Maximizing Function and Minimizing Injuries
Whatever sport is your favorite, staying healthy and on top of your game takes time and dedication, and the unfortunate truth is injuries are a common part of almost every sport. Even if you’re not a professional athlete, a sports medicine physician can help improve your performance and help with injuries that arise.
“Whether a patient is a casual walker or a professional athlete, the goal is to help him or her perform that activity as well as possible for as long as possible, and to avoid becoming injured in the process,” said Dr. Bruce Thomas, sports medicine physician at Health First Medical Group, medical director for the LPGA, senior medical consultant/Spring Training physician for the Washington Nationals and team physician for Eastern Florida State College Athletics.
Through education and exercise, sports medicine physicians can help people return to their sport as quickly as possible. Ryan Wood, Health First Medical Group sports medicine physician and medical director of the Health First Neck and Back Pain program, said, “We study biomechanics to determine how the laws of mechanics and physics relate to human performance. This allows us to evaluate athletes on an individual basis to see if they are more prone to certain injuries. We also do evaluations for cardiovascular health to see if there are any, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a disease in the muscle of the heart.”
Sports medicine physicians, like Dr. Thomas and Dr. Wood, help patients maximize function and minimize injuries, as well as minimize time away from sports, work or school. This group of specialists also aids in various conditions that affect performance, such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma.
Avoiding and Addressing Injuries
When starting a new activity, Dr. Thomas recommends starting “slow and low” to build up the length and intensity of the activity over a prescribed period of time. “Our doctors can help determine an appropriate ramp-up timeframe for new activities or even changing an activity that you have been already engaged in.”
Another important aspect of sports medicine is sports-specific training. If someone plays soccer, for example, Dr. Wood would encourage him or her to work on strengthening his or her quads to prevent ACL injuries. “The good news is approximately 90 percent of all sports injuries are non-surgical, and sports medicine physicians can expedite referral to an orthopedic/sports surgeon when indicated, and can help guide referrals to appropriate rehabilitative care and ancillary services as needed.”
As it is with every industry, sports medicine will continue to advance and evolve in the future. One advancement includes the use of autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells for treating injures and conditions that are difficult to heal. Another will be a continuation of minimally invasive or noninvasive procedures, which will return athletes to play faster with shorter and less involved rehabilitation. Dr. Thomas and Dr. Wood continue to utilize biomechanics, nutrition, education and prevention to help improve daily function for some and improvement in specific skills for others.