Sideline doc supports Warrior Games

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- For the wounded-warrior athletes of the Warrior Games, their biggest fan stands on the sideline, ready at a moment’s notice to provide them with medical care when needed and always cheering them on.

With more than 50 athletes with pre-existing conditions giving their all during the Warrior Games training camp, it is imperative to have a medical staff on standby. For the wounded-warrior athletes training at Hurlburt, they have Maj. (Dr.) Sean Martin, the chief of sports medicine with Air Force Special Operations Command Office of the Surgeon General.

“I am the team physician for the warrior team,” said Martin. “Basically, we treat these athletes like VIPs, like a million bucks. We make them feel really special during their time with us and maximize the amount of resources we can provide to make sure as much of their time as possible is spent in the competition and not on the sideline.”

Martin graduated from family medicine residency in 2010 and went on to a one year sports-medicine fellowship in District of Columbia. While there, he covered different levels of competition and training, to include professional sports.

“In 2011, I came back to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and joined the residency faculty,” said Martin. “That was officially the start of my sports-medicine practice.”

Martin is one of less than 20 sports-medicine doctors in the Air Force.
The Wounded Warrior Games, an annual event established in 2010, offers a competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Teams participate in seven sports to include archery, cycling, shooting, sitting-volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

While in fellowship, Martin and three colleagues were given the opportunity to attend the Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and provide medical support for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior team.

Since then, Martin watched the Warrior Games program grow to what it is today.

“When I first got involved, it was such a different program because all the traction hadn’t happened – it wasn’t heavily resourced.” said Martin. “You had a few stellar NCOs in charge, who as a secondary duty, were running the program and working around the clock to make it work.”

Martin said they didn’t have enough athletes to fill the team.

“Compare that to now, where you have a full-time staff with incredible top-level support. The program is funded well and incredibly organized to provide well-thought-out events,” said Martin. “They’re thinking about things to the finest granular detail so they can put together this amazing program.”

As the program evolved, Martin’s services were requested whenever a training camp was about to take place, funded or not.

“It’s been built from a really good foundation,” said Martin. “But if you look at the evolution of this program from the 2010 or 2011 time frame to now, it’s remarkable. You might as well call it a different program.”

While on the sidelines, ready to provide immediate aid to an injured athlete, Martin and other medical technicians ensure that all the athletes are provided with extra services, some not available to athletes back home, to make their week more enjoyable.

“As a multidisciplinary care team, we really work hard to maximize services and modalities,” said Martin. “We come prepared with wound care products, pharmaceuticals, and even acupuncture supplies, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units, foam rollers, and kinesio tape – as many resources as possible. From a personnel perspective, we try to bring out a massage therapists, chiropractors and physical therapists. Much effort is made to provide comprehensive medical support to these warriors.”

While the medical support Martin provides ensures athletes continue to compete, it’s the transformation he sees within the athletes during the week that he enjoys the most.

“Some of these athletes haven’t talked to many people, especially about their injury. Some of them are also upset they lost their career,” said Martin. “By day five, it’s amazing to see them actively participating and being more open about their injury. You can see this energy infused into them and they’re almost a different person now. They’ve developed a cheer and a name for their team and you can see the camaraderie.”

Martin’s dedication to the athletes doesn’t go unnoticed.

“In the short time he has been with my staff, he has made an impact across AFSOC and embodies AFSOC's "quiet professional" motto,” said Col. Lee Harvis, the command surgeon with AFSOC. “I know Dr. Martin would never turn down the opportunity to provide support for our wounded warriors.”