MUSC's chief physician executive adds new role as chief medical officer for World Lacrosse

June 19, 2023
Man in a suit holds a lacrosse helmet as he leans against a desk. There are plaques behind him.
Dr. Eugene Hong holds a lacrosse helmet in his office at MUSC. Photo by Sarah Pack

Eugene Hong, M.D., chief physician executive for the Medical University of South Carolina Physicians and MUSC Health, has scored a prestigious new title: chief medical officer for World Lacrosse. It’s a volunteer position, so he’ll retain his role at MUSC.

Hong will be put to the test quickly in his new capacity. The World Lacrosse Men’s Championship begins June 21 in San Diego. “I’ll be advising World Lacrosse on all things related to health, wellness and safety of participants in the community, including policies. For example, what's our concussion policy? How are head injuries handled? How are catastrophic events handled so that there's one uniform standard for the organization? And we organize and are responsible for the medical coverage for all World Lacrosse championship events” he said.

“There are 83 nations involved in World Lacrosse now. We'll have teams from Nigeria, Japan, all over the world next week. Which is very cool, right? Just as a sports medicine doctor, it's wonderful to be involved in giving back to something you love.”

It's a role Hong is well-positioned for. “I have been volunteering for USA Lacrosse for 15 years. I have served as the USA national team physician for two different teams: the women's team in 2011, and then the men's team in 2016,” he said. He has over 25 years’ experience as a sports medicine physician and has served for over two decades as a NCAA team physician; in his clinical practice, he has taken care of high school, college, professional and elite athletes at every level of sport. 

“Both years I served as the USA national team physician, the national lacrosse teams won the world championship, winning the gold. The closest I'll ever get to a world gold medal is having earned one through my national team affiliation.

Headshot of Dr. Hong. 
Dr. Eugene Hong

Hong has also been involved with the Committee of Sports Science and Safety Committee for USA Lacrosse for 10 years, serving as chair for the last four. The committee advises the national governing body for the sport on all things health, wellness, safety and performance related.

Now, he hopes to help lacrosse become an Olympic sport. “The community's very excited because it's actually a many-years process to get into the Olympics, and the International Olympic committees vote in September if they're going to allow it. All signs are that we'll get in as an Olympic sport in 2028.”

Hong grew up playing lacrosse and soccer. He still loves being around sports and helping athletes and active people of all ages and abilities. He’s proud of what MUSC Health’s sports medicine experts have been able to accomplish – including, now, seeing their program represented at the international level.

But Hong said their regional work is important, too. “Our MUSC sports medicine docs are the team doctors at the Citadel and at the College of Charleston. This is the first time ever in the history of the three institutions – MUSC, CofC and The Citadel – that we’ve partnered in this way, taking care of all their student athletes. I've also been the chief medical officer for Clemson for the last three years. The MUSC sports medicine team also are the team doctors for the Battery and the RiverDogs and the Stingrays. I can’t be more proud of the MUSC sports medicine team” he said, referring to Charleston’s soccer, baseball and hockey teams.”

Every sport has a risk for injuries. Hong is well aware of the issues specific to lacrosse that he’ll face as World Lacrosse’s chief medical officer. 

“It's a lot of lower extremity injuries: knees, ankles. And then concussions are also a concern for men and women. Rolling ankle injuries, knee injuries, ACLs, MCLs. So it's lower extremity injuries. And then essentially head injuries that we worry about because men's lacrosse has contact within certain parameters. Meaning you have to be near the ball or carrying the ball. We're modifying rules to try and be better and to lower injury rates to make it safer.”

Hong said commotio cordis, the condition NFL player Damar Hamlin said stopped his heart, is also a concern for lacrosse players. “Published reports involved college lacrosse players who have been hit by the ball – it’s a hard rubber ball and can hit the chest at the wrong time. And we've had sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death in college lacrosse.”

Through his role with the U.S. team, he’s been involved in trying to protect players. “As the national governing body support, we've tried to stay ahead, and we’ve actually funded research in this area and have engaged some of the leading experts.”

Hong has also written a book about mental health for athletes, a subject that has become more commonly discussed, thanks to the openness of superstars such as Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and Naomi Osaka. It covers mood disorders, substance abuse, risky behavior, doping, social media and exercise addiction, among other things.

But Hong said sports, including lacrosse, bring many benefits as well to players and fans. “Lacrosse combines some of the aspects of soccer, basketball and ice hockey and maybe a little bit of football. The other piece is that it’s actually really fun to watch. Typically high scoring, typically fast moving.”

And as he prepared to head to San Diego for the world championships, Hong hoped to elevate the profile of MUSC Health’s sports medicine expertise and, of course, World Lacrosse. “It's just a super fun sport, which probably explains why it's so popular and is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and the world.”

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