Whether you’re a fan of NCAA football or the pros, football season is in full swing. Watching a wide receiver’s one-handed circus catch, a quarterback’s fluid throwing motion or a running back’s power as he carries defenders across the goal line is enough to make these athletes appear super-human. Sports medicine specialists know the stresses these athletes put on their bodies, though, and as the season progresses, more than a few top players will be sidelined due to injury.
Advances in sports medicine have allowed athletes to spend less time recuperating and more time on the field. Minimally invasive surgery to correct a damaged ACL or shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum can save a player’s career. The orthopedic doctor who operated on Drew Brees’ injured shoulder and the team that helped Adrian Peterson come back from a catastrophic knee injury could attest to the amazing strides in sports medicine. The procedures that put an athlete back on the field and in Pro Bowl form aren’t just for professional players; they also help restore greater mobility and improve quality of life for anyone who has bone or joint damage.
Boise, Idaho, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert G. Hansen specializes in procedures involving the upper extremities, including carpal tunnel syndrome procedures and shoulder surgery. The arm and hand surgeon has seen how similar some sports injuries are to workplace or household injuries. “If you suffer a rotator cuff injury from a fall from a ladder when cleaning your gutters or finding inventory on a high shelf, it’s little different from one you might get on the gridiron,” he says. “Many of the orthopedic surgical techniques we use today were first developed as part of sports medicine, including minimally invasive surgery with its shorter recovery periods.”
Athletes who retire often feel the years of hard-hitting play they enjoyed in their early careers, Dr. Hansen notes. Knee surgery is common among athletes even during their active careers, and when they leave the sport, many seek knee replacement. “Joint replacement surgery is an option for athletes who have sustained chronic joint damage and for people with joint disorders such as osteoarthritis that limit mobility,” the orthopedic specialist George Nicola, MD says. In Idaho, hip replacement surgery candidates have a variety of options from resurfacing to full joint replacement.
Sporting events have entertained millions, but the science behind sports medicine has enriched lives in deeper ways. Increased mobility, decreased pain and greater range of motion are the direct result of surgeons seeking ways to extend the careers of athletes in their prime.
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