November 27, 2014
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From the Editor

Game On: Getting Through Your Sports Injuries

Ok, my fellow 50-plus athletes: We do take our golf and tennis seriously, we do push our bodies hard to succeed, and, yes, we do sometimes injure ourselves in the process. The good news is Southwest Florida has doctors like James J. Guerra, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, to fix us with the latest techniques and get us swiftly back to courses and courts. Dr. Guerra, also the medical director for Arthrex Inc., is one of our Top Doctors (see listings, starting on p. 79) and graciously talked with us about the injuries he sees the most and what we should know about dealing with them.

Rotator Cuff Tears are No. 1

I was surprised at Guerra’s report that he sees more rotator cuff problems than any other injury. I had thought that knees were the biggest issue here. “I repair about 500 rotator cuff s a year,” he says. He makes three or four tiny incisions, uses a scope to study the problem area on an HDTV monitor and then uses state-of-the-art tools from his Arthrex connection to do the minimally invasive repair. “We can have you back to playing golf in three to four months instead of the six to eight months it used to take,” Guerra says. “It’s generally four months for tennis.”

Rehab starts right away, working to build strength and range of motion. Use ice and anti- inflammatories to ease any soreness along the way. And, by the way, if you want to give yourself the best chance to avoid this injury, warm up with some good stretching exercises.

Plenty of Knee Problems, Too

“Your genetics and how you play can eat away at your knees,” Guerra says. Common issues are osteoarthritis and meniscus and other cartilage damage. For both preventive and treatment approaches, Guerra recommends ice, anti-inflammatories and non-impact exercises. Biking, swimming and the elliptical machines help build the leg muscles. (The Stairmasters are a bit hard on your kneecaps.)

Depending on the problem, Guerra will do minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery or an injection process with a lubricating agent and possibly judicious use of cortisone or a cutting-edge platelet gel injection (for arthritis).

Two familiar personalities in Southwest Florida will testify to his work on knees. Sonny Jurgensen, one-time star quarterback for the Washington Redskins, had surgery on both knees this year and says, gratefully, “I’m moving better than I have in 20 years and can get out and have a decent walk at night with my wife, Margo.” Competitive dance champion Shelia Davis marvels that she was back dancing four weeks after surgery and says her follow-up therapy “has given me more strength and range of motion than I ever had before.”

Oh, That Aching Elbow

For tennis, the pain is on the outside; for golf, the inside. “With tennis,” Guerra says, “good mechanics will help prevent injury, but your racket strings shouldn’t be too tight and you should not overdo your playing. With golf, don’t hit too many divots. Wearing braces will alleviate the symptoms with both sports.” Arthroscopic surgery for tennis elbow will keep you out more than four months. Other treatments include physical therapy, cortisone and the platelet gel.

Can You Manage Moderation?

Overall, Guerra says you should not overextend yourself and should build up your body strength. “Your power in golf and tennis comes from your legs and core; you transfer the energy from your legs to your arms. And keep your ego in check. I have a patient over 40 who was showing his 13-year-old how to do a pull-up and severely tore his bicep muscles in both arms.”

Well, going forward with my tennis, I’m not sure I can limit chasing down every ball and smacking them with serious authority. Yeah, ego. But I’ll keep working on my legs in the gym, Dr. G., and will take some comfort knowing there are professionals like you out there watching over shoulders, knees and elbows. Just in case.

—David Sendler

 

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