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Top Doctors in Nashville: Burton Elrod, MD

Team physician for the Tennesee Titans, serving as a team physician, Dr. Elrod is also the founder of Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.

Written By:  Nashville Lifestyles & Melissa Carro

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

Top Doctors

As seen in Top Doctors in Nashville, July 2014

You might say Dr. Burton Elrod became interested in medicine from his stint as a chauffeur. A 10-year-old chauffeur, that is. Elrod’s father was a general surgeon who traveled from small town to small town. Because he needed the rest between patients, he entrusted young Burton with driving him late at night.

“I got to miss school the next day since I’d been up all night,” says Elrod. “There were plenty of rules about my driving, but it was the only way for my dad to get sleep, so I stacked blankets in the driver’s seat so I could see over the wheel and away we’d go.”

Although he had a lot of respect for his dad’s profession, football was Elrod’s passion. After an injury sidelined that career objective in prep school, he got a job coaching the team at Lipscomb Academy. But medicine found its way back into his life through a traumatic event. “One of my football players was injured and temporarily paralyzed,” he says. “I was torn up about it. I knew I couldn’t handle watching injuries like that. I knew I wanted to be able to do something about them.” So Elrod went to medical school at the University of Tennessee and, after residency, to a fellowship in Los Angeles.

“There was not a professional team in Tennessee [at the time], so I headed to L.A. and worked with the Dodgers and others,” says Elrod. “Then the Titans came to Tennessee, and it was the perfect opportunity to combine my love of football with my medical training.

Elrod is in his 18th year with the Titans, serving as a team physician. He is also founder of Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center. Although many would find stress inherent with such a busy schedule, Elrod’s comes from elsewhere. “What I find most stressful is not being able to help everyone as much as possible,” he explains. “There are some conditions that just can’t be fixed or remedied—conditions like arthritis.”

For Elrod, managing that stress does not include calming walks in the woods. Instead, he combats stress with activities that give him an adrenaline rush—think diving with great white sharks, hunting alligators, racing cars, and shooting wild hogs out of helicopters. “You could say I’m an adrenaline junkie,” he says. “It’s how I relax—as odd as that sounds.”

You have to wonder if it was that same adrenaline behind the wheel that got Elrod’s father to his patients on time.

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