Keeping Athletes Safe
Dr. Timothy Van Gelder is a family practitioner with the Mayo Clinic in Owatonna who spends his Friday nights practicing his passion for medicine in a place one might not expect: a football field.
For six years now, Van Gelder has patrolled Medford’s sidelines offering his services to injured Tigers football players by giving them treatments and advice on who to recover faster and get back in the game quicker.
“Medicine was really the field that I could meld that service to humanity and my love of science into one. So that was what really drew me in,” said Van Gelder.
Van Gelder, a native of Orange City, Iowa, grew up on a farm with his parents who took in infants as foster parents.
“That really instilled the service to your fellow human aspect in me pretty quickly. And I know that sounds cliché because you know, that’s the classic, ‘Why’d you go into medicine? Because I wanted to help people.’ But that was really a big part of it.”
As a doctor, Van Gelder has a vast range of experience.
At the clinic, his main practice is family medicine and pre-natal care, often assisting with childbirth.
On the field, Van Gelder is tasked with evaluating athletic injuries, ranging from concussion testing to orthopedic injuries, such as bone breaks.
Van Gelder recalled a time where he treated an athlete who came off of the field with a cut on his face that was visibly bleeding.
According to the MSHSL officials’ rulebook, an athlete who has an open wound that is actively bleeding must be removed from competition until the bleeding is stopped.
Upon evaluating the cut, Van Gelder said he determined that he could stitch it closed, did so and deemed the athlete fit for competition. Thew athlete was back on the field in time for the second half.
A major driving force in Van Gelder’s love of medicine on the sidelines isn’t only a love for helping the individual, but also his love for the community.
Van Gelder and his wife, Andrea, who teach music, moved to Owatonna in 2010 and he said they immediately fell in love with the arts scene in the city.
Being involved in musical theater offered them both a place to be involved in the community, beyond their professions.
Owatonna is also where Van Gelder met Dr. Brian Bunkers, whom he credited as his mentor for getting into sports medicine in the local high school sports programs.
Being actively involved with students at the high school and in his practice alike, Van Gelder said he’s also seen medical students begin to take an interest in sports medicine.
“I’ve had residents and students from Rochester at Mayo who have rotated with me for their rotations, and I tell them, ‘Hey, I cover the sidelines on Friday,’ and I’ve actually had some of them come along with me just to see what it’s like to cover the sidelines and see what happens and what you have to deal with.”