HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT: Sports Doctor Bruce Thomas Loves Helping Players Excel
By Maria Sonnenberg // April 20, 2017
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Dr. Bruce Thomas feels he may be the luckiest physician alive, for his job in sports medicine puts him right in the thick of the exciting world of elite professional athletes.
DR. BRUCE THOMAS – 2015 INDUCTEE
• Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals Team Physician
• USTA, LPGA Medical Director
LUCKIEST PHYSICIAN ALIVE
Dr. Bruce Thomas feels he may be the luckiest physician alive, for his job in sports medicine puts him right in the thick of the exciting world of elite professional athletes.
“I really do have to pinch myself,” said the Melbourne physician. “It is such a privilege. I love it intensely. I love helping the players.”
For a sports fanatic with a family lineage rooted in baseball, being the senior medical consultant and spring training team physician for the Washington Nationals is indeed a dream come true.
His father played minor league baseball for the Boston Braves, and his great uncle, New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt, was Babe Ruth’s roommate while the team was on the road.
Thomas grew up in Maryland, rooting for the Orioles and at one point thinking he stood a good chance at the major leagues.
Eventually, however, Thomas realized that medicine, not baseball, should be his career path.
As it turns out, he was able to combine both, with golf, tennis and wrestling, to boot.
Sports medicine was a relatively new field in the 1980s, when Thomas first began ministering to the local high school sports teams.
The work encouraged him to seek board certification in sports medicine and he blended his original family practice with sports medicine.
In 1993, when the Florida Marlins picked Viera for the team’s spring training site, they looked for a specialist in sports injuries.
Thomas was the only local physician in the field at that time.
For the next nine years, Thomas would serve as the Marlins’ spring training physician.
The association even netted him a World Series ring when the team he helped keep in shape made off with the 1997 world championship.
After the Marlins left Brevard, Thomas became the team physician for the Brevard County Manatees minor league team and for the Montreal Expos. The Expos morphed into the Washington Nationals in 2004.
He also served as a physician for the United States Tennis Association, the World Baseball Classic, USA Wrestling and the China National Baseball Team during the Beijing Olympics.
SERVICE TO LOCAL PLAYERS MOST GRATIFYING
Since 2007, he has been the medical director for the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association, often helping as many as 100 golfers on a weekend with issues that range from everything from migraines to spinal problems.
He has amassed a network of high-level specialists he can tap wherever the athletes happen to be playing around the world.
While with the Marlins, he once ran into O.J. Simpson, who had heard of his connection with the Marlins and sought his help.
“He asked me to look at his knee, which was really swollen, so we went back to his suite and I gave him an injection to help,” said Thomas.
Thomas’ work with high-profile athletes is indeed glamorous and exciting, but it is his service to local players that he most values as a physician.
“I really enjoy helping young athletes,” said Thomas.
“They may not be famous, but they deserve to stay on the playing field and I want to make that happen for them. That’s the real sports medicine.”
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Induction Dinner, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com