In recognition of April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts to write a blog in 2012 answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.
Today, we hear again from Dr Andrew Blecher, a Primary Care Sports Medicine physician in the Los Angeles area, and a frequent contributor to MomsTEAM.
By Andrew M. Blecher, MD
How did I get into my field?
Having several doctors in my family (my grandfather took me into the operating room to observe surgery when I was only 8 years old!), I was always interested in medicine. Being an athlete myself, becoming a sports medicine physician was just a natural fit. I had always assumed that I would become an orthopedic surgeon. In high school and college I suffered a variety of injuries playing sports, from hamstring tears to stress fractures to a broken wrist to a LisFranc sprain (a sprain of the ligements connecting the cluster of small bones on the top of the foot), just to name a few. While they were all non-surgical injuries, I was always disappointed by the level of non-operative care that I received from my school doctors.
Once in medical school, as I began to learn about the field of Primary Care Sports Medicine, I soon realized that this was a better fit for how I wanted to help athletes. Not only would I be able to treat a myriad of non-surgical sports injuries, but I would also be able to care for non-orthopedic sports medicine problems such as concussions, sports nutrition, cardiopulmonary issues, etc. I now get to spend my time on the sidelines, in the training rooms and in my office evaluating the entire athlete and providing the full spectrum of sports medicine care.
How have I made a difference in the life of a young athlete in the past year?
This past year I had the opportunity to help an injured athlete the way I wished I had been treated in college. I was on the sidelines covering a college football game when our starting center sustained a twisting injury of his knee. He had pain and swelling and was unable to continue playing. I evaluated him on the sideline and determined that he had sustained a sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL). He was put on crutches, and treated with ice and anti-inflammatories until an MRI was performed, which confirmed the diagnosis of a Grade 3 MCL sprain, the most severe kind of sprain. He was told by an orthopedic surgeon that he would out the next 8-12 weeks and would miss the rest of the season.
Because he was the starting center in his senior year on a nationally ranked collegiate football team, that was not the answer we were willing to accept. We had a long discussion about other non-surgical treatment options and decided to try Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) in an attempt to speed up the healing process. (PRP is an emerging treatment in a new health sector known as Regenative Medicine or Orthobiologics which has yielded promising results in early clinical trials) We worked closely with the athletic training staff to provide proper rehabilitation and both the athlete and I were overjoyed with his rapid recovery after PRP treatment; he was able to return to football and resume his position as the starting center after only 4 weeks, and was injury-free for the remainder of the season. I was glad that I had an opportunity to make such a significant difference in his athletic career.
Andrew M. Blecher, MD, specializes in Primary Care Sports Medicine at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute. He is a graduate of Williams College, obtained his M.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine, and completed his residency in UCLA's Family Medicine program at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, and a sports medicine fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, where he provided care to the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland's professional hockey team, and NCAA Division 1 collegiate soccer, volleyball and wrestling teams.
A Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice, Dr. Blecher is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), and is Board Certified in Sports Medicine. In addtion to providing medical orthopedic care to athletes of all ages and serving as a team physician for an area college and high school and serving as a medical consultant for ESPN, Dr. Blecher has a special interest in running injuries and the evaluation and management of sports concussions, and is a leader in the growing field of Regenerative Medicine, including PRP. For more information on Dr. Blecher, click here. You can follow him on Twitter @the_jockdoc.