Wexford doctor will be Team USA physician at Rugby World Cup in Japan
Dr. Sam Akhavan won’t be competing, but he will experience all the excitement from the field during Team USA’s play in the men’s 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Allegheny Health Network orthopedic physician will be keeping a close eye on the USA players, watching for concussions and knee and shoulder injuries.
As team physician, Akhavan, of Wexford, will get his exercise in running up and down the sidelines to keep up with the action while fans go wild in packed stadiums.
“It is essentially 80 minutes of nonstop adrenaline rush,” he said. “Your head’s constantly on a swivel.”
World Cup action starts Friday in Tokyo. Team USA’s first match is set for Sept. 26 against England. Twenty national teams will compete for the Webb Ellis Cup in tournament-style play. New Zealand is the returning champion from the 2015 World Cup in England.
Teams of 15 players each will compete in the World Cup for two 40-minute halves during which the clock runs continuously. Players score points by carrying, passing or kicking an oval-shaped ball into an end zone.
They don’t wear helmets or pads.
It won’t be Akhavan’s first time on a world stage — he helped Team USA players, nicknamed the Eagles, with injuries four years ago at the World Cup.
“The main thing I do is provide emergency services on the sideline,” said Akhavan, director of both the orthopedic research and sports medicine fellowship programs with the hospital network.
He got hooked into the men’s national team after several years of working with Pittsburgh area rugby teams. He makes a couple trips annually to work with the national team during tournaments while also serving as medical director and team physician with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Akhavan served as head match physician — meaning he provided care for all teams — at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco in 2018. That style of rugby is when teams consisting of seven members play seven-minute halves.
Akhavan plans to be in Japan for at least two weeks. His time there will be dependent upon how Team USA fares in the first round of play.
Matches are being carried by NBC Sports.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .