We’ve Come a Long Way: A Short Look at Orthopedics
Basketball season is in full swing and the NFL is soon to declare a winner in this winter of 2016. Track athletes are beginning their short runs to build endurance for the spring, and the mountainsides are filled with ankles, knees, and hips flexing and pounding and swiveling all the way down. And, of course, those who prefer to take their athletics via the television are straining their elbows with the remote…
Whether you are checking your fantasy teams or out there going for the win, this is a fine time to spend a moment of appreciation for the unsung heroes on the sidelines – and occasionally rushing out to tend to a downed player: sports doctors, or, more accurately put, orthopedic surgeons.
Are you ever surprised how someone like Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls can survive two ACL tears in both his knees and still be playing? It’s not magic: it’s the rigor and science of top orthopedic surgeons working with athletes. Who are these seeming miracle-workers, and how far have we come from the practice’s medical inception?
Definition & History
It was Nicholas Andry who coined the word “orthopædics” (French for orthopédie and derived from the Greek words ????? orthos [“correct”, “straight”]) in 1741. Interestingly, the root of the word also includes the Greek “??????? paidion” for “child.” Though initially developed with attention to children, eventually it was the correction of spinal and bone deformities in all stages of life that eventually became the cornerstone of orthopedic practice.
The origination of the practice was crude by today’s standard practice. Using mainly splints, club feet, and even bandages soaked in horse blood, orthopedics eventually joined modern science and expanded its practice to include the musculoskeletal system and the many problems that can plague it, including musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders.
Sports & Orthopedics
Sports places amazing stress on the joints of the body. The cutting involved in, say, being a point guard or running back, may excite, but the joints may suffer: particularly the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) and other connective tissue to the bone. Some of the suffering can be caused all at once we’re all familiar with those harrowing moments when a player doesn’t get up at a tackle, or when a basketball players clumps to the ground like young tree hit by lightening. But other sports injuries take time to develop: the rotator cuff on a pitcher’s arm, the knee of a track star.
The types of progressive joint conditions requiring treatment are too numerous to mention, and they strike players of all ages. Please note that many of the people requiring orthopedic treatment are players between the ages of 10 – 18. These bodies are especially susceptible to injury (either emergency or cumulative) because their bodies are not yet finished forming. Too often pain in young people’s joints is chalked up to growing – if you or your child is an athlete and is experiencing joint pain, please don’t wait to get it checked out!
Whether it’s on the field or in the office, orthopedic surgeons-sports doctors-are ready.
Common Types of Arthroscopic Surgery
While there are many, many types of surgeries that can be performed to address joint pain, here are some common ones you may have heard of.
- Total Joint Replacement. Most patients who undergo total joint replacement surgery are usually previously diagnosed with severe arthritis, and seek pain relief and increased range of motion. Total Joint Replacements are usually for severe instances.
- Total Shoulder Replacement. Though possibly painful, this procedure can diminish pain felt in a constantly-used joint like the shoulder.
- ACL Reconstruction. Orthopedic surgeons reconstruct this ligament when it ruptures, which can happen while participating in sports or twisting the knee the wrong way. However, minimally invasive procedures can now accomplish many procedures without too much trauma to the area.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Where before doctors would saw bones and reset them to correct the injury (a practice that still may be necessary in some cases), there are a myriad of minimally invasive surgeries doctors can perform now to allow faster healing to the body.
The most common is arthroscopic surgery. Arthroscopic surgery allows the doctor to make a tiny incision (the bigger the incision, the longer it may take for the body to heal), and using the latest in laser technology when appropriate, locate the injured area and fix it through means such as shaving frayed cartilage or creating a graft of torn ACLs.
The benefits of minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery are primarily twofold:
- The camera, or scope, inserted into the problem area allows for great visualization of the nature of the problem. Often this visualization is greater than what the naked eye could see.
- The healing time is much, much faster, and the risk of wound infection is much, much less. Really, the wounds required to treat many orthopedic conditions are tiny – they are often closer to puncture wounds than to large slices. This means the body spends less time repairing itself, and you can be out on the field sooner.
About the Onward Orthopedics Blog
Throughout this blog, you will see a variety of posts we hope you find interesting and informative. Some posts will focus on an in-depth analysis of a common injury, others will focus on rarer conditions. Some will profile how famous athletes have recovered (or not) from career-threatening injuries, others will give helpful tips for optimal joint health. Some will feature personal stories from our writers or patients.
We welcome any feedback you may have and we would like to take this opportunity to repeat: whether you are an athlete or not, you should not have pain in your joints. Joint pain is too often under reported, and it is also typically progressive, meaning it worsens without treatment. The sooner you see an experienced specialist, the better.