The elegant sport of tennis has evolved over decades from using wooden rackets to the graphite rackets of today. The historic grass-court stages of Wimbledon have also undergone changes as champions have been crowned. Likewise, medical innovations have advanced greatly. There are now state-of-the-art machines and techniques that have been created to improve health outcomes. Though the material surroundings have transformed, the competencies required of surgeons and tennis players alike remain untouched. Let’s consider some parallels to understand why tennis players possess the skills of the operating room.
Walking out onto a tennis court is a routine activity. The players remove their equipment from their bags and begin to warm up as each observes his or her opponent rallying on the other side of the net. Neither player has control over his or her opponent’s actions or those of the fans. Let’s use Roger Federer, 19-time Grand Slam champion, as a player in this scenario. Fans have expectations for Federer to win the match as they cheer him on. While engaged in a grueling four-hour match, Federer must stay calm and finish his work skillfully and creatively. No matter how difficult things get, Federer must uphold the highest level of sportsmanship. For example, it is crucial for Federer to make proper line calls even when he is tired. Though the opponent’s fans may roar obnoxiously after Federer loses points, it’s important for the 19-time Grand Slam champion to remain steady and focus on the task of winning. The pressure builds slowly for our focused champion as he too has personal motivations to win the match. Despite this, the fact remains that Federer must live up to the expectations of his supporters as all of their hopes are resting on his performance.
Let’s leave that intense battle on the tennis court and move into the hospital setting. In the operating theater, surgeons have to keep their composure while performing an intense procedure. The surgeon has no control over nature or the body and anything can happen. They can only remain focused and use their years of training to tune out the distractions. The surgeon can’t rush to finish the surgery for the sake of grabbing an early lunch. The master of the operating room has to show the “sportsmanship” of a doctor: abiding by medical ethics, upholding the values of the Hippocratic Oath and attempting to fulfill the expectations of the patient and his or her family.
Why talk about these parallels between tennis players and surgeons at all? Medical professionals know that becoming a doctor is a marathon. Becoming accustomed to the nerves and expectations for success is not something that comes overnight. Engaging in the process to gain those experiences is important. Whenever you get the chance to escape from studying, feel free to pick up a racket; tennis is bound to sharpen your skills for the future.