Sports Science and Safety

Our Lax Family Doctor

By Paul Ohanian
Dr. Margot Putukian, a leading expert on concussions, keeps lacrosse close to her heart in pursuit of player safety.

When it comes furthering the cause of health and safety among athletes, there’s not much that Dr. Margot Putukian won’t do.

Whether she is spending 70 hours per week overseeing the welfare of Princeton University’s student-athletes in her role as director of athletic medicine services, or presenting at the 4th Annual Concussion Consensus Conference in Zurich as an invited speaker, as she did in November, or serving as chairperson of the US Lacrosse Sports Science & Safety Committee, it’s all a labor of love.

Putukian, who played soccer and lacrosse at Yale before attending medical school at Boston University, jokes that her interest in sports medicine likely traces to her undergraduate days in New Haven.

"I probably became interested in medicine due to spending so much time in the training room," said Putukian, who is board certified in both internal medicine and sports medicine and is a past president of the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine (AMSSM).

In actuality, she is doing exactly what she has always wanted to do.

"From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to be involved in college sports," she said. "Being a team physician, working with athletic trainers and caring for student-athletes, is the right fit for me."

She finds that helping to guide athletes and their families through difficult decisions can be a challenging but rewarding process.

"Sports are just one aspect of their lives," Putukian said. "Telling them that ‘I can’t allow you to participate’ is not easy, but having that interaction with an athlete and family during a difficult time also makes my job very rewarding. It was helpful for me to have been a college athlete and have a sense of how important that identity is to an athlete."

Despite the heavy demands and responsibilities that come with her job at Princeton, Putukian always seems to find time for external causes.

She initially began attending meetings of USL’s Sports Science & Safety Committee over 10 years ago while serving as the liaison for the NCAA’s Competitive Safeguards Committee. Shortly after rotating off that NCAA committee in 2004, she accepted an invitation to formally join USL’s committee. In 2009, she agreed to succeed Dr. Vito Perriello as committee chair.

"I’ve always been very impressed with this group and US Lacrosse’s genuine interest and passion in safety causes," said Putukian, who is serving as co-chair of US Lacrosse’s 2013 Sports Medicine Symposium, to be held in conjunction with the USL National Convention in Philadelphia in January.

In addition to her duties with US Lacrosse and her role as team physician for the U.S. Men’s National Lacrosse Team, she also serves as president of the AMSSM Foundation, remains a consultant to the NCAA, is team physician for U.S. Soccer, and a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck & Spine Committee.

All the while, she has developed into one of the leading voices nationally on concussions and mild traumatic brain injury. That expertise is a major asset to US Lacrosse as the issue of women’s headgear continues to evolve.

"Margot is an incredibly knowledgeable and passionate advocate for lacrosse safety," said Ann Carpenetti, managing director for game administration at US Lacrosse. "We are fortunate to be able to draw on her outstanding medical credentials and experience for the betterment of the game, while at the same time benefitting from her uncompromising commitment in leading our Sports Science and Safety Committee."

This profile of USL Sports Science & Safety Committee chair Dr. Margot Putukian appeared in Lacrosse Magazine as part of "The 400K Club" series in January 2013.