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What is Sports Medicine, and Why Does It Matter?

Sports Medicine is a relatively new branch of medicine that only began to emerge as its own, specialized form of health care since the late 20th century. Focusing on the treatment and prevention of injuries stemming from sports and exercise, today, most pro-sports teams employ at least one full-time physician dedicated to treating and preventing injuries. The Green Bay Packers for instance, have an entire team of medical experts, specialists and rehabilitation coaches to keep their players in shape.

No matter what sport they specialize in, all athletes are at heightened risk for muscle, bone and joint injuries. Athletes of all ages can experience any number of injuries, ranging in severity from simple injuries such as sprains to torn ligaments and tears requiring surgery, knee replacements and the help of orthopedic specialists in Green Bay.

Consequently, the demand for sports medicine has continued to grow as orthopedic surgeons, specialists, and physicians have begun to recognize the unique needs of athletes and other physically active individuals. To get a better understanding of sports medicine, the following will provide an overview of three common types of sports injuries and why finding a physician who specializes in sports medicine is essential to receiving the proper care required to heal from sports and exercise related injuries.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

Perhaps one of the most notorious types of athletic injury, injuries affecting the anterior cruciate ligament (also known as the knee) are incredibly common and range from light sprains requiring rest to severe tears requiring knee replacement surgery and rehabilitative therapy.

Because the knee joint is the meeting place for three different bones, it is particularly susceptible to injury by athletes who engage in high-intensity sports such as football, soccer and basketball and can be injured in a multitude of ways including: a sudden change of direction, jumping and as a result of direct contact.

Although treatment for ACL injuries varies by situation and patient, a physician or orthopedic specialist offering specialized sports medicine will be able to create a specialized plan to treat these types of injuries and prevent long-term effects. While a typical physician might be able to help an average individual recover from certain ACL injuries, orthopedic surgeons and specialists who work closely with athletes are better equipped to develop long-term treatment and wellness plans that heal injuries and strengthen body parts against future damage.

Throwing Injuries

Found in athletes who practice sports requiring them to throw, such as baseball, basketball and tennis, injury to the shoulder and the elbow is a common concern. Because the shoulder (much like the knee) is the meeting spot for three of the arm’s major bones, additional stress on the shoulder as a result of pressure caused by throwing can have serious ramifications on bones, surrounding muscles and connective tissues. Consequently, nearly all of the injuries associated with throwing are the result of the stress its motions place on the shoulder, and which lead to a wide range of overuse injuries.

Tendinitis and tears in the shoulder’s rotator cuff are among the most common injuries related to throwing and are even found amongst swimmers. Affecting the tendons and muscles that facilitate movement in the shoulder, tendinitis and tears in the rotator cuff are often slow to develop, with early symptoms often going unnoticed or dismissed by athletes who are accustomed to sore muscles and grueling workouts. Although early symptoms of tendinitis in the rotator cuff comprise mild swelling and discomfort, as the tendonitis progresses it slowly wears down the tendons, making them more susceptible to fraying and eventually, tearing.

Because of the degenerative effects of untreated tendonitis in the shoulder, any pain associated with major joints such as the knees, shoulders and hips should be assessed by an orthopedic specialist to determine if further intervention and treatment is needed.

High School Sports Injuries

Although pursuing professional treatment for high school sports injuries may seem like overkill, an injury at the high school level can significantly impact an athlete’s future career. Injuries that aren’t given the proper treatment to heal and fully recover can lead to long-term problems that may require surgery such as the anterior hip replacement widely practiced in Green Bay, to fix impaired mobility later in life.

However, because of the competitive nature of sports and the lack of education surrounding athletic health, athletes who sustain injuries in high school may be pressured to play before their injury is fully healed, and risk complicating their recovery. Consequently, athletes who sustain injuries at any age or level of play should seek proper treatment.

In teenage athletes, professional treatment by a qualified orthopedic specialist or surgeon in Appleton, Green Bay or the Fox Cities is particularly important as the periods of growth adolescents undergo can affect their recovery and make them more susceptible to growth plate injuries.

No matter what sport or activity athletes and active individuals partake in, any injuries sustained in the course of physical activity should be treated with caution. Although it is tempting to brush off mild pain and discomfort, any pain or unusual sensations should be thoroughly investigated before returning to play. Attempting to return to sports and exercise before an injury is fully healed, risks re-injury and complications that can plague athletes for the remainder of their career, which may eventually require joint replacement surgeries such as anterior hip replacement and knee replacement.

Thus, for athletes, receiving the proper care from orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic specialist can directly affect the success of their recovery and subsequent ability level. Fortunately, with the proper care, education and treatment plan, many athletes are able to overcome their injuries and prevent future ones from occurring.

At the Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley, sports is in our name, so you know we take sports medicine seriously. Our orthopedic surgeons specialize in sports medicine, with advanced training that includes sports medicine fellowships from the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute.

And for those injuries that occur on the field, OSI has an orthopedic walk-in clinic as well as free injury clinics every Saturday during the fall sports season.

For those who get hurt and want to return safely and quickly to the sports they love, OSI is the orthopedic destination.