Where Are You Getting Your Sports Medicine Advice?

I read a great article this weekend in the Health section of the Wall Street Journal titled: “As Sports Medicine Surges, Hope and Hype Outpace Proven Treatments”.  It exposed a very common problem for today’s amateur athletes.

The insightful article written by Gina Kolata gives examples of motivated mature athletes with orthopedic injuries and no clear direction to assist their efforts to get back to their sports.

In an effort to regain their health, the trend is for some desperate athletes to chase expensive fads and unproven recovery techniques.  In doing so, they’re spending way too much money and wasting lots of time.

Deciphering and interpreting the massive amount of sports medicine info available is not easy for anyone.  If you Google search “low back pain” you’ll have 22,200,000 articles to read.  Search for “treating knee tendonitis” and you only have 418,000 websites to peruse. Good luck trying to find a simple solution for the chronic knee pain that keeps you from losing that extra 20 lbs.

Are you looking for simple answers to your sports related injuries?  Sure you do…..and you’re not alone!

Why I Created MRF

Marshall, Director of Enthusiasm

The reason why I created MikeRyanFitness.com is to help people.  Besides, my free sports medicine website has saved me dozens of calls, texts and emails from family and friends from all over the world seeking medical advice.  The MRF website has proved to be helpful in reducing the number of sports medicine questions asked by neighbors while I run with my happy dog Marshall.

MRF is a fun sports medicine resource designed to help optimistic athletes like YOU to avoid both simple and complex injuries.  How many athletes, young and old,  are in need of a easy-to-use sports medicine resource to help them to quickly recover from an orthopedic injury?

It’s more than you can imagine. This website fuses my passion to help people with my passion for sports medicine. I’m lucky that I’ve spent my lifetime doing both.

 Pain Has No Geographic Limits

I’ve received dozens of great emails a month from athletes in pain and highly motivated to get back to the sports that they love.  The emails range from a professional soccer player in Croatia with chronic knee pain following 2 ACL reconstructions and a microfracture surgery to a field hockey player from Tasmania, Australia who was excited to read my article on knee fat pad pain on the MRF website! Injury prevention and promoting sound and proven injury recovery programs is a high priority for MikeRyanFitness.

 Keeping it Simple

My motto for the information provided on MikeRyanFitness.com remains the same:  Provide sports medicine information that is simple to understand, easy to use and it creates FAST results.  I’m a firm believer that this approach helps athletes understand their injury better and allows them to work more effectively with members of their healthcare team.

I’ve learned from over 23 years as a certified athletic trainer/physical therapist in the NFL that if I ask an injured athlete the proper questions, 90% of them are simply trying to find ways to:

1.  Decrease their pain

2.  Enhance their ability to move with less effort

3.  Increase both their muscle strength & joint range of motion

If the sports medicine world were to stay focussed on those goals, athletes at any age would be active and healthier much faster.  I can promise you that MikeRyanFitness will do just that.  Sign up for our newsletter and let me help YOU!

Share the Love

This website is a hobby of mine motivated by my passion to help others to enjoy a lifestyle of positive health and fitness.  In an effort to enhance the lives of 1,000,000 people in the next 2 years, I need your help.  Please take a moment to pass on my message, my website and my information to others for FREE sports medicine info to help improve the quality of their lives.

Thank you for caring to share!

Tiger’s Knee’s in Trouble

Mechanism of Injury: Left MCL Sprain & Left Achilles Strain

Tiger Woods has been “in the rough” a few times over the past couple of years.  His latest challenge may prove to be more difficult than a St. Andrews bunker during a Nor’ester.

Tiger’s left knee is bad and the solution is not as simple as the meticulous golf wants it to be.   No matter how hard he works, he’s in for a long road of rehab with an uncertain outcome.  I’ve had many conversations with professional athletes with a similar painful and debilitating knee injuries struggling for a clear answer.

The news that Tiger was withdrawing from THE PLAYERS Championships here in my town of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL at Sawgrass was shocking news to most.  I was not surprised based on the manner in which he was recently injured.  His left knee MCL sprain injury during the Masters in Augusta last month proved to be worse than anyone expected.  Tiger included.

