Michael Patterson, MD has always had a passion for sports. He played four sports in high school but fell in love with football. After being off the field for years now, Patterson can still be seen on the sidelines of Friday night high school football games, but not in a jersey.
It all started for Patterson in 1985 when Coach Bobby Bowden recruited him to play football at Florida State University in Tallahassee as a cornerback. "We lived in Homestead, Florida so it was a little bit away, but I loved it when I went there. It's worked out great for me in the long run," Patterson said. "My biggest claim to fame is that I watched Deion Sanders play up close. We were freshmen together and played the same position, cornerback. He obviously had a lot more football prowess than I did, so I figured I needed to do something else to make a living."
After deciding to pursue medicine, Patterson thought orthopedic surgery would fit well with his love of sports. Though he didn't have any major injuries during his time playing for Florida State, Patterson did spend time with the team physician and thought that was something he would like to do. "It's been special for me, as an adult, to have a career involved in something I have a passion for."
Once completing medical school at the University of Florida, followed by an Orthopedic Residency in Orlando and a Sports Medicine Fellowship in Birmingham at the American Sports Institute, Patterson took several jobs out of state before settling in Alabama.
"I wanted to come back to Birmingham because I enjoyed my fellowship experience here so much. I think it's been a great, great experience for me," Patterson said. "We got exposed to high school, college and professional athletes and just being around that environment was fun. To come back and be able to be involved with sports medicine, both at the high school and college level here has been very satisfying."
Patterson now focuses on high school and college-level football athletes such as the University of Montevallo, Lawson State and three-time defending state 7A champion, Thompson High School. He and his team offer Wednesday afternoon clinics where Thompson High School football players can receive medical care such as x-rays, suturing and casting. After Friday night games, injured players can get evaluated at the after-hours clinic. This eliminates the need to wait until clinics re-open on Monday to receive information about the player's abilities to play the following week.
"My job is to try to return people to play in a safe manner, as soon as we can," Patterson said. "So if someone hurts their knee in a game, and you can examine that person and tell them they have a ligament injury and it's not safe to return. Then you're going to help that person by getting them taken care of and not letting them cause any further damage to their knee.
"For me as a former player, being involved with a team and just feeling like you're there as part of the team is always a great experience," Patterson said. "So when you show up at a game, and the coaches appreciate you being there, the players know you and respect you and you'll see players come back to games that come up and shake your hand or hug you, it's like being a part of that family. And I think when, as a physician to have that feeling and to be part of that, that's your goal, whatever level it is."
According to Patterson, most well-populated schools such as those in Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville have access to physicians on the sidelines of their high school football games while rural areas may not even have trainers. Patterson is actively trying to find a way to provide these rural towns in Alabama with access to great orthopedic care.