Culture / Sporting Life

Beloved Houston Doctor Wins NFL Physician of the Year Honors — How James Muntz Heals the Stars

Connecting With Patients One Corny Joke at a Time

BY // 03.07.22

Along with his Houston Astros’ World Series ring and his two Houston Rockets’ NBA Championship rings, internist Dr. James E.  Muntz now adds an NFL trophy to his cache of honors. After working with the Houston Texans for more than two decades, Muntz has been named the Outstanding NFL Physician of the Year. He’s being recognized as the doctor “who has made the greatest contributions both to the league and to the athletic training profession.”

Muntz received the Jerry “Hawk” Rhea Award during the NFL Physicians Society’s annual scientific meeting and symposium at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The award is presented annually by the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.

The gilded football trophy just might find its way to Muntz’s office in the Texas Medical Center where photos and mementos from pro athletes line the walls. Including a J.J. Watt Houston Texans jersey autographed: “Muntz, your jokes are not funny. Love ya buddy.”

Those who know him know that Muntz is the king of corny jokes and that he occasionally scores big with belly laugh humor. He calls my husband the “crooked architect” and credits him with designing the Leaning Tower of Pisa and adds that he couldn’t have designed the Memorial Park tunnels because they are far too straight. My husband counters that his client in Pisa was himself crooked.

Muntz has been team physician with the Texans for 22 years and was with the Oilers for 10 years before that. His medical career in the sports arena includes 30 years with the Rockets and 20 years with the Astros. Not surprising, his iPhone is filled with photos with Hakeem Olajuwon, Jose Cruz, Dikembe Mutombo, Justin Verlander, Vernon Maxwell and more.

The video tribute put together for the award presentation includes testimonials from J.J. Watt, Wade Phillips, Warren Moon, Rick Smith, Matt Schaub, Doug Dawson and Gary Kubiak. Each of whom remarked that beyond the best medical care Muntz shared his personal friendship.

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“Not a day goes by that I don’t awaken and love coming to work with the sports teams and their special issues and elite talents,” Muntz tells PaperCity. “And on those same days I love and adore all my regular, adorable friends and patients that are part of my life too.”

The trophy presented to Dr. Jim Muntz as the best NFL team physician of the year. (Courtesy photo)
The trophy presented to Dr. Jim Muntz as the best NFL team physician of the year. (Courtesy photo)

Muntz as a physician and as a friend is beloved on and off the field. A testimonial to his commitment to his patients comes from former Houston Texan and current Tennessee Titans guard David Quessenberry, whose non-Hodgkin’s T-cell lymphoma was first detected by Muntz.

“He came to my room, my hospital room when we started getting going on the chemo,” Quessenberry says in the video. “He came every day, multiple times a day for the next two or three weeks, as long as I was in the hospital. And he was with me every step of the way through the next three years following the duration of my fight. . . He’s been my physician of the year for a long time now.”

In another tribute to Muntz, Texans director of sports performance planning and medical administration Geoff Kaplan notes: “What separates Jim from other people is his ability to connect with his patients and make them feel as though they are his only patient. Jim has always been a mainstay in the athletic training room and over the last 30-plus years has been a tremendous friend and supporter for the Houston Texans Athletic Training staff and all athletic trainers across the country.”

Muntz tops off an email to PaperCity with: “I have the best of the best. And the most incredible office staff not to mention my sweet wife (Anne), daughter and grandsons that are over the top as shining stars in my life. I am one lucky man.”

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