Making a Difference in the Lives of Athletes
There is nothing worse than for an athlete to be sidelined for an injury. Dr. Clifford Rios is one of our leading sports medicine experts who understands the pressures that athletes face. As the team physician for Trinity College Athletics, as well as Avon, Hall, and Conard High Schools, he prides himself on getting athletes back in the game quickly and safely, while offering ongoing support and guidance through all stages of recovery.
Below he address some common questions about sports injuries.
With year-round sports, are you seeing an increase in injuries? If so, what are the most frequent?
Year-round participation is associated with a greater risk of both overuse and traumatic injuries. These injuries can include tendonitis, bursitis, muscle injury, stress fractures, as well as traumatic injuries such as ligament tears. It is important for muscles and joints to get accustomed to different movement patterns and stresses to avoid over-stressing in one particular manner.
Many athletes want to play through the pain. When do you advise against that?
Muscles and joints need time to recover. It is reasonable to play through some degree of pain but this pain should subside fairly quickly after participation. If it is taking longer to recover, or if the pain is limiting or preventing participation in sport, I recommend seeking evaluation with a sports medicine specialist. Many of the overuse injuries are easier to treat and recovery is quicker if they are diagnosed and treated early on. This treatment often includes physical therapy and possibly a short course of anti-inflammatory medication. If diagnosed early, athletes can often continue to participate in their sport while they treat the injury. More chronic problems may require a period of days or weeks of complete rest from sport.
What are some of the advancements in care you have seen in treating athletes?
There have been many advancements in the last several years in all aspects of evaluating and treating athletic injuries. These include:
- Diagnostic imaging, such as ultrasound and higher-resolution MRI techniques, have greatly improved.
- Anesthesia protocols have greatly diminished post-operative pain and facilitate easier early recovery and rehabilitation.
- Our rehabilitation specialists have made use of motion-analysis technology to understand the athlete’s movement patterns, including running, jumping, throwing, and swinging a golf club, to name a few.
- We also employ better return to sport training and testing to minimize risk of injury, both in the non-surgical and the post-operative patient.
How long do athletes need to recover from surgery such as ACL repair? Shoulder repair?
Typical full return to sport after ACL reconstruction is 6-8 months and I rely heavily upon functional testing to assess an athlete’s readiness to return. While no one test or group of tests guarantees the athlete will not get reinjured, we can rely on these tests to identify our higher risk patients, and help ensure they get the training and conditioning they need to reduce their risk. Shoulder repairs in athletes usually pertain to shoulder dislocation and instability treatment, and return to collision sports is usually permitted around 6 months post-operative.
Are you frequently operating on sports injuries in outpatient surgery centers as opposed to lengthier hospital stays?
Nearly all of these are done in outpatient orthopedic surgical centers. At Orthopedic Associates of Hartford, the entire team is familiar with the type of injury being treated and your care can be coordinated to make the experience as positive as possible.