When thinking of sports medicine, many think it only focuses on helping athletes improve performance, recover from injury, and prevent future injuries…. while that’s true, it’s not the whole story. Today’s sports medicine physicians treat people of all ages and fitness levels, from seniors to elite athletes, all with an array of common musculoskeletal issues. Val Irion, MD and Andrew Patton, MD are two of the fellowship trained orthopedic sports medicine physicians at Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana. We recently asked them a few questions about why they chose the subspecialty of Sports Medicine and what a typical day looks like to them in their practices.

OSL: Why did you decide to go into orthopedics and why a Sports Medicine Fellowship:

Irion: I always gravitated towards medicine… only secondary to my love of sports. Growing up, I played about every sport you could play. When I realized early in my life that I was probably not going to become a professional athlete, I realized that pursuing a career in sports medicine could allow me to stay in sports. In college I worked for an orthopedic surgeon and really enjoyed it- that experience reaffirmed my interest and today I am fortunate to make it my career.

Patton: In medical school, I really enjoyed orthopedics and following my orthopedic residency, the subspecialty of sports medicine was particularly appealing because I saw an opportunity within the orthopedic practice that would allow me to treat all types of patients- all ages, all backgrounds, all different levels of function and get to help them restore that level of function to where they want it to be.

OSL: Is Sports Medicine just for athletes?

Irion: I get asked that question a lot… Pretty much everyone can consider themselves an athlete. I see patients of all ages and all activity levels- whether it be the weekend warrior, the high school athlete or the patient suffering from overuse injuries that could be interfering with their work duties or their daily activities.

Patton: The thing I love about Sports Medicine is that it does allow me to see all types of patients- different ages, different levels of function, different goals. Really, anything can be a sport. In many ways, I believe that Sports Medicine doctors are the general practitioners of orthopedic health.

OSL– What can a patient expect when they come to see you for the first time?

Irion: When I meet a patient for the first time, I listen! It’s so important that I understand what their issues are and what could have possibly caused these issues… how it is impacting their day-to-day activities. I will review and explain the radiographic results (X-ray, CT, MRI) with the patient – it’s important that the patient understand what is going on so that we can work together to create the best plan- whether it be surgical or nonsurgical. In my opinion, if we can treat the patient non-surgically, that’s the best way to begin- whether it be physical therapy, medication, or injections. I know patients may be hesitant and a little nervous to see an orthopedic surgeon- thinking that surgery is the only option- definitely not the case- the most important thing to me is that my patient feels like I hear them, and they feel included in devising the best treatment plan for them.

Patton: It is so important that the patient is heard and to come up with a plan that is completely individualized. A rotator cuff tear in one patient may have a completely different treatment regime than a rotator cuff repair in another patient. I think having a team type mentality where you and the patient are coming together to achieve the same goals of where your treatment plan will go is essential to allow the patient to regain their desired level of function. I want my patient to be included in the process- the patient needs to dictate where they want their treatment to go. I think starting with a non-operative plan is usually best for the patient, unless they are suffering from an acute injury that could negatively impact them long term.

OSL: What are the most common injuries you treat?

Irion: The main things I run into are general shoulder pain and knee pain. Certainly, I see a lot of the larger joints that have more of the weight bearing stresses, a lot of wear and tear injuries like rotator cuff tendinitis rotator cuff tears. In the knee, I see degenerative changes, meniscal injuries, and tears. In younger athletes, we will see more acute injuries, such as ACL tears or labral tears. However, the majority of my patients fall into the category of the weekend warrior… a lot of overuse injuries and they are just trying to get back to their normal activities.

Patton: I see anybody that needs to be seen with any injury or with any musculoskeletal pain. As a sports medicine doctor, shoulder and knee injuries are common as well as, wear and tear injuries including patients suffering from back pain.

Val Irion MD and Andrew Patton, MD are both committed to keeping their patients active and healthy. Both physicians are currently accepting new patients of all ages and all activity levels. To schedule an evaluation with Dr. Irion or Dr. Patton, please call or visit Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana: (866)759.9679 or orthopedicspecialistsla.com