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Sports medicine innovations are helping weekend warriors stay in the game

Call them recreational athletes. Couch-to-5K joggers. Weekend warriors. Whichever name you use, they’re the ones who wait all week to hit the soccer field, basketball court or running trail on Saturday morning. They’re up at 5 a.m. for a long run before work or playing softball until the lights switch off at night. They might not have fancy endorsements or lucrative contracts like the professionals, but they bring just as much heart to their sport.

Juggling work and family while still leaving it all on the field every week can take its toll on the body, though. The sporadic activity that defines these intermittent athletes makes them prone to injury. “Weekend warriors represent a large number of the patients that we see,” said Frank Petrigliano, MD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and chief of the USC Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine.

Petrigliano is the new head team physician for the L.A. Kings hockey team and a team physician for USC Athletics. Before he crossed town to join Keck Medicine in August, he served as a team physician for UCLA’s student-athletes. But he gives the same quality care to the first-time marathoner as he does to the college quarterback.

That’s part of the philosophy of USC’s sports medicine specialists, according to Jay R. Lieberman, MD, chair and professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School and director of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medical Center of USC.

“Whether it is a professional athlete, a USC athlete or a weekend warrior, the goal is the same: We will use cutting-edge technologies to help patients attain their athletic goals,” said Lieberman.

Across USC, disciplines like orthopaedics, physical therapy and stem cell science are uniting to support people who are active — and want to stay that way.

 

The Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine brings expert care to El Segundo

The L.A. Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, is a sports mecca in the ice hockey hotbed of Los Angeles County’s South Bay. The center, which opened in 2000, has now branched out to offer specialty services in sports medicine through the newly opened USC Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine. This development brings USC’s sports medicine care not just to the L.A. Kings, but also to athletes of all ages and across all sports in the South Bay, including children on youth teams. “There aren’t many institutions in the United States that combine a sports medicine program, sports performance facility and care for a pro team all under one roof,” Petrigliano says.

As head of the new facility, Petrigliano oversees a staff of physicians and other health-care providers who listen to and evaluate patients — and then customize their treatments for each one. These treatments are multifaceted. Staff members work with athletes to prevent reinjury and stay healthy by teaching them to embrace proper conditioning and strengthening.

“At a certain point in your life, your athletic career is not about intensity, but longevity,” Petrigliano said.

But USC faculty members even go beyond surgery and prevention. Some of them are working in the laboratory to use science for the benefit of future patients.

One of the biggest challenges to athletes in sports like soccer or skiing is knee injuries. When people damage their cartilage — the lining between bones — it grows back slowly, if at all. USC scientists want to give cartilage a boost using the power of stem cells.

Denis Evseenko, MD, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School, aims to go to the heart of the problem.

“Drugs like ibuprofen reduce pain and inflammation, but they do not induce regeneration of tissue. Stem cell therapies are designed to regenerate the tissues, to restore them to as close to normal as possible,” he said.

After years of painstaking research, he and Petrigliano have pioneered a stem cell therapy for what are called focal cartilage lesions. These usually happen in young people who suffer a traumatic knee injury. The knee is a common site of such lesions because injuries to that joint are often associated with ligament or meniscal tears.

“The lesions usually involve an area a few square centimeters where the cartilage at the joint has been damaged and does not regenerate,” Evseenko explained. Unfortunately, the lesions also put patients at risk for osteoarthritis later.

The team developed a patch infused with stem cells. Called Plurocart, it’s nearing the clinical trial stage. Surgeons place the patch on a lesion where the stem cells are intended to create new cartilage cells.

“What this preventive therapy will do, we hope,” Evseenko said, “is delay the onset of osteoarthritis and perhaps completely eliminate the need for total joint replacement.”

He and Petrigliano have also pioneered a new drug that aims to promote cartilage development while tamping down inflammation. They’re now laying the groundwork to take this drug into clinical trials. Patients seeking care at Keck Medicine of USC have access to new treatments spurred by academic research.

“Giving them a cutting-edge approach to deal with their pain and get them back in the game is something unique to what the USC Epstein Family Center has to offer,” Petrigliano said.

This approach to athletic injuries not only touches on advances driven by science — it also ventures into fields some might not immediately identify with traditional sports medicine.

Read this complete article at: https://hscnews.usc.edu/sports-medicine-innovations-are-helping-weekend-warriors-stay-in-the-game/

Author
Frank Petrigliano, MD Dr. Petrigliano s a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon and a specialist in sports medicine and shoulder surgery at the USC Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Petrigliano is the chief of sports medicine at USC and head team physician for the LA Kings professional hockey team.

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