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The Doctor of Sports

As the Rutgers team physician, Robert Monaco oversees the latest in sports medicine in order to keep athletes playing their best. 

Rutgers team physician, Robert Monaco
Robert Monaco is a clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Photography by Nick Romanenko

Spend a few minutes with Robert Monaco, the director of sports medicine at Rutgers–New Brunswick since 1996, and it quickly becomes apparent that the science of sports medicine has accelerated light-years beyond the mere application of ice packs to busted knees. Monaco NJMS’92 oversees a staff comprising 11 athletic trainers and a medley of medical specialists in fields such as nutrition, psychology, and strength and conditioning. Together, they help roughly 650 student-athletes, participating in 24 varsity sports, prepare for competition, maintain peak physical health, and, when necessary, rehabilitate following an injury.

“We look at the whole package on things, whether it’s eating disorders, psychiatric problems, or strength considerations,” says Monaco, who is also a clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The university makes a big investment in student-athletes, so we really want to try and give them the best opportunity to reach their potential.”

Monaco supervises research projects undertaken by Rutgers-affiliated doctors, such as recent studies on alcohol abuse and concussions, and teaches courses nationwide about the use of ultrasound to diagnose and treat injuries. Each year, he also helps direct Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Sports Medicine Fellowship program. After graduating from Columbia University and, later, New Jersey Medical School, Monaco became one of the first physicians to complete the fellowship.

“A big part of this is really trying to stay up with the science,” says Monaco, who comes from a family of physical educators, coaches, and wrestlers, “and to look at all the areas of medicine to maximize what we can do for the student-athlete.”
                                                                                                                                                — Christopher Hann