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Avoid Sports Injuries: Tips From an Olympic Doctor

Medscape: And you are using this at the Olympics?

Beim: Oh, yes. We will have two ultrasound machines. I have given talks to other orthopedists, trying to get them excited. Very few are using this technology themselves. It just hasn't become mainstream, and every year these machines get better. There is a learning curve, to be sure, and some doctors may be too busy.

Medscape: Are there other new treatment or diagnostic modalities that you've learned about during your travels?

Beim: Yes. One good example is instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), which is used for patients with chronic muscle scar tissue from an injury, tendinitis, or plantar fasciitis. IASTM employs stainless-steel tools to free up all the adhesions, and it takes only about 5 minutes. The patient might need two or three treatments. Physical therapists and chiropractors can use it as well.

When I first learned about that technique, I came back to my practice and signed up not only myself but also three of my physical therapists for a course at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

I learned it because sometimes when I travel with teams, I don't have a therapist or a trainer or anybody else with me; I may be it -- the doc, the psychologist, the trainer, the massage therapist, everything. So I like to have as many arrows in my quiver as I can to treat these people, and I love this technique.

During the Summer Olympics, a pole vaulter had an adhesion above the kneecap and was really limited by it. Three days before the competition, the athlete was in a lot of pain. I used this little technique and the athlete won a gold medal. Another recent instance: My husband is a ski racer, and just last week he had a quad injury. I did this technique on him and he won a silver medal in his giant slalom race. It is amazing.

Medscape: This is a totally noninvasive procedure?

Beim: Completely noninvasive. As a surgeon, here is what's so cool about it: Say I have a patient with a muscle or fascial restriction from a scar that wasn't responsive to therapy. What would I do ordinarily? For instance, I might see some hardware in there (for instance, a plate and screws from prior surgery) and the scar is in that area. I may take my scissors and pickups and free up the scar. With IASTM, I do the same thing -- release the adhesions and the scar -- but I don't make any incisions. It is remarkable. I don't work for this company and didn't even tell you the name of the company, so I can't get in trouble. But it is remarkable.

Medscape: Are there any other new treatments that you've learned about in your travels and think are useful?

Beim: Yes. Ultrasound-guided microtenotomy is amazing. You look at the tendon on ultrasound and the partial or chronic tearing and scarring. Then you make a tiny incision with a #11-blade scalpel and put this tiny probe, under ultrasound guidance, into this scar. The probe sends ultrasonic waves, which cuts it up, injects fluid, and sucks the tissue out all at the same time under live ultrasound imaging.

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