Tennis Medicine: Dr. Harvey and Nathan’s Story
Dr. Harvey brings first-hand experience to care for tennis players
Kansas City area youth who play tennis have a health care advocate in Brian Harvey, DO, Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center physician. That’s because Dr. Harvey not only loves the sport, he’s played it, and played it competitively at the high school and collegiate levels.
Even better, he now specializes in caring for student-athletes who’ve been injured playing the game, or who want to fine-tune their skills. His first-hand experience with tennis and treating players makes him key to the partnership the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center has with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Missouri Valley.
Meet Brian Harvey …
Like many of the patients he cares for, Dr. Harvey first picked up a racket when he was only 5 years old, and he’s rarely set it down.
His dad, Mike Harvey, is in the Kansas Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame and his brother, Chad, also played competitively in high school and college. In fact, you might say he comes from a “tennis family.”
Dr. Harvey began playing competitively when he was 10 years old, then played for his high school tennis team in Pratt, Kan. He is a Kansas state champion, and earned a scholarship to play tennis at Bethany College, where he was freshman player of the year, as well as conference and regional player of the year his junior season.
Along the way he was treated for a shoulder injury, but that didn’t stop him from competing. Even to this day, tennis is Dr. Harvey’s game.
“I love that tennis is a game of sportsmanship. It’s a game of integrity,” Dr. Harvey said. “It allows you to be part of a team, but you also can compete as an individual.”
Physically, he said tennis is a game of explosive power tempered by endurance. “Professionally, I like the biomechanics of the sport, working through the related injuries and taking care of student-athletes who play,” Dr. Harvey added.
A kindred spirit
One such student-athlete Dr. Harvey has taken care of is Nathan Turtledove, a highly competitive tennis player from the Kansas City area.
Growing up, Nathan played all sports, but he began specializing in tennis in the seventh grade. After honing his skills at Kansas City United Tennis (KCUT) and Pembroke Hill High School, he now plays at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, where he is a sophomore.
“I am an absolute tennis junkie,” the 20-year-old admits. “I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. I love the competitive nature of the sport, the people, friendships and memories I have made.”
Some of those memories include Dr. Harvey. “Tennis is a very difficult sport on the body,” Nathan said. “Over time, I have developed various injuries, ranging from Osgood-Schlatter disease (knee pain), which is very common in young tennis players who are growing, to tendonitis in my left elbow, to an L5 stress fracture.”
Each time Nathan experienced an injury, he returned to Dr. Harvey for diagnosis and treatment, and each time, Dr. Harvey helped him get back in the game, remaining competitive.
But Nathan credits Dr. Harvey with helping him overcome the most challenging injury of his life, a fall from Table Mountain in South Africa.
“We were hiking and had reached the top of the mountain when my feet slipped on some loose gravel,” Nathan said. “I fell about 15 feet, then smashed into a rock sticking out of the mountain. I had to be airlifted to a hospital in South Africa where they repaired significant facial damage. I also suffered extreme body trauma and a fractured wrist.”
As soon as Nathan returned to Kansas City, he headed straight to see Dr. Harvey, who prescribed an intense physical therapy regimen that included hydrotherapy and physical therapy. With high school tennis starting and the state championships less than two months away, Nathan had his work cut out for him.
“Nathan is a great kid and a hard worker. The fact that he recovered so well from his fall, then went on to win state just shows how determined he was to get back on the court,” Dr. Harvey said.
“Nathan also is a good example of a patient who has seen me for primary care sports medicine over the years. We take care of injuries that affect student-athletes, like sprains, strains and fractures,” Dr. Harvey added. “Based on my knowledge of tennis, I was able to modify his rehab program to help him return to the court safely and participate at a high level.”
“Dr. Harvey is by far the best in the industry,” Nathan said. “The level of care I have received from him has been top-notch. Without Dr. Harvey, Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine, and the programs they have in place, I don’t know that I would be playing tennis right now at the collegiate level.”
Dr. Harvey and Nathan both played juniors tennis through the USTA, which is the national governing body for the sport of tennis and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the sport’s growth on every level in the U.S.
The USTA is made up of 17 individual sections, each representing distinct geographic locations throughout the U.S. and all working to support players and promote the growth of the game across the country. The USTA Missouri Valley serves the tennis communities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
In 2019, the USTA Missouri Valley and the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center formed a partnership. Through the partnership, Children’s Mercy provides athletic training coverage to several tennis tournaments throughout the Kansas City metro area and offers educational workshops for parents and coaches.
“These athletes have an increased risk of shoulder and low back issues, as well as lower extremity ankle sprains,” Dr. Harvey said. “Our partnership emphasizes prevention and education. At Children’s Mercy, we have a full complement of services to offer these student-athletes. From having athletic trainers at events, to our sports medicine counselor, to our performance motion capture lab, we have all the services to care for patients with tennis-specific injuries.”
“The USTA Missouri Valley probably has almost 5,000 student-athletes ages 6 to 18 playing juniors, and we only expect that to grow,” said Mary Buschmann, CEO and Executive Director, USTA Missouri Valley.
In fact, tennis participation increased by 22% in 2020, with 21.64 million people hitting the courts according to recent data from the Physical Activity Council’s Participation (PAC) report produced by Sports Marketing Surveys. The nearly 3 million new players demonstrate that tennis not only survived in 2020, but that it thrived.
“They won’t all become Roger Federers, but we want to give every student-athlete the chance to go out, play safely, and have fun. Tennis is a great way to exercise and keep moving, no matter how competitive you are.”
The USTA partnership with Children’s Mercy benefits players, parents and coaches by giving them the opportunity to learn more about injury prevention at educational events. “I love the educational aspect of our partnership, and I hope to see it grow. Dr. Harvey is very relatable, and he does a wonderful job of addressing our coaches and parents in a way they can understand. Of course, his tennis background is a plus.
“Parents also are grateful to have athletic trainers on site because they’re at a loss sometimes for what to do if their student-athlete is injured during a match,” Mary said. “The athletic trainers wrap injuries properly and take the time to show the parents how to do that, too. That is a huge benefit.
“Ultimately, tennis is a sport for life,” Mary added. “If we can help our student-athletes recover from or prevent injuries, when they become adults, they will just be smarter about taking care of themselves so they can continue to play the game.”
About the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center
In addition to the USTA, the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center is the official health care and sports medicine provider for Sporting Kansas City, the National Training Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics and 22 Kansas City metro area high schools, the largest athletic training program in the area.
The program also partners with area schools and clubs, making on-site athletic trainers available and providing sports medicine education. The nationally ranked Sports Medicine Center helps student-athletes maintain and increase strength and speed through performance conditioning. When injuries occur, Children’s Mercy offers the specialized care each student-athlete needs to maximize their healing potential and get back to the competition they love.
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Associate Program Director, Sports Medicine Fellowship; Sports Medicine; Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine