by Alan Jordan
As a sports orthopaedic surgeon, I see and treat athletes of all ages and levels. I’ve been lucky to be involved in the management of elite athletes’ injuries, but I also want to dispel myths that sports medicine is better abroad. Historically, countries such as Germany and the US have offered superior sports injury treatment, but I believe the UK is just as adept in this type of injury management.
One can’t deny the benefits of participating in regular sport and today, a greater percentage of the population engages in some form of exercise during the week than ever before and, as a result, injuries arising from sport are becoming more common.
So, as doctors, if we are seeing more injuries through increased exercise, are we getting any better at treating them?
In my opinion, the answer to that question is yes. The field of sports medicine is evolving, driving positive change and progress in injury management.
The Types of Injuries Sustained During Sport
Sports injuries fall into two main categories: overuse and trauma caused by an isolated traumatic injury.
Most are overuse injuries, which are tissue damage that results from repetitive demand. Tissues adapt to the stresses placed on them over time, but as they adapt, they can incur injury unless they have appropriate time to heal. The rate of injury simply exceeds the rate of adaptation.
Changes in training patterns, frequency, and types of training and poor biomechanics are some of the factors that can affect and perhaps reduce the rate of injury. The dreaded shin splints are a classic example. Inevitable cessation of activity whilst the injury is treated before a gradual return to activity can make the recovery process long and frustrating.
Preventing Sports Injuries
No wonder then that the focus has switched to prevention. Today, sports clinics and NHS hospitals are not only populated by physiotherapists, but by nutritionists, podiatrists, orthotists, physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches, sports physicians and specialists in alternative therapies, to assess, analyse and guide patients in their prevention process or injury management.
I’m an orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in the surgical treatment of sports injuries of the hip, knee or shoulder. Overuse injuries seldom require my intervention, but traumatic injuries (e.g. shoulder dislocations or knee ligament ruptures) often require my expertise.
The field of orthopaedic sports medicine has evolved at a fast pace since the advent of keyhole surgery in the 1980s. I use arthroscopy to reconstruct soft tissue (cartilage, ligament, tendon and bone) injuries in a minimally invasive manner, with increased accuracy and utilising the latest biomaterials. This technique confers the advantages of shorter recovery times, fewer complications, less time off work and, more importantly, less time away from sport.
Undoubtedly, our understanding of injury, healing and repair, coupled with the great strides in technology that have been made over the last 20 years have facilitated this progress. Importantly though, we continue to make advances that will change the face of sports medicine and surgery in the future.
So this weekend, as you lace up your running shoes, should you be unlucky enough to get injured, be rest assured that sports medicine is not just for the elite athlete, it’s for you too.
Rahul Patel is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in the treatment of knee, hip and shoulder sports injuries. Find out more about his role at Broadgate Spine & Joint Clinic here https://www.broadgatespinecentre.co.uk/london-sports-medicine/.