TOP DOCS 2017 – Interview



(Originally Published in Phoenix Magazine | April 2017)

Performance-Enhancing Doctors

If you’re a medical resident and you fancy a career rubbing elbows – or rotator cuffs, as the case may be – with high-profile clients, your preferred field choice is clear: orthopedic surgery, and its offshoots, sports medicine and hand surgery. Several of our perennial Top Docs work closely with professional Valley sports franchises and their trainers to provide care for local athletes. Having mended such sports stars as Phoenix Coyotes wing Shane Doan and Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (pictured), OrthoArizona surgeons Dr. Gary Waslewski (pictured, left) and Dr. Douglas Freedberg (right) gave us a blow-by-blow of their work.

Do you operate on players together?
GW: “Doug and I do operate on the Cardinalsplayers together. The Cardinals coverage requires a lot of time – not just to travel with the team… but also time at the facility during the work week. When we operate together both of us know exactly the pathology and plan together how to treat the player. I also scrub in as an assistant when our team hand surgeon and foot/ankle surgeon dosurgery on my Cardinals players.”

Working with professional athletes, do you feel any added performance
pressure? As in: “The Coyotes’ season is riding on this ACL fix”?
DF: “At this stage of my career, I don’t feel any added pressure operating on professional athletes. Over years of experience in residency and fellowship, both of which were very highprofile centers, and now with 17-plus years in practice, I feel these cases are just part of the fabric of my days. I recall early in my practice, operating on a good friend of mine and for a moment thought, ‘Wow, this is my buddy.’ But then when the case started, I was back in the zone and not conscious of the issue.”
GW: “We do see some injuries in pro sports that are more complex either because of severity of injury or timing of recovery, due to the season schedule. Tyrann’s first injury [ACL/LCL tears] was extremely severe – not something you see in the textbooks. I consulted prior to the surgery with my mentor Dr. James Andrews and discussed our surgical game plan. He gave me some great advice – ‘pearls’ as they are called in medicine, if certain situations were to arise.”

What are the most common injuries in the respective major sport?
DF: “[For young] baseball players: elbow and shoulder strains from overuse. For adults: shoulder labral tears and rotator cuff tearing. Football: The bad injury is the ACL, with basically [the] loss of a season. As surgeons, we don’t deal much with concussions directly, but clearly these are troubling. Hockey: AC (shoulder separation) and groin issues. Basketball: ankle sprains and patellar tendinitis.”

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