By Bill Benner, Sports Journalist
It began in a hospital basement.
Certainly, what’s now known as Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics today enjoys a much more elevated view of the landscape.
Under the guiding influence of the acknowledged godfather of Central Indiana sports medicine, the late Dr. Thomas Brady, three young orthopedists – Drs. Art Rettig, John McCarroll and Don Shelbourne – combined to form Methodist Sports Medicine with a relatively concise and simple mission in mind.
They wanted to get injured athletes, especially young ones, “back on the field as quickly and safely as possible,” says McCarroll.
“Brady was the founder and we followed his principles,” says Rettig. “We did it when no one was thinking about it and it started when Doctor Brady opened the basement clinic downtown Indianapolis.
“We tried to emulate what he did.”
Which was to be healers. Helpers. And to some, heroes. Plays, games and experiences that might have been lost to their young athletes – and their families – were rescued and revived.
In the 40-odd years since those combined talents took on that vision, thousands of Hoosier youngsters – and yes, oldsters, too – have benefitted from that expertise.
“We just wanted to take care of people,” says McCarroll. “That’s all we wanted to do.”
Thus, as Forté Sports Medicine celebrates Founders Day, it’s important to hear from the Founders, especially McCarroll and Rettig, who guided the growth of the enterprise from inception to their recent retirements from active practice.
“We opened that walk-in clinic and before we knew it, we’d have 50 kids there on a Saturday morning,” McCarroll recalls. “Years later we did a survey and discovered we had treated athletes from every county in the state of Indiana.”
It wasn’t as if they simply hung a shingle outside the clinic in downtown Indianapolis. Rettig, McCarroll and Shelbourne worked the sidelines at high schools and colleges throughout the state. They networked with high school and college athletic trainers. Methodist/Forté also aligned with the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
It was more than a clinic. It was a partner.
“We’ve always given back to the community,” says McCarroll.
And their legacies live on, both in the gleaming new headquarters of Forté, but on a personal family basis. Rettig’s son, Lance, is on the Forté staff as a fellowship-trained hand and upper extremity surgeon. McCarroll’s son, Tyler, will join Forté after completing orthopedic sports medicine and hip preservation fellowships.
“We’re awfully proud of them,” says Rettig. “It’s a nice legacy.”
Their legacies include an array of honors. McCarroll was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the Merit Award from the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame. Rettig is a member of the Indiana Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and was recognized as the NFL’s Team Physician of the Year in 2003.
Both have had special experiences along the way. McCarroll recalls being behind the team benches in 1990 when a youngster of some note – his name is Damon Bailey – led Bedford North Lawrence to the state high school basketball championship before a crowd of 41,000 in the Hoosier Dome. And Rettig was on the rainy sidelines in Miami when the Indianapolis Colts and a quarterback of some note – his name is Peyton Manning – hoisted the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
Yet those high-profile moments were neither the goal nor what they envisioned when they opened that clinic and began walking those high school football sidelines.
“We tried to take care of patients with humility,” says Rettig. “We wanted to do the right thing for them – no shortcuts – whether they were a young high school athlete or the 50-year-old tennis player.”
“On those nights at high school football games, we never dreamed of building something like Forté,” says McCarroll. “It’s quite remarkable to see what it has become.”
And it all goes back – way, way back – to Dr. Thomas Brady.
“When we started Methodist Sports Medicine, it was in homage to Doctor Brady,” says McCarroll.
Adds Rettig, “He was such a great guy, funny with a keen sense of humor. But he also was very humble. He didn’t take credit for anything.”
It all started with that man and that basement … the literal and figurative foundations for what Forté has become.