print

Sports Medicine Pushing the Envelope: August 4, 2012

If it comes time to get a joint replacement or undergo surgery, you may find yourself getting treated like a champion. Less invasive procedures developed through sports medicine are turning big operations into small ones and dramatically shaving recovery times.

You don’t have to be a superstar athlete to experience a major league injury. But you can thank sports medicine for helping you heal better and quicker than ever before.

“There’s no question that the high level athlete has been over time what’s driven orthopedics to the level we’re at today,” says Dr. John Mehalik, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Historically war and war injuries spurred orthopedics, using plates and screws to rebuild bodies. In recent years, it’s been battles in the sports arena.

“The elite level athlete and the demands and rigors that they’re going to face in their daily game initiated a lot of technologies. Now our aging athletes get the highest level of technology that’s available to Tiger Woods or Tom Brady,” says Dr. Mehalik.

Fifty percent of shoulder repairs are now done arthroscopically. Instead of cutting the body and slicing through layers of muscle, surgeons use slender tools and operate through small holes.

Rotator cuffs and labral tears are common shoulder injuries in both top-level athletes and everyday Joes.

“What happens is the tendon tears off of the bone and when that happens it causes pain and lack of function,” says Dr. Andrew Follweiler, an orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System's medical staff.

Using arthroscopic tools, surgeons reattach the tendon to the bone and use next generation healing aids.

“We have good sutures that we use now called suture anchors which go into the bone and they’re the anchoring point for reattaching the tendon,” says Dr. Follweiler.

Researchers are also seeking ways to jump-start the body’s own recovery process.

“We are trying to work on some advances in things like platelet rich plasma other biological mediators which can help speed some of this healing,” says Dr. Follweiler.

Always pushing the envelope, sports medicine is helping people regain their best form.