Portland Trail Blazers' Team Physician Takes Care of Team During Pandemic
Dr. Jim Chesnutt, Rebound sports medicine physician and one of the Portland Trail Blazers' team physicians, is currently in Orlando, Florida, taking care of the team while they are in the Orlando Bubble. The 2020 NBA Bubble or Orlando Bubble is the isolation zone with strict rules created by the National Basketball Association (NBA) to protect its players from the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2019–20 season restart. Twenty-two teams including the Portland Trail Blazers were invited to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, to participate in the remaining regular season and playoff games being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Dr. Chesnutt was quarantined for a week and was tested for COVID daily. Once being cleared on Friday, July 31, he was freed from his room to participate on “campus” at the Yacht Club where the Blazers stay. Fortunately, he was able to cover the Blazers' first season restart game that night.
Dr. Chesnutt will be inside the Orlando Bubble for three weeks where no one goes in or out. The NBA has placed security guards everywhere to keep others out of the Bubble and to ensure safety and security. In order to continue to work and compete, the players, staff, coaches, medical personal must remain on campus which encompasses a number of Disney Resort hotels and a portion of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Once they leave their hotel for the ESPN Center, they take buses to one of three arenas, the Arena, the Visa Center, or the HP Field House. Within the campus and the arenas, Dr. Chesnutt and the Portland Trail Blazers have access to extensive onsite medical facilities.
The games are unfortunately held without spectators; however, there is a lot of technology being used to make the games feel as home-like as possible. There are giant jumbotrons with images from each team's home town, images of people sitting in the stands, and cheering sounds played throughout the games. Dr. Chesnutt says that you nearly forget that no fans are in attendance when you hear the cheers and see the faces of the fans in their “ seats."
Dr. Chesnutt is trying to keep his daily routine as normal as possible during his stay in the Orlando Bubble. Each morning he gets up and goes for an early run or plays pickleball with Blazers staff. Once he is ready for the day, he has clinical meetings with the other NBA doctors where everyone's health and well-being is the top priority where they coordinate care, strategize on how to keep the players, staff, and coaches healthy with no COVID.
Although Dr. Chesnutt provides medical coverage for Trail Blazer games at least four times a week, he is also assigned to help other NBA teams and cover other NBA games. Staying in touch with his patients is still one of his top priorities by communicating with Rebound staff and through telemedicine when needed. His Rebound partner Dr. Karl Kaluza is covering his practice back home and will tag team with Dr. Chesnutt in Orlando in mid-August to take over covering Blazer games into the playoffs. Stay tuned for more to come.
At the end of all of this, Dr. Chesnutt believes that there will be a lot learned from how the NBA has managed the restart of the 2020 season during COVID that can be applied to helping other organizations and groups of people re-engage more safely back into their daily lifestyles and work routines.