Sports OrthopedicsSports orthopedics is broadly defined as the study of the muskuloskeletal system in athletes and persons with an active lifetstyle.  What is the muskuloskeletal system?  It is the largest organ in the body.  It provides form, stability, support, and movement.  It also provides protection for the body’s vital organs.  It includes bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, nerves, and connective tissue.  Bones provide form and stability.  Ligaments are strong and relatively inflexible tissue connecting bones at joints.  Cartilage is a protective, connective tissue that keeps bones from wearing against each other.  Sports orthopedics medical professionals specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries to the muskuloskeletal system.

Sports Orthopedics Professions

Some of the professions commonly working in sports orthopedics are physical therapy, athletic trainers, chiropractic, occupational therapy, podiatry, and orthopedic doctors.  As professionals, specialists in these fields require constant training and education on the science and technology available to them.  These professions focus on wellness solutions for professional and recreational athletes, as well as persons with work-related and general muskuloskeletal injuries.  When an injury occurs that requires medical or surgical attention, a surgeon specializing in sports orthopedics manages the care team.

Sports Orthopedics Injuries

Sports OrthopedicsSports orthopedics injuries are generally classified as either acute or overuse(chronic).  An acute injury is a problem that can be tied to a specific event, such as an on-field collision or tackle.  Also, an acute injury manifests itself with immediate trauma, such as a fracture, loss of consciousness, or swelling.  Overuse injuries can be tied to a specific activity, such as running or golfing.  They have a more gradual onset, occurring over time, and include injuries like as bursitis, stress fractures, and carpal tunnel syndrome.  Customized treatment programs are developed for the athlete based on the type of injury, acute or overuse.  Sports orthopedics surgical intervention is often required for both types of injuries.    

All  sports orthopedics surgical procedures require skill, training, and experience.  Some of the most challenging surgical procedures involve soft tissue repair and replacement.  Soft tissue injuries include bruised, sprains, strains, and tears.  A bruise indicates blood vessel damage, resulting in bleeding in the tissue.  A muscle strain is actually small tears in the muscle tissue.  A sprain, such as a ligament sprain, is in fact a tear in the ligament tissue.  All soft tissue injuries result in inflammation, which typically lasts for a period of five days.  The inflammation needs to be managed and minimized to reduce further injury to the already damaged tissue.  Ice, compression, and elevation are the preferred sports orthopedics treatments for management of the inflammation phase of the injury.

The most common sports orthopedics surgical procedures performed are to repair damage to the knee, shoulder, and elbow joints.  As mentioned earlier, joints are ligaments, the relatively strong and also rather inflexible tissue, that connect bones.  Orthopedic surgeons typically study for and receive board certifications to perform specific surgical procedures.  Of the twenty-five most common certifications applied for, twelve are for joint repair and replacement.  These surgeries range from minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures to major surgery, including bone and joint replacement.  Once reserved only for professional athletes, sports orthopedics surgical procedures are now performed for recreational athletes and work-related injuries. 

The following sports orthopedic video shows the anatomy of one of the body’s most complicated joints, comprised of four ligaments, cartilage, and bone…the knee.

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Sports Orthopedics Surgeons

Sports OrthopedicsSports orthopedics surgeons employ their skills to treat the trauma resulting from sports injuries.  They use both surgical and non-surgical methods and courses of care to return patients to a healthy, active lifestyle.  A typical orthopedic surgeon in the United States has completed at least 13 years of formal education, including a five year residency after medical school.  Orthopedic surgeons normally specialize in certain types of injuries, or injuries to certain parts of the muskuloskeletal system, such as ligaments and connective tissue.  At a professional level, the speed of the games and the size of the participants continues to increase dramatically.  In contact sports such as American football, soccer, and rugby, this is accompanied by an increasing number of injuries.  As traumatic injuries occur to high-profile athletes, certain sports orthopedics surgeons have gained notoriety for their expertise.

One of the most notable sports orthopedics surgeons is Dr. James Andrews.  He has performed numerous successful surgeries on high-profile athletes.  Many were diagnosed with career ending injuries, yet returned from surgery by Dr. Andrews to their best professional performances.  Some of his most notable successes include Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Jack Nicklaus, Albert Pujols, Emmit Smith, and Bo Jackson. 

Sports OrthopedicsDrew Brees sustained a 360 degree tear of his shoulder joint and additional rotator cuff damage.  Following surgery by Dr. Andrews, he led the New Orleans Saints to the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.  He is widely regarded as one of, if not, the best sports surgeons in the country.   That’s a sports orthopedics game changer!

Experience, training, and knowledge, combined with skill, are the predictors for success in these procedures.  The right surgeon specializing in sports orthopedics maximizes the patient’s chances for a successful outcome. 

Sports Orthopedics Surgery

Sports orthopedic surgeries are often the only viable response to trauma-induced injuries including fractures,sprains, strains, and tears of soft tissue.  When these injuries occur a variety of treatment regimens are available including:

  • Fracture Repair – replacement or reconstruction of closed(skin remains intact) or compound(skin wounded) fractures
  • Immobilization – isolation of the injuried body part using casts, braces, surgical stints, or fusion to promote healing
  • Bone and tissue replacment/reconstruction
  • Open Surgery – invasive procedures involving cutting skin and tissue for direct access to injured body parts or organs.  Rotator cuff surgery, for example, may be performed as either an open or arthroscopic procedure.
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  • Arthroscopy – minimally invasive surgery in which an arthroscope is inserted into a joint to evaluate and repair soft tissue.
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  • Meniscectomy – repair or reconstruction of the menisci cartilage
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  • Ligament Reconstruction
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  • Chondroplasty

Sports orthopedics surgeons work to promote the wellness of  athletes through prevention of and recovery from injury.