Former Terriers Set Athletes on the Mend
BU People: Schepsis, Foster, and Ferullo help players get back in the action
A sports team can boast a high-powered roster of players whose statistics are through the roof, but that matters little if those star players become injured. That is where the skills of former Terrier athletes Anthony Schepsis, Tim Foster, and Shawn Ferullo come in. The BU physicians for men’s and women’s varsity teams help get injured players back into action.
The three men say that sports medicine has come a long way in the past 20 years. Recent innovations in surgical techniques and physical therapy have enabled an unprecedented number of college and professional athletes to return to full participation in their sport — along with allowing “weekend warriors” to resume their recreational activities and get back to their jobs.
As the attending physician at men’s hockey games, Schepsis (CAS’73, MED’76), a professor of orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine and a former wrestler, is relieved when hockey injuries, such as the fractured shoulder socket of Brandon Yip (CAS’09), don’t require surgery.
When women’s basketball guard Katie Meinhardt (SMG’07) suffered a rare and debilitating foot tendon tear that ended her 2003-2004 season, Schepsis referred her to a surgeon in Maryland and then oversaw her rehabilitation. “With the help of a special boot brace, he helped me go from walking to running to playing basketball the following season, and now it’s fully healed,” says Meinhardt. Schepsis also performed surgery that year on the dislocated shoulder of basketball guard Matt Turner (CAS’04).
During the 22 years he has been treating BU athletes, Schepsis has seen remarkable advances in sports medicine, including arthroscopic surgery, which involves examining and repairing the interior part of a joint using a type of endoscope inserted through a small incision. “In general,” he says, “surgeries have become less invasive and more comprehensive and have been achieving better results and needing shorter rehabilitation times. Also, our diagnostic abilities have gotten much more complete after we started using magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] in the late 1980s.”
“The preventive aspects of sports medicine — strength and conditioning — have also gotten much better,” says Schepsis. “For example, we used to see a lot more groin injuries in hockey and soccer players. Over the years, with their off-season conditioning program, we’ve seen a marked decrease in those types of injuries.”
Although he was a running back at BU, Foster (CAS’81, MED’86) knew he didn’t have an NFL career ahead of him. “When I was playing football, I met Dr. Robert Leach, who was pretty much one of the founding fathers of sports medicine in the United States,” says the MED assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and attending physician for women’s hockey games. “He was the team doctor for BU athletics, as well as for the Boston Celtics, and he’s been a fantastic mentor for me.”
Foster did his residency in orthopedic surgery at Boston Medical Center from 1986 to 1991 before moving on to a fellowship in sports medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Like Schepsis, he regards minimally invasive surgical techniques as among the field’s biggest advances. “The second biggest advance is the rehabilitation process itself,” he says.
Illustrating how far physical therapy has advanced, Foster recalls the rehabilitation process for knee ligament reconstruction when he was a surgical resident in the late 1980s. “Typically, the patient would be put in a cast after surgery and sometimes stay in the cast for up to six weeks before he would start to move the knee,” he says. “Now people have surgery and immediately start to move the joint. The trainers begin to work on specific leg exercises so they don’t lose muscle mass in the leg, and therefore people recover faster.”
After making the men’s hockey team as a walk-on his freshman year, Ferullo (CAS’97, MED’01) goaltended in portions of eight games, for a total of 55 minutes — and they weren’t exactly quality minutes. He was typically inserted in the third period of games where BU enjoyed a big lead or was getting slaughtered. After all, these were squads with such stellar goaltenders as Derek Herlofsky (COM’95), J. P. McKersie (SMG’96), Michel Larocque (MET’98), and Tom Noble (COM’98), who minded the Terriers’ net as BU won its last national championship, in 1995.
But hockey wasn’t the main reason Ferullo attended BU. Although he was a three-year starter at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Mass., and then starred at Governor Dummer Academy in his senior year, he turned down athletic scholarship offers from several colleges to attend BU. For Ferullo, hockey was an activity to stay in shape and a break from the pressures of BU’s premed program.
“It’s been exciting to work for my alma mater,” he says. “It’s great to still have some role in BU athletics after playing here. It’s always fun to see the coaches and staff who worked with me when I played hockey, and now I have the opportunity to work with the team as an M.D.”
The three alums also treat students, faculty, and staff “with the same expert care that they deserve,” says Foster. For example, when former Massachusetts governor Edward King died in September, BU President Emeritus John Silber fell while paying his respects. Foster teamed up with William Creevy (CAS’81, MED’85), vice chairman of orthopedic surgery at MED, to reconstruct and replace Silber’s shattered shoulder and treat his pelvic fracture. “Before Dr. Silber’s operation, he quipped that if the surgery didn’t go well, he would rescind my diploma that he had signed in 1986,” says Foster. “I still have my diploma.”
Also treating athletes is Matthew Pecci, a MED assistant professor, who covers women’s basketball games. Last month Pecci began a Thursday morning sports clinic at Student Health Services for any student — not just varsity athletes — with a sports-related injury.
Coverage of BU’s other varsity sports is split between two medical fellows.
Brian Fitzgerald can be reached at email@example.com.