Health Report: Scripps shares medical game plan for Padres and everyday athletes

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The 2015 baseball season marks a medical milestone in local sports history – the 35th anniversary of Scripps Clinic’s role as the official health care provider of the San Diego Padres.

In addition to treating game-action injuries like broken bones and torn ligaments, Scripps provides a wide range of health care services to Padres players, coaches, front-office staff and their families.

“Our care for the Padres runs the full gamut, from routine screening physicals to reconstructive surgeries to detecting blockages in coronary arteries,” said Dr. Heinz Hoenecke, the Padres’ head team physician and orthopedic surgeon with Scripps, recently ranked No. 1 in San Diego for orthopedic care by U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Hoenecke oversees the Padres medical staff of about a dozen Scripps doctors, who specialize in orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, emergency care, ophthalmology and podiatry. Scripps doctors attend all spring training and regular season home games and communicate daily with the team’s training staff during the season about players’ health issues.

Scripps also plays a role in determining which new players join the team. Before Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft, Scripps doctors evaluate hundreds of players’ medical records and assign a rating scale for various physical attributes. And before player trades are finalized, Scripps physicians step in to assess the athlete’s health.

While sports medicine has progressed on many fronts, Dr. Hoenecke said advances in arthroscopic surgeries have been particularly significant. “With arthroscopy, you can go straight to the problem and do a smaller surgery to repair exactly what’s wrong,” he said. “It improves the success rate because it’s more accurate, and the recovery process is easier.”

Still, medical challenges persist today for baseball players of all levels – including a growing number of elbow reconstruction surgeries among adolescent athletes. Of particular concern are overuse injuries stemming from the rigors of playing year-round baseball. The rest that comes from not throwing a baseball for three months out of the year can play an important role in the body’s recovery from changes in the arm that can occur from overuse activities.

Beyond baseball, what are some of the more common health and fitness myths circulating today among everyday athletes? According to Dr. Hoenecke, many people get their signals crossed on three key areas.

1. Extreme workout videos and classes. A large number of high-intensity workout programs are available to the public today. People are often promised quick results by following along with training instructions. But the entire workout program may not be safe for everyone.

Taking part in ultra-aggressive workouts can expose possible “weak links” in a person’s physical capabilities. Participants can develop joint injuries and other ailments, which can impair their ability to exercise. Before participating, people should watch what is involved in their workout of interest and consult with their physician to objectively identify their own physical strengths and weaknesses. Then, they should tailor the program to their own needs by modifying the workout as needed.

2. Cortisone shots. Many patients will immediately resist getting a recommended cortisone shot, thinking it is an extreme intervention that will be painful and may lead to infection. But in most cases, a regular-sized needle can be used and the pain is not much different than any other shot. Infections caused by cortisone shots are extremely rare.

Cortisone has four potential roles in patient care. It can be a diagnostic tool to help guide treatment, by sorting out which tissue is causing pain. It can be used to reduce inflammation, which can allow physical therapy to be effective. Cortisone can cure certain conditions, such as shoulder tendonitis. Finally, it can control inflammation in chronically arthritic joints.

3. Playing through pain. Whether an injury occurs suddenly or develops over time, it is never advisable to work through the pain. Continuing the activity will only cause further harm.

Patients should seek medical attention if the injury causes severe swelling, pain or numbness, if the injured area cannot tolerate weight, or if joint instability is apparent. Injuries with less severe symptoms can usually be treated at home with RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation. This can help reduce pain and inflammation, and speed healing.

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Categories: Health