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Ask The Experts - Michael J. Cunningham MD
Michael J. CunninghamMD
733 N Beers Street, Ste. L3
Holmdel, NJ 07733
53 Main Street
Sayreville, NJ 08872
Dr.Cunningham is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with subspecialty certification in sports medicine and has been in practice in the Holmdel area for over 15 years. He is a graduate of Columbia University andNewYorkUniversity School ofMedicine.After comp leting his formal training, he served in the U.S.Air Force.His practice is dedicated to treating injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.While many patients can be treated without surgery, Dr. Cunningham commonly performs surgeries such as arthroscopic knee and shoulder repairs, total joint replacements, fracture repairs, and carpal tunnel releases.
For our readers who may not be familiar with orhopaedic sports medicine, maybe you could share with us what areas and issues this specialty encompasses?
Orthopaedic sports medicine compromises a very wide ranging area, or sub-specialty, within the specialty of orthopaedic surgery, which is itself the field of medicine that is dedicated to the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Sports medicine includes the surgical and nonsurgical management of ailments and injuries related to sports and sports-like activities. This ranges from the management and care of elite athletes right down to the occasional “weekend warrior.” In fact, all of us, whether we are active athletes or not, are at risk of sustaining the types of injuries that are taken care of by sports medicine surgeons. These run the gamut from common, relatively minor injuries, like a simple ankle sprain or back strain, to more serious injuries like complex bone fractures and joint dislocations. The care isn’t just limited to after-injury treatment, however, but also focuses on injury prevention. This involves doing things like screening athletes for potential health problems, which can be exacerbated by rigorous sports participation, as well as monitoring training programs to avoid overuse or stress related injuries.
What are some of the more common injuries that are treated in adults? Youths?
In youths engaged in high school sports, some of the most common injuries result from stress due to training errors. Stress fractures in the legs are an example of this type of injury. They can be the result of starting training at a high activity level after a long period of inactivity, which is typical at the beginning of a sports season. That fails to allow the body to gradually get used to the increased level. In adults, the most common injuries include sprains and strains. For example, rotator cuff strains and tears which result in shoulder pain are very common and can sometimes result in chronic pain, requiring multiple forms of treatment, including medications, injections, physical therapy and surgery. In the lower extremity, meniscal tears are commonly treated injuries. The meniscus is the cushioning cartilage in the knee joint, and tears are often treated with arthroscopic surgery. This is done as a minimally invasive outpatient procedure with rapid recovery and a quick return to full activity.
We see and hear every day about athletes undergoing surgeries and using treatments that we may not have had in recent years. Could you comment on some of those new technologies, surgery techniques and treatments and what these advances mean?
Many of the surgeries we do are continuously evolving as a result of new technologies which lead to improvement in both implant design and composition. This translates into improved outcomes for patients undergoing these procedures. Some examples in surgical treatments include the improved ability to perform small incision arthroscopic repairs of shoulder rotator cuff injuries that formerly were treated by “open” procedures, requiring more extensive skin incisions. Likewise, repairs for recurrent instability of the shoulder to prevent dislocation have become much less invasive. In fact, many of the repairs we do have followed the trend of minimally invasive surgery and I expect that this will continue. Perhaps robotics will play a larger role in the not too distant future, resulting in further improvements with respect to implant placement and positioning.
Are there any special credentials that sports medicine requires?
Any residency-trained orthopaedist can practice orthopaedic sports medicine. There is also additional subspecialty certification in sports medicine provided by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Certification means that an orthopaedist has achieved a level of proficiency in each of the areas comprising orthopaedic sports medicine as prescribed by the board.
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