Champions at Last
After three hard losses in the championship game, BC women’s lacrosse won the national title.
These two former BC roommates are orthopedic physicians for competing NFL teams.
If you watch pro football, you’ll know this moment: two players collide with a crack so loud you can hear it on TV. A time-out is called, and doctors and coaches rush from the sideline to the fallen player’s side. It’s just as the camera cuts to commercials that Chris Annunziata ’90 and Matthew Pepe ’90 take charge.
As the head orthopedic physicians for the NFL’s Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles, respectively, Annunziata and Pepe have one of the most critical jobs in sports medicine. Part of an elite cohort of only 32 NFL orthopedic heads, they oversee everything from injury assessments and urgent surgeries to routine preseason physicals. They have demanding jobs, in other words, but when the Eagles face off against their NFC East rivals from Washington twice a season, Pepe and Annunziata make time to sustain a friendship that began thirty-five years ago, during their freshman year at the Heights.
Neither man recalls exactly how they met—at some point, they simply began walking to class together. Pepe lived in Claver Hall, while Annunziata lived in Fitzpatrick Hall. Annunziata, who grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, was a die-hard Yankees fan. Pepe hailed from Wilmington, Delaware, where Philly sports were king. From sophomore year on, they were roommates. Their paths might have diverged at graduation, but instead, Annunziata and Pepe each received acceptance letters from Georgetown’s School of Medicine. “We didn’t plan that,” Pepe said with a laugh. “That was just dumb luck.”
They lived together throughout medical school, too, and their careers began to move in lockstep. Encouraged by mentors at Georgetown, they both started considering sports medicine. After their residencies in orthopedic surgery—Annunziata at Georgetown, Pepe at UPenn—they completed the same sports medicine fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2001, Pepe took his first job in pro sports with Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and Annunziata joined Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. (He currently serves as that team’s chief medical officer.) In 2008, both of them made the move to the NFL. Annunziata started with Washington and Pepe began working with the Eagles. Today, as head orthopedic surgeons, they each supervise the care of about ninety players per season. The work is high-stakes and meaningful.
“Every injury, from sprained ankle to head injury, is crucial for the athlete,” Annunziata said. “It’s a threat to their career, their livelihood. If you can help them get back to doing what they love, it creates a special bond.” Pepe agreed: “That’s what drove me to sports medicine—the satisfaction of returning a young player to sports.”
Through the years, the doctors have stayed in close touch. In 1994, when Pepe married his BC classmate Carolyn Casamassima Pepe ’90, Annunziata was his best man. Pepe returned the favor in 1998, serving as a groomsman in Annunziata’s nuptials. And the two friends will again pick up right where they left off when the Eagles play Washington in December. “We’ll talk shop, of course,” Pepe said. “But we also know each other’s families, so we catch up.” Their parallel career paths, Annunziata added, “have given us a wonderful opportunity to share all this.”