University at Buffalo wrestler Corey Hollister thought nothing of getting hit in the head during a wrestling practice last spring.
“I went in for a shot and was hit by my partner’s knee,” said Hollister about the late-season injury. But minutes later, Hollister was hit a second time. Hollister had sustained a concussion, and suffered all the classic symptoms: dizziness, nausea, severe and constant headaches, sensitivity to lights and sounds.
Hollister was sent to John Leddy, MD, physician at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. After thorough testing, Dr. Leddy diagnosed a nervous system disorder in addition to the concussion and prescribed a months-long regimen of daily training to help Hollister fully recover.
Countless patients like Hollister have benefited from treatment by UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine physicians, especially since 2011, when the late Ralph C. Wilson Jr., founder and Hall of Fame owner of the Buffalo Bills, and his wife, Mary Wilson, gave $1 million to the UB Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.
And now, Mary Wilson and her fellow trustees of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation have again chosen to support UB sports medicine, this time with a $4.2 million gift to establish the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Center of Excellence in Sports Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Hollister, who has since been approved to compete in his senior season of wrestling at UB, is grateful to have been a patient of Leddy and the UBMD Ortho team.
“By seeing the UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine doctors, especially Dr. Leddy, I was able to see that I would get better and I would be able to wrestle again,” he said. “Dr. Leddy has an expertise in head and brain injuries that general sports medicine doctors don’t have. He definitely helped a lot. The UBMD Ortho folks monitored me every step of the way and helped me recover.”
According to Wilson, her husband Ralph often said the team doctors were the most important players on the sideline. “This grant is yet another testament to the incredible, groundbreaking teaching and research work taking place right here in Western New York that has an impact on athletes across the country,” she said.
UB Bulls Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach Ashley Zuber has firsthand knowledge of that impact, having bilateral hip surgery during her playing days at UB. After progressive injuries forced her to the sidelines, UB team doctor, Dr. Robert Smolinski, referred Zuber to Dr. Brian McGrath, a fellow UBMD Ortho physician, specializing in hip arthroscopy and reconstruction.
“I was lucky to have such high-level of care right here at UB,” Zuber said. “With the treatment and after-care from UBMD Ortho staff, I was able to return and play better than before I was injured. Now I don’t have any problems or pain. The UBMD Ortho doctors made that possible.”
According to Dr. McGrath, preseason conditioning is the best thing an athlete can do to avoid injuries during the season. “For weekend warriors, year-round conditioning is encouraged,” he explained. “UBMD Ortho supplies athletic trainers to almost 40 high schools, and our physicians are on the sidelines for the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bandits and UB Bulls, to name a few. Athletic trainers are a great resource for athletes and they’re the most suited to be on the sidelines during sporting events.”
The Wilson Foundation gift will allow UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine to continue addressing a wide range of health concerns, for all their patients, aging from seniors to professional athletes to weekend warriors and student-athletes like Hollister and Zuber.
UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine physician, John Marzo, MD, worked nearly two decades as the Buffalo Bills’ medical director, and talked about the importance of the gift to the department.
“We feel extremely lucky to be the recipient of one of the legacy grants through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation,” Marzo said. “The grant will allow us to continue our programs in perpetuity.”
The new gift will continue to support several initiatives that were begun as a result of the Wilsons’ first gift in 2011:
The Ralph and Mary Wilson Visiting Professor Lecture Series, which Marzo said “has allowed us an enlightened intellectual interchange between some of the world’s experts in sports medicine” and brought greater exposure of UB’s program worldwide.
The arthroscopy teaching lab, where the physicians teach surgical skills to UB residents and fellows in a controlled environment, using a virtual reality arthroscopy simulator, one of only seven or eight in existence. This allows the students to learn with “no time constraints and much less pressure,” Marzo said, adding, “Across the board, my partners and I have seen that their skill level has risen from what we used to see, when we had to teach them in bits and pieces in a real operating room.”
Groundbreaking research in traumatic brain injury. Leddy and his researchers are internationally renowned for a program that can determine when or whether it would be safe for athletes to return to play, Marzo said, noting that “this has helped them garner an NIH level grant. So we’re finding that the seed money, if you will, from the Wilsons has helped us leverage other grants and industrial financial support for continued research.”
Bringing the best doctors to Western New York. “The exposure from the Wilson visiting professorship and other initiatives funded through the Wilson gift has allowed us to attract more highly trained and better qualified trainees, who end up staying in Western New York after their UB teaching experience. So, slowly, we’re populating this area with what we think are better and more highly trained clinician scientists,” Marzo said.
“It will be an honor to carry on the Wilson name through the endowment,” Marzo said. “Thanks to the Wilson Foundation, we’ll continue our programs and I know (Ralph Wilson) would be very proud of it. Mr. Wilson’s loyalty to his staff, to the people of Western New York and particularly to his players was legendary. This will be a way for us to carry on the Wilson name.”
About the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is a newly funded private foundation headquartered in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. The foundation was established in 2011 by Ralph C. Wilson Jr. to eventually become the vehicle to receive a substantial amount of his estate’s proceeds, which are to be used exclusively for charitable purposes. Wilson passed away March 25, 2014, after which the trustees liquidated the majority of his estate’s assets and funded the foundation with $1.2 billion in early 2015. It measures in the top five of Michigan-based private foundations and has a 20-year lifespan. The same four individuals who served as trustees for Wilson’s estate are designated as life trustees of the foundation. Three trustees will be added in the near future.