The active life makes for achievements and aches alike, with a new “personal best” in bench pressing potentially followed by a “personal worst” for shoulder pain, and the turning point in a soccer game sometimes earned at the price of a turned knee.
While sports injuries often get better with rest and self-care, joint problems that are severe or that don’t improve within a couple of weeks can cause not only near-term pain but also long-term limitations. Deepan N. Patel, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Garden State Pain & Orthopedics, recently shared insights and provided advice on when to seek medical care for three common injuries.
Shoulder Rotator Cuff Injuries
You don’t need a 100-mph fastball to have something in common with major league pitchers. “Shoulder rotator cuff injuries usually are related to activities such as swinging a tennis racket or throwing a baseball, but they also can result from a fall, from gradual wear and tear from lifting weights, or from any activity that involves repetitive shoulder motion,” Dr. Patel said. The physician’s familiarity with a variety of sports injuries comes from experience that includes serving as assistant team physician for a number of Los Angeles-area professional sports teams, such as the Dodgers, Lakers, Kings, Sparks and Anaheim Ducks. Dr. Patel worked with those teams and treated their players while receiving advanced, post-residency fellowship training in minimally invasive surgery at the renowned Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.
Dr. Patel explained that a sensation that something in your shoulder “popped” is among the most obvious indicators of a rotator cuff injury. He added, however, that even without that sign or significant pain, people should be alert to a rotator cuff problem if they have limited range of motion or weakness in their shoulders, particularly when lifting their arms overhead. Rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications often will be all that’s needed for minor injuries, but if the pain or limitation is severe or lasts for more than a week, it’s time to see a physician, said Dr. Patel, who sees patients at Garden State Pain & Orthopedics’s Clifton, Edison, Hazlet and Jersey City offices.
“Some people defer seeking care because they assume they will need surgery. However, other options will be effective in many cases, including physical therapy, bracing and injections with steroids or platelet-rich plasma. We reserve surgery as a last resort, and are able to provide other treatments at the initial visit after a thorough history, comprehensive examination and obtaining imaging on site,” Dr. Patel said of Garden State Pain & Orthopedics, a multidisciplinary practice that includes orthopaedic surgeons, pain medicine specialists and sports medicine physicians.
Knee ACL And Meniscus Injuries
When people have activity-related knee pain, they often think in terms of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries that take quite the toll on football players. Often, however, the problem actually involves the meniscus, Dr. Patel said.
The physician continued, “As a ligament, the ACL provides a stabilizing function. ACL injuries typically result from hyperextension of the knee. Contrary to what many people assume, these injuries often occur with no contact or minimal contact, rather than, for example, during a tackle. Because of the role the ACL plays, instability is a hallmark of injury to the ligament. By contrast, the meniscus serves as a shock absorber, and can tear through a twisting or turning rotation of the knee.”
Knee tenderness, modest stiffness or a dull aching sensation can be treated at home with the RICE approach (rest, ice, compression and elevation), and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents taken at the dosage directed, Dr. Patel said. He added that such measures should yield signs of improvement within a few days.
By contrast, “If you feel or hear a ‘pop,’ experience rapid swelling, have sharp or significant pain, have issues with moving the knee and leg easily, or trouble bearing weight on the leg, see a physician without delay. If there’s a tear, it needs to be addressed right away,” the pain specialist said, noting that if arthroscopic surgery is needed, timely intervention typically yields better results with less likelihood of complications. Dr. Patel specializes in the latest, cutting-edge techniques in arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee.
Expertise In Minimally Invasive Procedures Translates Into Patient Benefits
Dr. Patel noted that when surgery is indicated for sports-related injuries, he and his colleagues utilize their specialized training to perform procedures with minimally invasive techniques. As a result, more than 90% of those procedures can be done on an outpatient basis at a convenient, patient-friendly and fully equipped, staffed and credentialed ambulatory surgery center rather than in a hospital. He explained, “All of our patients go home the same day as their procedure. We do this by minimizing the amount of structures cut, following a special medication protocol to minimize pain, and, most importantly, getting all patients up and moving immediately after surgery so they have the basic mobility skills they need — such as walking up stairs and using the bathroom — before heading home.” Garden State Pain & Orthopedics also arranges for at-home physical therapy, as appropriate, he noted.
Born and raised in Allentown, Pa., Dr. Patel graduated magna cum laude with a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He also was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. Dr. Patel completed his orthopedic surgical residency, at the NYU Langone Medical Center Hospital in New York before his aforementioned fellowship training in minimally invasive surgery at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. He has authored and co-authored more than 15 articles for orthopedic journals and textbooks, and has presented his research at national medical meetings. Dr. Patel is especially passionate about treating ACL injuries, and the latest advancements in cartilage restoration techniques. He remains dedicated to learning the newest procedures and cutting-edge technologies, including robot-assisted surgeries, that weren’t available just a decade ago.
Dr. Patel and his Garden State Pain & Orthopedics colleagues see patients at the practice’s offices in Clifton (973) 291-2057, Edison (732) 256-2927, Hazlet (732) 256-8088 and Jersey City (973) 291-2466. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call the Garden State Pain & Orthopedics office closest to you or visit gardenstatepain.com.