In the fall of 2018, UC San Diego cognitive science major Christian Oshita was headed into what should have been his last and best collegiate season as a forward on the UC San Diego men’s basketball team— though it might have been difficult to top his previous two seasons, both finishing with championship banners.
But Oshita was feeling confident.
That is, until an awkward rebound during a pre-season practice resulted in a partially dislocated shoulder and torn labrum, the fibrous piece of cartilage that helps keep the ball of the shoulder joint in its socket.
Oshita, originally from Torrance, Calif., tried rehab. He tried playing through the discomfort, completing the first four games of the season. In one of them, he scored a career-high 35 points. But he was in pain, and, eventually, he had to make a tough decision: try to make it through the season at less-than-peak condition or take the season off and come back for a fifth year.
Oshita had long discussions with his coach, athletic trainers and UC San Diego Health orthopedic surgeon Bryan T. Leek, M.D. Leek specializes in sports and upper extremity injuries. He serves as associate team physician for the San Diego Padres and San Diego Seals lacrosse team. By the time Oshita learned what the surgery would entail and felt like he fully understood all of his options, he said he was “all in” for surgery and a brand new season.
Leek performed the procedure, known as an arthroscopic Bankart repair, in December 2018. He compares the injury to a hammock where one side has fallen off the tree. In this procedure, he said he essentially reattached that side of the “hammock” and tightened it back up.
“The average person might not need surgery for a labral tear in the shoulder, but most high-level athletes like Christian do because they demand so much of themselves, and they need to be able to perform without thinking about it,” Leek said. “Christian was a pleasure to work with because he was so invested in his own recovery and took his rehabilitation very seriously. He was truly interested in the healing process, not just in getting back to basketball.”
Oshita spent the first few weeks post-surgery with his arm in a sling. Then, working with the rehabilitation specialists in the athletic department, he started doing range-of-motion exercises, gradually adding strength exercises as well. Twice a month, Oshita checked in with Leek to gauge the return of his shoulder strength.
Now, just as UC San Diego Athletics prepares to transition from National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II to a higher level of competition in Division I, Oshita says he’s back at 100 percent.
When he returns, Oshita and all 23 of the university’s NCAA intercollegiate sports teams will be playing with another team behind them: UC San Diego Health, now the Official Health Care Provider of UC San Diego Athletics.
Through this partnership, Triton athletes will have access to world-class sports medicine and orthopedics care, including emerging surgical and regenerative techniques, advanced diagnostics and comprehensive rehabilitation for peak performance. UC San Diego Athletics and its scholar-athletes will also benefit from UC San Diego Health’s expertise in primary and preventive care, nutrition education, massage therapy and other programs to promote fitness, mental health and healthy living.
In summer 2020, UC San Diego Athletics will begin a four-year transition into full NCAA Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference, which also includes UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Davis and UC Riverside. Two Triton teams joined the conference early—men’s volleyball in 2017 and women’s water polo in 2019. UC San Diego Athletics is home to 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and 1,400 All-American honors.
“Advancement to NCAA Division I was a reflection of UC San Diego’s culture of collaboration, excellence and innovation,” said Earl W. Edwards, director of athletics at UC San Diego. “And now that continues as we partner with UC San Diego Health’s talented physicians, nurses, surgeons, researchers and staff. Together, we are optimally positioned for success.”
Triton scholar-athlete health care will be led by six team physicians—Leek and his UC San Diego Health colleagues Catherine M. Robertson, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and chief of sports medicine, and primary care and sports medicine physicians Amy Leu, D.O., Sarah Merrill, M.D., Alan Shahtaji, D.O. and Kenneth S. Taylor, M.D.
“We are proud to partner with Athletics and care for our own Triton athletes, and we’re excited to work together to explore innovative approaches to enhance athletic performance and recovery,” said Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health. “Our goal is to provide outstanding, compassionate, seamless care for our scholar-athletes, so they can be their best in the classroom, on the field, in the pool, or wherever they compete. Go, Tritons!”
As for Oshita, he has just one goal for this season: “Win as many games as possible.”
You can see Oshita on court Tuesday, November 19 at 7 p.m. PT at RIMAC Arena or streamed live on ESPN3, as the UC San Diego Men’s Basketball team takes on Point Loma Nazarene University. For the full 2019-20 Triton Sports schedule, visit ucsdtritons.com.