An Interview with Dr. Pat Connor - the Carolina Panthers Head Team Physician

Dr. Pat Connor

The commotion and action on the sidelines on any given Carolina Panthers game day can make it difficult to spot Dr. Pat Connor, but he’s there. The uncertainty of what he will need to manage in a day’s work means that he tunes out the excitement, clamor and score of the game to focus on the players. As team physician for the Panthers for 17 years, Dr. Connor works closely with Dr. Nancy Gritter and Dr. Rob Heyer, of Atrium Health to care for the Panthers throughout the season, playoffs and post-season.


Dr. Connor, why are there so many different doctors for the team?

It’s important for any NFL team to have a team with specialized medical providers. Drs. Heyer, Gritter and I serve as the core, but we have a whole team of medical providers with whom we work. For example, for concussion-related injuries and other head trauma we rely on Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates and Drs. Petty and Adamson who are on the sidelines with us every game, and have been as many years as I’ve been doing this. We also work very closely with Carolinas Healthcare System and the athletic training staff for the Panthers, so it’s definitely a team sport from the medical side.


How do you work with the Panthers’ athletic trainers?

Working in tandem with the athletic training staff is so important. We’re there to take care of the major injuries but also to work with the trainers and combine our judgment to decide what to do. If someone has an ankle injury, for instance, we check to make sure there’s no bony injury or gross instability of the ankle or that it won’t buckle. Sometimes the player might have just sprained the ankle to where the athletic trainers can “beef it up” with tape, giving it additional support, and the player can get back out and play. The key to returning to play with any injury is being able to do so safely. For us to make that call for the players it takes judgment, experience and working together with all the medical providers we have on the sideline.


OrthoCarolina's Dr. Pat Connor is on the sidelines at each Panthers game.


Do you see a high rate of injuries during games?

We are on the sideline because it takes only seconds for a player to sustain a substantial acute injury that needs help right then and there. We’ve had to set broken legs on the field, players who have broken a jaw in a game, and much more. The amount and types of injuries that have happened over the years has really evolved. Some types of injures we have seen more of and some we have seen less of. The frequency of other injuries has remained pretty constant, but the evaluation, treatment and management of them has been ever-evolving.


What is something people might not know about professional football?

People say football is a contact sport, but it’s really a collision sport. There are super amounts of physical energy that go into player injuries. What may be a routine ankle sprain for a weekend warrior can be much more severe and have significantly worse impact on a pro football, player simply because of the amount of force that goes into it.


What is your overall goal for taking care of the team?

Our core team has tried to create an atmosphere where the players come first and we really focus on trying to do the best thing for them both short and long term, working with their athletic trainers and our own to orchestrate rehabilitation and care. The team approach is what makes the overall program so fluid and strong with the changing needs of the team; working together on all injuries whether big or small.


Dr. Patrick Connor is an orthopedic surgeon with OrthoCarolina’s Sports Medicine Center and also serves as the head team physician for the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team and Joe Gibbs Racing. He was named a Top Doctor in 2014 by the Charlotte Business Journal and Charlotte Magazine. Dr. Connor specializes in arthroscopic and reconstructive knee surgery, shoulder care and shoulder surgery. He has also served as president of the NFL Physician's Society and a member of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and published research in journals such as the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. He received his medical degree from the Oklahoma College of Medicine and completed his residency at Carolinas Medical Center. He also completed a fellowship in shoulder surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.


Originally published November 23, 2014 and updated August 31, 2018




Comments

September 11, 2018

This a great article about a super fine individual. I have known Dr. Patrick Connor for going on 20 years. He first did a difficult surgery on my first wife. Then did an ACL on me. Since then he has done 2 right shoulder surgeries and a right elbow on me. All have turned out as good as new. One could not ask for any better physician, surgeon and person. He is a straight shooter and does exactly as he explains when he evaluates your problem. Dr. Connor and all of the team around him are great, they all go to the second mile to give you the best outcome possible.
- Tim Humes

September 12, 2018

We appreciate the kind words Tim, thank you.
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 11, 2018

Echoing comments others have made. Dr. Connor performed surgery on my right shoulder. Feels great and works great! Thanks Dr. Connor. Good to see you.
- Sam Wright

September 11, 2018

Thanks so much Sam!
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 11, 2018

When I first met Dr. Connor, mid 1999, to evaluate the possible rebuilding of my right elbow, I was very impressed with his 'native intelligence' and education. I had only been told that I should see him and that he was 'pretty good'. My need was due to a motorcycle accident that had shattered my right arm. The first reconstruction at Bowman Gray, Wake Forest, was, unfortunately, unsuccessful. So, my wife and I contacted Dr. Connors office. He tackled the chore of reconstruction without hesitation. Extremely satisfied with the results then and after nearly 20 years, he is still one of my heroes! I had a feeling he was going to be great and he has proven himself so! Thanks Dr. Pat!!!
- Stanley F Meyer Jr

September 11, 2018

Thank you for the kind words Stanley.
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 11, 2018

Nice story enjoyed reading about this informative stuff
- clyde m mcleod

September 11, 2018

Thanks Clyde.
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 11, 2018

Great article about an awesome doctor! Dr Conner did my reverse shoulder replacement in 2004 and it's still doing great!
- Greg Tipton

September 11, 2018

Great to hear that Greg. Thank you!
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 11, 2018

Great article about a wonderful doctor. Like seeing you on the sidelines!
- Vickii Lumsden

September 11, 2018

Thank you Vickii
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

October 03, 2016

Nice article Doctor Connor. Good to "see" you again.
- Donna J. Flanagan

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