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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 2, 2019

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The Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament: Team Building Through Competitive Sports

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The Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament (ANCST) represents one of the largest events in organized neurosurgery, involving over 600 neurosurgeons from 40 programs across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.3 While other events in organized neurosurgery may incorporate social events with academic activities, the ANCST is unique in that it is the only event organized primarily around participation in a team sport.  

ANCST Trophy

The ANCST Mission

In addition to education and philanthropy, the ANCST’s core mission includes physician wellness, camaraderie and team building. Leading up to the tournament each year, programs organize team practices and may even engage in local league play. Regular exercise in the form of team practices promotes physical, mental and emotional well-being, which are all important in preventing physician burnout.2,4 At the individual program level, working together as a team in a non-medical environment affords residents an opportunity to interact with their seniors and peers on more equal footing. Casual exchanges on the softball field may foster a more collaborative working environment and help breakdown some of the traditional hierarchy characteristic of surgical training programs.

Close Collaboration Promoted

From after-work practices to tournament day competition, the ANSCT offers a chance for students, residents, fellows and attendings to interface with their program directors, chairmen and mentors alike, separate from their professional ties of neurosurgery. It offers an opportunity to contribute to departmental team morale and individual resiliency. It provides a setting outside the demanding confines of the hospital for neurosurgeons at different levels of career development and from diverse locations to develop friendships that go beyond the operating room doors.

2019 Columbia Team

As anyone who played competitive sports growing up can attest, sports teaches valuable life lessons, such as dedication, hard work, resilience, competitive instincts and failure. The parallels between high-level competitive sports and surgical training are abundant – the hours of training needed to perfect and hone one’s skill set, the continued drive for self improvement. Looking at residency applicants to a surgical subspecialty, one study found that former collegiate athletes possess more grit, consistency of interest, perseverance and self-control.1 While the ANCST is not played at the highest level of competition, the skills needed to be successful on the playing field are nonetheless skills that can be honed throughout life, and prove invaluable during neurosurgical training and beyond.

By providing a forum for friendly competition with a focus on athletics, the ANCST taps into a skillset many neurosurgeons already possess, but one that perhaps they do not often have the opportunity to kindle. Friendly competition encourages everyone to be better, raising the overall level of play – or in the case of neurosurgery, of surgical innovation. The ANCST is a demonstration of the teamwork, camaraderie, friendship and dedication that exists in the neurosurgery profession, highlighting how the strength of the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

References

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1. Camp, C. L., Wang, D., Turner, N. S., Grawe, B. M., Kogan, M., & Kelly, A. M. (2019). Objective Predictors of Grit, Self-Control, and Conscientiousness in Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Applicants. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 27(5).

2. Fargen, K. M., Spiotta, A. M., Turner, R. D., & Patel, S. (2016). The Importance of Exercise in the Well-Rounded Physician: Dialogue for the Inclusion of a Physical Fitness Program in Neurosurgery Resident Training. World Neurosurgery, 90, 380–384.

3. Komotar, R. J., Goldstein, H. E., & Bruce, J. N. (2018). The Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament: 15th Anniversary Commemorative Article. The creation, development, and establishment of a neurosurgical tradition. Journal of Neurosurgery, 128(6), 1605–1611.

4. Levi, A. D., Starke, R. M., Komotar, R. J., & Harbaugh, R. E. (2018). Letter to the Editor. Activity versus injury: further defining the risk/benefit ratio in the Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament. Journal of Neurosurgery, 130(1), 333–334.

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