Originally published in CalBears.
By Tim Miguel
November 25, 2015
Stephen Anderson can hold his own in a conversation with the team’s medical staff when he has an injury.
Very interested in a career in the medical field, Anderson, a senior tight end for the Golden Bears, often chats with the Cal medical staff about injuries and what happens to football players’ bodies over the course of a football season.
Not only is Anderson interested in a career in the medical field, he decided to take action last year shortly after the 2014 season ended by volunteering at Highland Hospital in Oakland where he put together walkers and oxygen tanks, while shadowing the doctors.
He learned much more from the experience than simply how to get the patients healthy again.
“I learned that you have to be careful with your words and your encouragement of patients because they are coming from tragic injuries,” Anderson said. “You need to be able to encourage them in each of their different stages to start walking and stretch their muscles. I learned more about just the attitude you’re supposed to have towards patients such as words and motivation more than what to do in certain types of situations with each injury. You really have to get them up and get them going.”
The experience left such an impression on Anderson that he wants to go into the medical industry when his football career is over.
While being a doctor seems intriguing to him, Anderson has a much more specific goal in mind for how he wants to help people, and particularly future athletes.
“I would love to start my own company for high-performance athletes,” Anderson said. “I want to have surgeons, physical therapists and personal trainers all under one roof so you can walk in with an injury and leave a better athlete than you were. If the opportunity presented itself, I would love to be a doctor, but I want to be more active with my clients, I want to be able to physically work with them instead of just prescribing medication or just giving them verbal instructions. I want to really interact with people.”
Anderson already gets a lot of interaction with the football trainers at Cal. Trainers like John Mucovich were pleasantly surprised to hear not only how interested he was in their field of work but also with the expertise and knowledge that he already had.
Mucovich said when most of the student-athletes at Cal suffer an injury, they think they know what’s wrong and what they need to do to get healthy. But as Mucovich said with a smile, they’re usually incorrect.
However, it’s a different story for Anderson. He’s somebody the trainers listen to with more confidence.
“He’s gained respect on a different level with me now that we’ve had those types of conversations about injuries,” Mucovich said. “Many times when student-athletes come in and say they’re injured and explain the pain, it’s obvious they don’t know what they are talking about, but with Stephen, we take it at a different value. It really does actually catch us off guard sometimes. We aren’t always prepared for it.”
Added Anderson: “Sometimes I’ll go up to a trainer and tell him I think I sprained my ankle and they’ll ask how I know. I’ll throw some medical terms at them to keep my vocabulary working and fresh. The therapists were impressed at first with my vocabulary, but now it’s just normal.”
What interested Anderson initially to the medical field was the rate at which injuries occur to athletes, especially with a high-contact sport like football. Anderson is very picky about what he puts in his body and how he treats and cares for it, so it grew over time towards him wanting to help others the same way so they can stay on the field longer.
While working at the hospital, he admitted it was a whole different world seeing some of the patients come in compared to the injuries he sees on the football field. Anderson said the most challenging part of his internship was seeing so many people have horrific and tragic things happen to them. As much as he and the other doctors try to help, Anderson said the doctors always advise the workers in the hospital to not get too attached to the patients.
“I know that the physical therapists at the hospital really cared about each other, and they showed a lot of teamwork and communication about different patients,” Anderson said. “It also showed me how fortunate all of us are to be where we are at Cal as student-athletes because although things might not always be fair, being in the county hospital and seeing people lose the ones they love to disease showed me how fortunate we truly are. It made me happier to come back from this and graduate from Cal and have a step up in the world for my future.”
Despite the hardships like that, the experience solidified that this is the career path Anderson wants to take when his time playing football is over. He hopes to spend a few years playing football professionally in order to fund his dream of starting his own operation.
Anderson plans on attending graduate school and pursuing physical and massage therapy as he continues chasing down his dream.
Who knows, maybe future Cal football players will have their careers saved because of the efforts of Anderson.
Edited on June 13, 2018.