Tiger’s left knee has quietly developed an impressive injury report over the past few years.  That is not a good sign for a right handed golfer with the type of club speed that is such an integral part of Tiger’s game.

Tiger’s left knee was initially scoped in December of 2002 and then again in April 2008 for cartilage damage.  The year before, in 2007, he injured his ACL while running and decided against having it reconstructed.  Based on the way Tiger hits the ball, that wasn’t a smart move.  Playing on an ACL deficient knee probably started the left knee on a downward cycle that proved evident with today’s TPC withdrawal.

Few knew that his April 2008 knee scope was simply an anesthesia appetizer used to get the #1 ranked golfer in the world ready for his famous US Open victory at Torrey Pines over Rocco Mediate.  It proved to be one of the greatest exhibitions of competitive golf made even more magical when Tiger revealed that he was playing with an ACL tear and a tibia stress fracture!  A few weeks later, in June 2008, he was under the knife again to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament and clean up his cartilage damage.

When an athlete has damage to both the meniscal cartilage and the articular cartilage at the end of his femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), the outcome is never good.  Remember that Tiger put a tremendous amount of rotational stress on an unstable knee during the 2007 and early 2008 seasons before he had the ACL stabilized.  It’s safe to say that the damage to both the articular and meniscal cartilage is most likely extensive.  When a golfer’s lead leg has instability and painful cartilage, Newton’s Laws aren’t going to help the flight path of Tiger’s Nike One Tour golf ball.

Is Tiger’s knee more arthritic than expected?  Is there resulting ACL laxity which contributed to the MCL tear and Achilles strain last month?  We all know that Tiger can keep a secret but these are some of the questions that I’m sure Tiger’s medical team are asking tonight.

No one ever questions Tiger’s work ethics nor his ability to play with pain.  I hope he takes the necessary recovery time with his sports medicine specialists to get back to the level of golf that we all want to see him play again.  I’m all too familiar with what he needs to do between now and then.  All I can say is it won’t be easy.

I trust in Tiger’s athleticism and his ability to save par from a bad lie.  It won’t be a fast back swing and it may not be a pretty swing but let’s just wait and see…….hoping to see him sitting pretty on the green and, once again, making it look easy.

The Inside Scoop on ACL Tears

Mechanism for an ACL Tear

The evolution of sports has proved to be a fascinating and often amusing combination of creativity, science and hype.  From the lightest of high-tech equipment to the craziest of celebrations, the world of athletics is changing every year.

In the minds of those involved in sports, some aspects remain the same.  One of those constants is the impact of the three most feared letters in sports.  Those letters linger in the minds of the athletes, coaches, team owners and the fans themselves.  They all brace for the injury reports hoping not to hear those three dreadful letters.  They all know the significant downtime needed to recover from these alphabet season assassins.  No one talks about it but we all know that when these three letters “come to town”, this athlete’s season is over.

ACL

There they are.  Although not everyone knows what the three letters stand for, we all hope that our anterior cruciate ligaments remain strong and healthy for our entire lifetime.  An ACL or anterior cruciate ligament tear requires 6 to 9 months of intense rehab with no guarantee that the athlete will fully recover.  Those two simple facts justify the reason why we all fear a torn ACL.

ACL Tear Success Story

During the 2009 season Tom Brady, All-Pro quarterback for the New England Patriots, returned from an ACL tear that took place during the 2008 season.  The media and the fans spent most of the off-season pondering the questions:  “Can Tom fully recover from this surgery and will he be the same superstar player that he was before the injury?”

The wait is over and Tom has returned to his winning ways with two outstanding seasons since he was helped from the field in pain with an anterior cruciate ligament tear.  To put an exclamation point to his successful recovery, Tom was recently awarded the 2010-11 NFL Most Valuable Player Award.  It’s a true credit to Tom’s dedication to his profession and the Pat’s Head Athletic Trainer Jim Whalen and his staff’s efforts.

