Dr. Howard Marans is an expert in sports medicine and has treated hundreds of elite and thousands of amateur athletes over the course of his career. Athletes are at an increased risk of orthopedic problems due to the nature of their lifestyle, and they have unique needs when it comes to recovering from injuries. That’s why seeing a sports medicine doctor is so important.
Athletes Have Unique Needs
When it comes to treatment for orthopedic problems and injuries, athletes have unique needs from the rest of the population. Some examples of this include:
- Athletes are typically in peak physical condition
- More prone to injury due to training (especially in cases of over-training or incorrect form)
- Education on ways to prevent future injury is essential
- Restoring full functionality to the injured body part is a priority
Approach to Treatment
One of the major ways in which athletes differ from other patients is that they require full use of the injured part in most cases. Although sometimes an orthopedic injury is so severe that the athlete will be unable to ever return to their previous level of achievement, in many cases it is possible to restore full functionality.
Because of this, sports medicine tends to be more aggressive in treating injuries than general orthopedic medicine. While an older or less active patient may receive treatment aimed at relieving symptoms in the least invasive way possible, athletes usually want to be able to perform strenuous physical activity over many years.
Physical therapy is often a cornerstone of sports medicine, whether or not surgery is also used. Physical therapy can restore flexibility to stiff joints and strengthen muscles that weakened due to injury. In addition, physical therapy can help athletes develop the good form that they will need to prevent future injuries.
Many common sports injuries, like shin splints, muscle sprains, and simple fractures, can be treated without ever entering the operating room. However, conditions that are unlikely to heal on their own may need surgery, especially given that restoring full functionality is a priority.
Many sports injuries, like ACL tears and rotator cuff tears, can be treated using arthroscopic surgery in an outpatient setting. For more severe and extensive injuries, it may be necessary to perform traditional, open procedures, which might require a hospital stay.
Prevention of Future Injuries
In sports medicine, preventing future injuries is an important part of treatment. After sustaining an injury, athletes are often eager to get back to training. Under the guidance of a physician, athletes can do this in the safest way possible.
The first step to preventing injury is to wait until it is safe to do so to start training again. The physician will carefully monitor the patient’s progress as the injury heals and physical therapy restores strength and flexibility. Starting before the doctor gives the go-ahead can put athletes at risk of developing another injury. Depending on the injury, this could be anywhere from a few days to several months.
The next step is to change the training regimen to prevent future injury. In some cases, incorrect form contributed to the original injury; in such cases, the doctor, physical therapist, and coach should work with the patient to correct the form.
Over-training is another major issue. One way that patients can avoid injuries caused by over-training is to take up a cross-training regimen, in which case their normal training is supplemented by the use of other types of training at times.