Dr. Dempewolf: Treating Competitive Athletes

Sports Medicine for Athletes

When you injure yourself during exercise or while playing a sport, you want to get back to your routine and athletic pursuits as soon as possible. Sports medicine doctors have specialized training to help you do just that. Sports medicine surgeons are physicians who specialize in traumatic or overuse injuries of the muscles, bones, and joints. They are also experienced with preventing injury in active kids and adults, and people who have physically demanding jobs.

Dr. Michael Dempewolf is a Sports Medicine Physician at Sano Orthopedics. He obtained a Sports Medicine Fellowship at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in southern California.  He pursues his passion for treating athletes as the sports medicine physician for the Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Monarchs Baseball Club, and the Kansas City Blues Rugby organizations. Today, he talks about the differences and appeal in treating competitive athletes.

What types of injuries are common in competitive athletes?  

Competitive athletics, unfortunately, sometimes results in injury.  The two types of injuries can be divided into acute, or trauma, injuries and overuse injuries.

Contact athletes, such as football and rugby players, typically deal with more fractures than their non-contact counterparts.  Non-contact athletes, such as soccer and basketball players, more commonly deal with knee ligament injuries. Any time athletes are participating in quick movements with speed and change of direction, they are at risk of injury.

There is some variability among athletic injuries depending on their age and sport.  Adolescent athletes are more prone to bony injuries in general as they can still have open growth plates.  As athletes mature and their growth plates close, they transition into a higher risk category for ligament and soft-tissue injuries.

Are you seeing an increase in any particular injuries?

Overuse injuries are increasing. This is caused by the growing trend of single-sport specialization at a younger age. A growing adolescent athlete’s body needs rest, and early specialization is preventing this much-needed rest in young athletes. In fact, year-round single sport participation is the largest predictor of injury. Soft tissues and growth plates cannot accommodate the constant repetitive load

Ideally, there are two or three continuous months of non-competitive play per year to allow the body to accommodate and rest.

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What is the appeal of treating athletes?

Athletes usually have very specific goals in mind when it comes to their recovery.  I enjoy the challenge of managing their injuries and working with them to get back to their sport in the most efficient way.

What else plays a role in successfully returning athletes to their sports?

There are two sides to any injury, the physical and mental.  They are equally important when returning to sport after injury.  Many athletes have hesitations when returning to competitive play, and a lot of the time those hesitations are more psychologic than physical.  It’s important to address these psychological hesitations when treating competitive athletes. 

What are some keys to successfully treating athletes?

Each athlete has unique goals and every injury should be treated with those goals in mind.  I believe it is very important to involve the athlete and their support team (parents, trainers, physical therapists, and sometimes even coaches) when deciding upon treatment and timeline for return to sport.

Athlete Injury Prevention 

Sports should be fun! Read the top injury prevention guidelines to keep kids and young athletes in the game.

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Meet Dr. Michael Dempewolf

Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon

Dr. Michael Dempewolf is a fellowship-trained and board-certified sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Sano Orthopedics. He specializes in shoulder, elbow, and knee conditions, with a focus on competitive athletes.

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