This Sports Doctor is on Call for Students

Their victory came by one point in the final seconds of a grueling championship game. But for Baruch College's women's basketball team, the real contact sport was the euphoric victory scrum that erupted at midcourt the moment the final buzzer sounded.

From the stands at City College, Dr. Osric King looked on with amusement, if a dash of vigilance — just in case the delirium left any of the players, or perhaps one of their coaches, in need of some medical attention. But the celebration ended safely, as did the men's championship final that followed — though there was a moment's pause in that game when a Baruch player fell to the floor and stayed on his hands and knees, peering down. "He's all right," Dr. King observed from across the court. "I think he lost a contact lens." Moments later, the doctor's diagnosis proved correct.

Dr. King, an orthopedist and sports medicine specialist with the Hospital for Special Surgery, has been a familiar face around University athletics for the past decade. He's a kind of unofficial doctor on call.

The work is virtually pro bono. It just turned out that way. Dr. King was serving his residency in 2000 when the Hospital for Special Surgery became a sponsor of the CUNY Athletic Conference. CUNYAC officials took the opportunity to ask the hospital for some help in looking after the health and safety of its student athletes. "Dr. King was the first to volunteer," said Zak Ivkovic, the conference's executive director.

The young orthopedist, a Brooklyn native, started with York College, performing pre-season physicals and encouraging coaches and players to call on him whenever they needed an assessment or second opinion of an injury. "I'd tell the kids, 'All right, I'm going to take care of this,' " Dr. King recalls. " 'We'll see what's going on and in two weeks I'll be back and see how you're doing.' For most of the kids this was a foreign experience. They were so happy to have somebody come through; it was kind of inspiring."

Dr. Osric looks after team members' health on and off the court.

So inspiring, in fact, that Dr. King began making a habit of providing free medical care to athletic departments at colleges whose student athletes tended to have little or no medical insurance. In addition to York, his roster has since come to include four community colleges — Kingsborough, Queensborough, Borough of Manhattan and Hostos.

"[At] most of the schools, I'm betting nobody wanted to take care of the kids," Dr. King said between games of the recent CUNYAC basketball championships. "I would get a call from the athletic director asking if I could come and do physicals. So I would go down there and I would charge ten dollars. And I would tell them, 'If you have a question about a diagnosis, send them over. You'll never get a bill from me.' "

Dr. King said his motivation comes from what he's observed as an orthopedist who is not a surgeon: "I've seen a lot of kids getting surgery they really didn't need. There's nothing worse than someone being injured and ending up in a particular doctor's office where [the doctor] is mainly concerned with 'Can I get a surgical fee out of it?'" On the other hand: "I've had more than my share of kids with an ACL ligament that's completely severed and they have no clue about it. Kids have no concept of what care is about. So what really motivates me is making sure the right thing is done. I play almost a gatekeeper role for some of these schools."

y at no charge? "Because it has to be done. I think I can make a buck in this world and do the right thing at the same time."

Needless to say, the schools are grateful. "He goes beyond the call of duty," said Ronald St. John, York College's athletic director and men's basketball coach. "For us, to have a team doctor would be a luxury, but we feel we have that with Dr. King. When we've made the conference finals, he's on the bench with us. It's like he's our doctor."