Athletes who pass downfield in the fall, go for layups in the winter and pitch in the spring have become few and far between. Instead, multi-sport student athletes have gone the way of the specialist, training for, practicing and playing one sport year-round, which physicians at Twin Cities Orthopedics say is bringing more young athletes into their practice with overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries, or repetitive use injuries, once were the bane of the adult athlete, but physicians at Twin Cities Orthopedics, which provides medical coverage for 17 local high schools and five area colleges, are seeing athletes trending toward single-sport specialization at increasingly early ages.
“We see kids who decide to solely play football, basketball or soccer, and that’s what they do year-round,” says Corey Wulf, M.D., a Twin Cities Orthopedics fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeon. “We see a lot more repetitive use injuries than we would if kids were playing multiple sports during different seasons.”
Twin Cities Orthopedics is the largest orthopedic practice in the Midwest, with 84 board-certified orthopedic physicians, 25 of whom are board-certified and/or fellowship trained in sports medicine — more than any other area orthopedic health care organization. The practice also includes 89 physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and certified athletic trainers.
“Most sports medicine specialists at Twin Cities Orthopedics have been involved in athletics at some level, either as participants, coaches or parents. It’s very rare to find an orthopedic surgeon who doesn’t have a connection in some way to athletics, and with that tie, most of us feel an obligation to help that population.”
— Jason Barry, M.D., fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeon, Twin Cities Orthopedics
Preventive medicine is a priority at Twin Cities Orthopedics, and Dr. Wulf says members of the practice seek to educate coaches, parents and athletes through clinics that address safe participation in athletics, including avoiding overuse injuries.
“We encourage young athletes to have an offseason per se, so they take a break at some point — not necessarily a break from exercise, but a break from the repetitive movement they do day-in and day-out,” Dr. Wulf says. “It’s essential they vary their workout routines and training programs.”
Twin Cities Orthopedics also offers Coach’s Conferences, at which the practice’s physicians, therapists and trainers lend their expertise to area high school and youth program coaches. In addition, the practice’s Tri/Running Seminar allows specialists to discuss biomechanical issues of training, techniques for proper stretching and strengthening, treatments for common injuries that plague runners, and postinjury training methods for return to racing.
Preventing the Preventable
Twin Cities Orthopedics offers a number of clinical specialty services, most of which focus on injury prevention:
- ACE program
- Dartfish technology
- Throwing program
- Functional movement screening
- Dynamic warm-up video
- Golf rehabilitation and performance program
- Injury prevention program
“All these specialty services have a common thread: evaluating an athlete’s activity from start to finish and making sure his or her kinematics are correct,” Dr. Wulf says. “Certain injuries can be prevented by improving strength and technique. All these services have the bottom line of preventing preventable injuries.”
This is the changing nature of the practice of sports medicine, says Jason Barry, M.D., a Twin Cities Orthopedics fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeon.
“The focus now is on injury prevention, whereas previously it was on the injury itself and the treatment afterward,” Dr. Barry says. “Today, we have opportunities like ACL injury prevention programs, where we can get involved with young athletes on the front end to prevent them from needing our services down the road.”
Visiting the Virtual Provider
In addition to the accessibility the practice’s 27 clinic locations and six walk-in acute injury clinics offer the community, Twin Cities Orthopedics has recently launched a virtual clinic.
The virtual clinic allows people who have suffered an injury to visit the practice’s website, click a link on the homepage and interact virtually with a Twin Cities Orthopedics certified athletic trainer, who conducts initial triage. Recommendations may be to ice and elevate the injury, take anti-inflammatory medications, or go to one of the practice’s offices to be seen by a physician if the injury has not improved in a reasonable amount of time.
“The virtual clinic gives patients more of an immediate connection to us without having to go through the trouble of taking time off from work or school to come in for something that may respond quickly to conservative treatment,” Dr. Barry says. “It makes them feel like they’re seeing us without having to come in.”
The virtual clinic recently launched and will be expanding hours in the future.
Dedicated to Excellence
On top of the many programs and services it offers, Dr. Wulf and Dr. Barry say Twin Cities Orthopedics is also distinguished by the quality of care it provides.
Dr. Wulf says that, unlike at some orthopedic practices, patients who visit Twin Cities Orthopedics are not initially evaluated by a physician assistant or primary care physician. Instead, they routinely see an orthopedic surgeon at the outset.
“Patients get immediate access to specialists rather than a triage system and initial screening,” he says. “The feedback I get from patients all the time is that it’s so nice to see a specialist right away.”
It all adds up. Free high school sports physicals. Sponsorship of more than 200 community groups and events. More than 50 active research studies. In its 60 years of practice, Twin Cities Orthopedics has demonstrated its commitment to community health in multiple ways.
“Twin Cities Orthopedics as a whole is dedicated to providing excellent sports medicine care,” Dr. Barry concludes. “We have a large number of physicians for whom that’s their foremost interest and a primary part of their practice. And the focus is not just on treating injuries but also preventing injuries.”
For more information about the services of Twin Cities Orthopedics, visit www.TCOmn.com.