Giants Medical Staff Welcomes Army Captain Sean Suttles for Fellowship Program
by, Joe Kania, Guest Contributor
Each season, the National Football League devotes the month of November to current and former military members as part of it's “Salute to Service” campaign.
This year, the NFL partnered with the United States Army Medical Department to form a Training With Industry (TWI) fellowship program. The program's goal is to provide education and hands-on experience with concussions and musculoskeletal injuries, ailments common in both the NFL and the military.
“Musculoskeletal injuries and concussions cost the Army and the Veteran's Administration millions of dollars each year,” the job description read. “Our Soldiers are akin to the professional athlete except that our Soldiers do not have an 'off season' with which to rehabilitate or recover from injury. The NFL faces similar challenges with their athletes. Allowing our officers to work with the NFL medical and rehabilitation staff will broaden their operational and strategic skill set.”
The 2014-2015 season is the league's first season employing the program. Between all 32 teams, just one position was made available.
Over 250 active military members applied for the program before 27-year Army Captain Sean Suttles was offered a position working with the New York Giants Medical Staff comprised of Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society Members Society (PFATS) members Ronnie Barnes, Steve Kennelly, Byron Hansen and Leigh Weiss. He joined the team during training camp in August.
“Captain Suttles brings his knowledge and experience with the US Military and has really added a dimension of care for our players,” Weiss said. “We have benefited from his insight and hope that he can take his experience with the Giants to better serve our nation’s heroes.”
Suttles has enjoyed the experience as well.
“The smile on my face hasn't left since I've been here,' Suttles said. “Being able to work in the National Football League has been a dream come true. It's been fantastic, especially working with the Giants. I really lucked out.”
Suttles has extensive medical experience, mainly in physical therapy as it relates to head and spine injuries. He has worked in large, regional medical centers in addition to being deployed in the field.
He is signed on to assist the Giants for one season. After that, he will return for three more years of service in the army. The hope is that Suttles can bring his knowledge gained working in the NFL back to the military to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of head and spine injuries.
'The idea is that you take back what you learn,” Suttles said. “They want you to come back in. They have what we call a utilization tour, which means they want to try and utilize whatever new skills that you have picked up. More than likely I will be working in some policy, think tank, research type position once I go back to the Army.”
Admittedly, working in football is different that what he's been used to. But Suttles said that working with athletes has been refreshing.
“Working in the NFL is more treatment-orientated,” Suttles said, 'which is a good change of pace. One of the things with working in the military is that sometimes we don't get our hands on patients enough. We do the evaluating and there's hands on there but most of the treatment is handed off. Here, we're able to get our hands on patients right away.”
After his final three years of service, Suttles hopes to return to the sidelines.
“If I could be involved with professional or high-level collegiate athletes, I think that's where I'd like to be,” Suttles said. “How much involvement? We'll just have to see how things go. But it's definitely something I enjoy practicing for sure.”
Suttles is in a rare position. He will spend the month of November working in the NFL as the league honors America's military heroes. But at the same time, as an active officer, he is being honored himself.
The experience, he said, was humbling.
“To see what the NFL does,” Suttles said, “is very powerful. It's very moving. We live in a time, and we're lucky to do so, when the American public supports us unconditionally. Whether they agree with fighting wars or not, they support us. We couldn't do what we do, we couldn't survive the way that we do without that support.
It gives me goosebumps. I can't say enough about how overwhelming and warm it feels to have that kind of support.”