Innovations in Sports Medicine

Innovations in sports medicine continually shape how musculoskeletal care is provided. For more than 20 years, surgery on knees and shoulders has been performed in a minimally invasive way. The result is smaller incisions and shorter hospital stays.

“Minimally invasive surgery is possible because of technology—specifically, the tiny cameras we use during surgery to visualize the operation,” explains Peter Kok, MD, who specializes in sports medicine. “There is less soft tissue injury during surgery, which helps with pain.”

Peter Kok, MD

“Today patients benefit from better anesthesia and pain control, including regional nerve blocks and injectable medications,” notes Kyle Lavery, MD, one of Emerson’s sports medicine physicians. A focus on improved pain management has led to earlier weight-bearing and rehabilitation. Knees are vulnerable to injury and age. This is why treatment of cartilage defects is a hot topic. The goal is to restore injured cartilage to preserve the native joint and potentially prevent the need for a joint replacement later.

“We have some success with younger patients—typically when there has been a sports injury,” says Dr. Kok. “Currently, it is more of a challenge in someone with osteoarthritis. The technique of treating cartilage defects is being refined.”

Those who follow professional sports occasionally hear about the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy—use of an individual’s own platelets to accelerate healing. “PRP is considered to be experimental at this time, but it is an area of active research,” says Dr. Lavery. “Stem cells are also being studied as a way to treat and stimulate healing of diseased tendons, ligaments, muscles and cartilage.”

Sports medicine advances will continue—and benefit one and all. Sometimes, injury prevention is key. “We’re getting better on the rehab side, but since we know that female athletes are at greater risk for tearing their ACLs [anterior cruciate ligament], I suggest that female patients who play at a high level—varsity high school or college—attend a prevention course,” says Dr. Kok. The new Sports Medicine Division at Emerson’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies provides this training. “There is good evidence that, by learning how to land and jump safely, they will decrease their chance of injuring themselves.”