ACL and Its Role in Stabilizing Your Knee

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the key stabilizing ligament in the knee.  The ACL starts at the distal posterior lateral (back and outside) femur (thigh bone) and crosses the knee joint and attaches to the proximal anterior medial (upper front and inside) tibia (shin bone).  The ACL is one of the two internal knee cruciate ligaments that serve to stabilize the forward/backward shifting of the knee along with a considerable rotational controlling function to the most common injured joint in sports.

The ACL’s most important role is to keep the skin bone properly positioned under the thigh bone by applying a backwards force to the shin bone when the athlete is decelerating and changing directions.  With an ACL tear, this shifting and rotational instability are the most common complaints of someone who has a torn ACL.

Knowing the Truth about an ACL Tear

Now that the formal medical stuff is covered, let’s talk about the reality of the ACL and how it impacts you as an athlete.

Personally, I’ve been involved with the rehabilitation of close to eighty high-level athletes with ACL injuries.  Over 90% of the outcomes of these athletes who required ACL reconstruction surgery has been outstanding.  The average length of time for a full recovery and return to full and unlimited activity has been approximately 8 months.  Depending upon the time of year and the NFL schedule, a quicker recovery is easily possible.  I’ve worked with professional athletes who have returned to full speed in almost half that time. Sometimes that is not always a good thing and I’ll address that in upcoming articles.

With a more aggressive return to full activity, the risks of tendonitis, chronic swelling and articular cartilage complications are often increased as well.

To Brace or Not to Brace

Preventative bracing before you get hurt for high-risk players is a smart decision.  Knee braces may appear bulky but when a brace is fitted properly and the athlete becomes comfortable wearing the brace, few athletes will notice that they are wearing a brace.  Research clearly shows that a properly fitted knee brace will not limited agility movement or negatively affect a football player’s ability to perform.  Especially when the sport includes contact such as football and hockey, preventative knee bracing is the practice of the wise athlete who wants to stay active for a long, long time!

The various types of ACL tear surgeries and the rehabilitation of an ACL tear are topics for future MRF articles.  The objective for this article is to help you shed light on the sports medicine facts related to anterior cruciate ligament tears.

Telling the Athlete the Bad News

No athlete wants to hear a certified athletic trainer or doctor tell him/her “…your ACL is torn and your season is over.” I’ve personally been that person dozens of times who has looked into the eyes of elite professional athletes to give them that very same message.   Their tears say it all.

I was involved in the HBO show called Hard Knocks with the Jaguars in 2004.  During one of the episodes they aired a gripping live scene of me telling an emotional player on the practice field that he had a torn ACL and his season was over.  I love my players and moments like that never get any easier for me.

Questions to Ask About an ACL Tear

A smart professional athlete with a torn ACL who wants to safely return to his/her sport will ask his sports medicine specialist the following questions:

  1. How much of my ACL is torn?
  2. What medical grade, from 1 to 3, would you grade my instability for the following tests for both knees?
    1. Lachman Test
    2. Valgus Stress Test at 30 degrees.
    3. Anterior Drawer Tests
    4. Posterior Drawer Test
  3. If you are recommending an ACL reconstructive (ACLR) surgery, which type of surgery and why?
  4. Who do you recommend to coordinate my treatment?
  5. Do you recommend that I wear a brace for future athletic events?

Tips to Have a Successful Recovery from an ACL Tear

  1. No Special Pill – A torn ACL is what it is.  No one has invented any special ACL vitamins or specific exercise to make the ligament stronger.  Training properly and protective knee braces may prove to be your best medicine.
  2. Coaching Tip – The best prevention principle for ACL tears is to slowly progress with the fundamental basics of your sport to ensure that your lower extremity strength and flexibility are optimal.
  3. Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Proper shoe wear is crucial to avoid too little or too much traction.  Both of which would negatively impact the knee stability.
  4. Surgery? – If you suffer a torn ACL and your future plans include being active at a moderate to high level, reconstructive surgery is highly recommended.
  5. “Pop’s” Are Not Good – According to research, 60% of athletes who hear a “pop” in their knee have an ACL tear.