Don't look back when it comes to your health

Nick Wass/AP file photoSeahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can often put mistakes behind him and lead his team to victory

Nick Wass/AP file photoSeahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can often put mistakes behind him and lead his team to victory

Watching football this time of year, you can't help but notice the special quarterbacks, the ones who are the top stars: The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson, the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning or the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers.

The games they lead get into a rhythm of winning, the quarterbacks enter the zone, the flow of the game. Most importantly, when errors occur, the interception, the dropped pass, the quarterback moves on as if it never happened.

Not looking back is key in in sports and in health. My patients who come in with stories of woe, focused on what one doctor did or did not do for them, have a much harder time then the patients who seek advice on where to go from here and how to recover quickly from their injury. Some patients are burdened by blame. They focus, for example, on the store that had the wet floor causing them to slip and they listen for sympathy rather than solutions. Letting go and moving on is sometimes hard to do.

So how do you do it? What I find, is that it's all about learning when to look back and recognizing what to look for.

In medicine and surgery, we start our process by being sure of an accurate diagnosis. History, physical exam, X-rays and usually MRIs are used for most serious sports injuries. We come up with a treatment plan, with or without surgery, and we execute that plan. When it works, we feel proud of ourselves and our patients. When it doesn't, we examine every decision, find a new approach and move on. The ability to park the regret over an unsuccessful outcome, to store it for examination later and focus on a new solution, characterizes the successful physician. The operative word is later.

In medicine, as with sports, it doesn't help to be distracted by the unsuccessful approach as you are dealing with the immediate consequences. However, it is essential to go back and examine it later, to learn from it and use it to improve the next decision. Poor doctors or athletes forget to do the analysis or simply don't remember the lessons.

The ability to park the frustration comes from the absolute confidence that the examination that will come later will be more fruitful and that any conclusions made now will be incomplete and interfere with the job at hand. Steely assurance of that fact is the magic behind the unperturbed face of the intercepted quarterback.

So my advice is to practice being a Monday morning quarterback. Review your good and bad decisions. Become an expert at the analysis and the design of the new action plan. Be creative in your thought process in order to avoid thinking in the same patterns that led to the first error. Speed up your pattern recognition so you can see and then reject a losing play in a set of circumstances. But do it later.

Great ones don't look back, at that moment. They do it later so that the same error doesn't happen twice. They stay in their magical flow, seeing the new possibilities and creating novel ones.

Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco. He pioneers advanced orthopedic surgical and rehabilitation techniques to repair, regenerate and replace damaged cartilage and ligaments. For more info, visit www.stoneclinic.com.

FeaturesKevin R. Stone

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Indecline, an art activist collective in San Francisco, transformed a billboard into an editorial with a message blasting immigration policies of Donald Trump’s administration. (Screenshot, Indecline website)
Has immigration fallen off the administration’s radar? Not a chance

Enforced as executive orders, Trump’s hardline policies are proceeding, against will of the people

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

A dinner at three Michelin Stars restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley has highlighted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s relationship with a well-known lobbyist. (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)
The lobbyist who led Gavin Newsom to the French Laundry has a history of controversy

Lara Korte and Sophia Bollag The Sacramento Bee When photos circulated earlier… Continue reading

Most Read