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STMS Member Spotlight with Dr. Carol L. Otis MD, FACSM

Dr. Otis with Venus and Serena Williams at the Olympics in 2000.

1. Occupation/Certification(s)

I am a physician board certified in internal medicine and primary care sports medicine with an emphasis in women’s issues. I have been most involved with and am the primary author of the first ACSM Position Stand on the Female Athlete Triad and the WTA Age Eligibility Rules and Player Development Programs.   I am retired from clinical practice and now work as a consultant in sports medicine and athlete development 

2. How long have you been involved in tennis and in what ways?

I have been involved with tennis my whole life thanks to a great start by my father  (a ranked So Cal player and captain of the tennis team at Stanford in 1920s) who had me start  learning to play and follow tennis at age 6 in the 1950s before girls were encouraged to be in sports.  I played competitively in high school and college (before Title IX) and then taught tennis to pay my way through medical school. 

As a physician I worked with the Tennis teams at UCLA 1980- 2000. I was the USA Olympic tennis team physician for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and US Fed Cup physician 1998-2002.  I have served on the ITF and USTA Sports Medicine committees and as a trustee of the American Collee of Sports Medicine and on many of their committees. I started working with the WTA in 1994 as chairperson of the Age Eligibility Review Commission and have continued an association with the WTA as a medical advisor 1997-2002, and chairperson of the WTA Player Development Advisory Panel (1997- present).  

3. What is your current role in tennis or tennis medicine?

I am the chairperson of the WTA Player Development Advisory Panel since 1994. We are an international group of sports science and medicine experts that annually review the player development programs and age eligibility rule on the WTA Tour.  I am a member of STMS and PAADS (Professional Association of Athlete Development Specialists

4. What do you find most interesting about tennis medicine?

Tennis is the most interesting, diverse and complex sport and tennis medicine reflects the sport - involving all aspects of the mind, body and spirit. It is a sport that people love and learn and live with their entire life.  It is played by all ages, around the world as well as by both men and women and involves many different disciplines. In conjunction with the sport, the science and medicine are continually evolving in technique and knowledge.  I so enjoy meeting and learning about what is new and what coaches, physicians, therapists, researchers, scientists and players are doing to advance the sport and the fields.  STMS has been at the forefront on the interdisciplinary approach to all aspects of tennis and is a role model and world leader for how other sports specific groups can add to and advance knowledge and best practices about sport. 

5. How do you think we can improve the field of tennis medicine?

In my career I have seen incredible gains in knowledge, particularly about women. And hope to see researchers and clinicians continue to break down and push the boundaries and research more about tennis injuries, optimal training and rehab, the mind-body connection, and more about the psychological aspect of the game and life. We need funding and centers that can do sport-specific multidisciplinary longitudinal research about injuries, prevention, best practices and position papers to inform not just the sports science community but reach out to inform parents coaches and others in the tennis community about best practices for all aspects of the sport from environmental factors to surface to equipment to rehab and injury prevention.  We need to be able to take large scale studies and then individualize them to the unique individual playing or coaching or treating tennis players. More needs to be known and disseminated to the entire tennis community from the scientists about sport specific imbalances, the impact of training amount and best practices for periodization of training, the interaction of travel, adolescent developmental stages, recovery and rehabilitation, and psychological aspects of the game, injury and rehab. 

6. Why did you join the STMS and how are you involved?

I joined STMS in the earliest days and found it to be multidisciplinary, cutting edge and collaborative.  I credit the early founders of STMS, especially Dr. Ben Kibler, for being welcoming and inclusive of women and women’s issues.  I have been a featured speaker particularly on aspects of women’s training, the Female Athlete Triad, and best practices for evaluating and treating adolescents.

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