activities, whether they are recreational, competitive, or even just being able to go about their lives without pain.


In addition, physical exam skills still drive a lot of decision making in this specialty and it allows me to practice a traditional sort of medicine that I find really satisfying.


You majored in philosophy as an undergraduate at Trinity University. How did that seemingly unrelated discipline influence your decision to study medicine and how does it inform your practice/research today?


There is no question that philosophy still informs a lot of what I do today, mainly because it taught me to have a critical eye for things. If nothing else, philosophy for me was an attempt to use logic to describe the way that the world works and to arrive at conclusions that are justified by the initial premises. From a physiologic standpoint, it helps me pick things apart so that I can try to connect the dots from understanding the cause of a patient's concerns to developing the appropriate interventions to help. And while I don't discuss many particular philosophers in my clinical practice, I like to think that the same sort of logical processes apply to understanding the available medical evidence for a certain condition and applying it to clinical practice.


What is the main focus of your research?


In my lab at Research Park we are looking at the ways in which the cardiovascular adaptations that children experience from exercise change during adolescence. Specifically we are trying to define whether the shape and function of the heart adapt to exercise differently as children mature physically.


Within my research group at UW, I study the interactions between cardiovascular fitness, body composition and injury, specifically trying to understand the risk factors that we can modify to reduce in-season injuries. On a more physiologic level we are also studying cardiac autonomic regulation and the speed with which the cardiovascular system recovers between bouts of intense exercise in order to improve on field performance.


How does or will your research inform clinical practice?


I hope that the research I do will help us determine how best to prescribe exercise for children to improve cardiovascular function and public health. For example, I am currently working with a large group of young athletes to determine how cardiovascular function changes during a period of exercise training and how this response differs between younger, less physically mature kids and older kids who are more physically mature.


Over time this will allow us to determine the dose-response relationship between exercise and changes in fitness and how these relate to physical maturity. Although we know that cardiovascular fitness is an extremely important endpoint for health outcomes, we currently don't have exercise guidelines for fitness development in children – my hope is that our research can help to develop these recommendations in an age-appropriate way that can be applied to improve public health.


What do you want your patients to know about you?


I want my patients to know that not only can I relate to a lot of their problems - having spent my life in athletics as a player and coach - but the reason I do this at all is because I love helping people be active and able to do all the things that they want to do with their lives, both to remain healthy but also to be satisfied with the way they're able to live.


Whether that's a young soccer player with an ankle injury who wants to get back to playing or an older person who is having knee pain that's keeping them from gardening or whatever it is that they love to do. Our cooperative efforts - as a patient and provider - should be to identify your goals and to help you reach them. Dr. Watson began seeing patients at the UW Health Research Park Clinic on July 1 and will expand his clinical practice to UW Health at The American Center when it opens on August 17.

Date Published: 07/14/2015

News tag(s):  sports medicine

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