Nov 2, 2017
Going Pro

This article first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.

The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City is well-known for its work with professional athletes. Its physicians, athletic trainers, and physical therapists are often on the cutting edge of returning high-profile competitors back to their sport. This past summer, HSS decided to pool that knowledge together for one day at the first HSS Professional Sports Medicine Conference.

“There were two main questions we wanted to answer,” says Bryan Kelly, MD, HSS Chief of Sports Medicine Service, who helped organize the event. “Is the same injury addressed the same way among different sports? And what are the differences in managing specific injuries based upon the athlete’s level of competition?”

Invited to discuss these questions were medical providers from the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, UFC, NCAA, and Olympic teams that have a relationship with HSS-the majority of which are based around New York City. Also in attendance were medical personnel from some minor league affiliates, as well as nearby Iona College, and continuing education credits were provided.

The conference began by bringing everyone together for a series of lectures on the roles of the team physician, physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, and athletic trainer in the pros, each presented by a speaker from that field. Following this was an interactive session on case studies of in-season injuries to the hip, shoulder, knee, and head.

In the afternoon, participants attended 10- to 15-minute mini-sessions that zeroed in on specific injuries. The perspectives of the treating physician, athletic trainer, and physical therapist were given in each case, and audience members were encouraged to dialogue with the speakers.

“The attendees were as knowledgeable as the presenters in many cases,” says Dr. Kelly. “So we wanted input from them, as well.”

Medical personnel left the conference with knowledge on operative versus non-operative treatment of injuries, differences in training, dealing with offseason issues, and handling in-season travel. Another popular topic of discussion was striking the balance between getting a professional athlete back in the game safely and maintaining their long-term health.

“With professional athletes, injury management plays a role in future contracts and free agency,” says Dr. Kelly. “It’s a lot easier to tell a high school athlete to stop playing their sport than it is to tell a professional whose livelihood depends on it. Timing in these cases might differ between sports and levels to make sure the athlete’s career is prolonged as long as possible.”

Most of all, those in attendance enjoyed hearing how their peers manage injuries. “Not everybody is doing it exactly the same,” says Dr. Kelly. “I think people were interested to see what other teams are doing and if they could improve the way they are taking care of patients.”

Overall, the medical personnel who went to the conference were appreciative of the chance to learn from their peers, and there are plans to continue the event in the future. “We received a lot of positive feedback, and attendees all wanted to know if we are doing it again,” says Dr. Kelly. “We will probably do it next year, but we might have more panels instead of individual presenters and try to engage the participants even more because they had a lot to offer.”

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