It was important that the doctor across from him had a whole lot of “been there, done that” in his background.
Columbus North senior tailback Josh Holt had torn a knee ligament during a scrimmage, and he figured he wouldn’t be able to play in the Bull Dogs’ season opener last Friday at Plainfield.
The real worry, though, was the Columbus East game (7 p.m. Friday at Columbus North High School).
At that point in time, the rivalry game against East meant everything to Holt. He was willing to risk the rest of his senior year to get on the field against the Olympians.
“That was my mindset at first,” Holt said.
Then he talked to Dr. Cary Guse of Southern Indiana Orthopedics. Guse serves as the team doctor for both Columbus North and Columbus East high schools.
Holt knew if anyone could safely clear him to play against the Olympians, it would be Guse.
“Two years ago in our last game of the season, I had a concussion,” Holt said. “Dr. Guse got me back to training as quickly as possible. He doesn’t keep you out longer than you need to be.”
Guse was a baseball and basketball player at Franklin College (1994 graduate). He knows that athletes want to get back to the field or court as soon as it is safe to do so.
“It’s a big part of it,” Holt said of Guse being a former athlete and understanding the mindset. “He understands that we are playing a physical, contact sport. We are lucky to have a doctor as good as him.”
Unfortunately for Holt, the news wasn’t so good. Guse told him that his participation against East was in doubt. He remains questionable, and North coach Tim Bless will make a game-time decision whether he will play.
“It’s devastating,” Holt said of the news that he might not play on Friday. “I’ve gone my whole high school career without missing a game until last week. But I have to trust the healing process.”
Besides being able to talk with Holt about that process, Guse also could tell him that he has a lot to look forward to this season. North looks to be much improved and could vie for a Conference Indiana title and the Bull Dogs might make a long run in the playoffs.
“I have been through it,” said Guse, who received his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine. “The biggest thing for athletes is the fear of not being able to play. They want an answer quickly. The quicker we can put their mind at ease the better.”
Guse tried to put Holt’s mind at ease that he had a lot to look forward to this season. Holt listened.
Columbus North and Columbus East athletes have been listening to Guse for years. He took over as East team doctor in 2004. He has missed only “one or two” East football games in the 10 years since. Six years ago, he became North’s team doctor as well.
On Friday during the rivalry game, Guse said, “I’ll wear white. I will wear no logo whatsoever. And my job is to not be noticed anyway. I work behind the scenes.”
Neither program considers him a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.
“He is a tremendous asset to both schools,” Columbus East football coach Bob Gaddis said. “He spends countless hours at both schools, almost like a coach would do. That’s all time that he is away from his family.
“And he was in the pros (he did his fellowship with Tria Orthopaedic of Minneapolis and served on the medical staffs of the Minnesota Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Twins), so he’s got good knowledge.”
North coach Tim Bless concurs. “We play a rugged game, so having a great orthopedist on the sideline is a plus for us,” Bless said. “He is a tremendous asset to our students’ safety.
“And I can give him a call or text him at any time. He goes out of his way for us.”
Guse, who grew up in Wanatah, supervises the training staffs at both schools, and his passion has earned him respect from the trainers.
“Whenever we need something, he always is a phone call away,” said North trainer Robyn Coffer, who has been at the school four years. “He always is available.
“And he works with us and is easy to talk to. He gives us space, but our line of communication is open. Being a former athlete, he knows what this is like.”
Knowing what it is like convinced Guse to open a Saturday morning sports clinic to see injured athletes.
“You can get these athletes in the next day (after an injury), and that is huge for me,” Coffer said. “He is giving up his time.”
Trainer Rebecca White has enjoyed working with Guse since she started at East a year ago. “He has an amazing background,” she said. “He works great with the kids, and he can relate to them because he was an athlete.
“And that Saturday morning clinic for kids is really important.”
Guse said the Saturday morning clinic was a no-brainer.
“The sooner we can get them in the door, the faster they can get back on the field,” he said. “Their therapy starts the morning they are seen.”
Although those Saturday mornings take time from his family — he and wife, Kristi, have children, Jacob (10) and Jenna (8) — he enjoys helping the young athletes.
“Those Saturday mornings are medicine at its truest, finest form,” he said. “It reminds me of the time with the Vikings in 2003 when I would spend 45 minutes with each patient.”
He typically sees about six athletes on a Saturday morning although one East-North game sent him a record 19 injured athletes.
“We’ve only had a couple of no-hitters,” he said.
Although the clinic is open from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, Guse often stays longer.
“Any high school athletes who have an injury, we will find a way to see them,” he said.
Then it becomes a matter of steering the athletes back toward the field.
“We have to know if it’s a pain issue?” he said. “Playing injured is a different animal. You need to have interaction with the parents and find out what are their goals.
“This town is over the top in terms of returning as quickly as possible. The parents here want their kids back quickly. So my philosophy is to educate, to teach, not dictate. I don’t believe in hiding anything. ‘This is going to hurt all year; can you live with that?’”
Since he gets to know most of the athletes at both schools, it can be tough when he sees those kids going through the pain of a traumatic injury. But he feels the accomplishment when he can help them return safely to competition.
He also admits that he enjoys the feeling of walking the sideline of a big game, such as Friday’s rivalry match between the North and East football teams.
“I love it because I am an old athlete,” he said. “Both schools let me feel like I’m part of the team.”