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How is Surgery for Athletes Different from Non-Athletes?

Surgery for athletes is different from non-athletes as it is performed with the intention of returning the athlete to their sports activity at the earliest. Early recovery is important as the more time spent away from the sport, the more difficult it is to get back to competitive form. Surgery for athletes involves tissue repair and reconstruction using cutting-edge, minimally invasive techniques and is followed by intensive rehabilitation.

What are Sports Injuries?

A sports injury is physical trauma sustained by a direct impact, overuse, or application of greater force than the body can withstand during a sports activity.

What are the Common Sports Injuries Sustained by Athletes?

Athletes are always prone to injury as they are involved in strenuous physical activity. Some of the common types of sports injuries include:

  • Strains: Tearing or overstretching muscles or tendons can lead to a strain. Tendons are fibrous thick cords of tissue that attach bones to muscle.
  • Sprains: Tearing or overstretching the ligaments can lead to a sprain. Ligaments are tissues that attach bones to one another in a joint.
  • Achilles Tendon Injury: The Achilles tendon is situated at the back of your ankle. During sports activity, this tendon may rupture leading to severe and sudden pain along with difficulty walking.
  • Rotator Cuff Injury: A rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles working together to enable shoulder movement in various directions. A tear in any of these muscles can lead to weakness of the rotator cuff and impaired shoulder movement.
  • Concussion: An injury to the brain due to a blow to the head is defined as a concussion. People involved in contact sports such as American football or rugby are more prone to this kind of injury.
  • Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow: Athletes involved in gripping activities such as tennis and golf are prone to this type of injury where repetitive action causes the tendons of the forearm to become inflamed, making hand or wrist movements painful.
  • Shin Splints: Shin splints are a painful condition that can develop in the tibia or lower leg bone due to excessive running.
  • ACL Tear: The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the important ligaments that stabilize the knee. Sudden slowing down, pivoting or change in direction can cause an ACL injury, common in sports such as soccer and American football.
  • Hip Flexor Strain: Hip flexors are muscles located on the upper front of your thigh. These muscles may be injured by activities such as sprinting, running on an incline, and making sudden starts or quick turns.
  • Hamstring Strain: The hamstring muscles are situated in the back of the thigh. Lack of stretching or poor stretching techniques can lead to tight hamstrings which are prone to muscle pull injuries called hamstring strain. This is associated with bruising in the back of the thigh.
  • Bone Fractures and Dislocations: A fracture is a break in the bone while a dislocation occurs when bones of a joint separate. These injuries are common in high-intensity contact sports such as rugby, soccer, and American football.

What are the Common Surgeries Performed on Athletes Sustaining Sports Injuries?

Some of the common surgeries performed on athletes include:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction for ACL tears
  • Rotator cuff repair for treating rotator cuff injuries
  • Arthroscopy of the elbow for treating Tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow
  • Shoulder instability surgery such as labral repair
  • Achilles tendon repair
  • Cartilage restoration procedures to treat knee injuries causing cartilage deficits 
  • Fracture repair for bone fractures and dislocations

Expectations of Athletes Following Surgery and Effective Measures to Help You Return to Sports

The expectations of athletes who have undergone surgery are to get back to the game at the earliest and sustain a long injury-free sporting career. Your sports medicine specialist can help you get back to sports with specialized care plans including:

  • Advanced surgical techniques
  • Regenerative medicine options such as stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy to promote healing of the injured tissue
  • Physical therapy
  • Advice on preventing injuries and re-injury to the same area
  • Specific training programs based on your individual strength, weaknesses, and needs
  • Advice on nutrition for sports
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • The Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
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  • Holston Medical Group
  • Ruth Jackson Orthopedic Society
  • East Tennessee State University
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