Why Specialize in Sports Medicine as a Podiatrist?

By SMU News Staff

From NBA players to U.S. Special Olympians Dr. Tim Dutra, assistant professor at Samuel Merritt University’s California School of Podiatric Medicine, has helped numerous athletes of all levels recover from injuries and many more athletes and patients avoid injuries. With so many specialties to choose from—including surgery, orthopedics, geriatrics, diabetic foot care, and more—we asked what drew him to podiatry and sports medicine, and to tell us about his most memorable case.  

Why did you become a podiatrist?

I wanted to specialize in sports medicine and podiatric medicine was a great opportunity to address the foot, ankle, and lower extremity injuries that I treated as an athletic trainer and as an athlete. It was a great fit with my background of being a multi-sport athlete, youth sports coach, and athletic trainer. A big selling point was that it has a surgical aspect, as well.

What do you like about being a podiatrist?

It’s very hands on. As a podiatric physician you can perform both clinical procedures and surgeries. The field of podiatric medicine also allows you to have a great work-life balance.

Podiatrists are an integral part of sports medicine teams, and I enjoy the interprofessional aspect of sharing in the treatment of athletes. Rehabilitation and returning to activity often prove to be challenging for athletes, and it is very rewarding to help them return to their high level of activity and help prevent and reduce injury.

Where does your interest in sports medicine come from?

Sports have been a huge part of my life. Growing up, I played a variety of youth and high school sports (football, baseball, basketball, cross country, track, and tennis), as well as participating in many recreational activities. I gained an understanding of the importance of the foot and lower extremity in sports. I always wanted to combine my love for sports and my interest in a career in medicine, so podiatric sports medicine was a great fit for me.

What doors did sports medicine open for you?

I had advanced training with a podiatric sports medicine fellowship following my residency training. I worked as a team podiatrist for the Golden State Warriors. And I have been a podiatric consultant for Cal Berkeley athletics for over 28 sports since 2002. Most recently I have enjoyed helping with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Fit Feet Program as clinical director, supervising CSPM students training and screening.

What do you like about teaching?

It is a passion of mine to teach our podiatry students and encourage them to incorporate sports medicine into their practice skill set such as taping, padding, casting, orthotic and brace therapy, gait analysis, and treatment options from conservative to surgical in nature. I think it is important to pass on my years of experience in sports medicine to the next generation of podiatrists. Every patient is an athlete in their own way.

What would you say is your most memorable case?

My favorite case happened very early in my career. I was treating a 7-foot 11-inch professional basketball player with shoe size 25. He had chronic foot pain due to shoes that were too small, so we had custom shoes and orthotics made for him. He was so happy to be able to wear shoes that fit and have his foot pain go away without surgery.

What professional organizations are you involved with?

I am a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, and active in the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (past president) and the American College of Podiatric Medicine. I am board certified in Podiatric Sports Medicine, and a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice. Currently I am the vice chair of the Joint Commission on Sports Medicine and Science.

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