This N That: Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist

This N That host James Howard interviews Dr. Derek Worley with Erlanger Sports and Health Institute about the role of a Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist and how they help athletes with non-surgical treatments for their injuries.

We always talk about the doctors that come from all over the world that Erlanger has gotten just in the last couple of years. And I’m calling you a hometown doctor, because you’re from Tennessee, right?

I am. I grew up in Livingston, TN, which is about 20 miles north of Cookeville, so this was a move back to my home state.

Good for you. We’re glad to have you. When we say a primary care sports medicine specialist, tell us what that is exactly.

A primary care sports medicine specialist is a physician who has an emphasis in musculoskeletal medicine. We are trained to treat injuries, whether that’s strains, sprains, broken arms, knee injuries, etc. Non-operatively. That may entail injections, medications, therapy, whatever it may be, our goal is to keep you from having to have surgery.

Now, with that said there are a lot of things that require surgery, and part of our training is recognizing the things that do require that and getting you the proper care. But 80-90% of injuries don’t actually require surgery and can be treated non-operatively. So that’s a big part of what we do.

Musculoskeletal medicine is treating concussions, treating conditions that athletes have, like asthma, diabetes, heart conditions. And it doesn’t have to be your professional athletes, it could be your weekend warriors as well.

I was going to ask you about that. Do you primarily see folks that come in with a broken ankle or a sprained ankle? What’s the average age of a person that you do treat?

I see people of all ages. It starts as young as 13, going up to people who are in their 70s and 80s doing marathons and triathlons. It’s really kind of all across the spectrum, age-wise.

That percentage, it’s extremely high. What did you say? 85-90%?

Yeah, 80-90% of injuries do not require surgery and can be treated non-operatively.

You mentioned the word injection. There’s a lot of things on the table where you can look at a swollen knee or shoulder and go, “You know what? Let’s avoid the knife right now, let’s treat this with an injection.” What does that look like exactly when you say that?

Medicine has really come a long way, especially in the last few years. There are different options, whether that’s a corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory, and one of the newer things out there now is PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, where we actually draw your blood and we inject that into the appropriate area. So we have a lot of different options that we can attempt to see if we can get you better without surgery.

Our biggest goal is really not to see you, right? So when it comes to preventative maintenance on our joints and our body in general, what does that look like?

There’s a lot of different things, whether that’s kids playing baseball and looking at their mechanics – do they have an issue with their shoulder or elbow that may be setting them up for injury. Or on the other end of the spectrum could it be somebody who was more of a competitive athlete when they were younger, they have the beginnings of arthritis in their knee, are there things we can do to prevent that from progressing to hopefully keep them from having to have a knee replacement.

Erlanger Sports and Health Institute is the region’s only multi-specialty sports medicine program. If you’re starting a new exercise regimen or have experienced a fitness injury, talk with your doctor or make an appointment at the Erlanger Sports and Health Institute.