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Local “weekend warrior” returns to basketball court after successful ACL reconstruction

Game Changer

When work, family and social commitments fill the calendar, squeezing in a daily workout can be tough. Enter the “weekend warrior,” the 30-to-50-something sports enthusiast who packs seven days of moderate exercise into a few days of high-intensity workouts. While any amount of exercise is beneficial, strenuous exertion following long periods of inactivity can result in injuries to the joints and ligaments.

“If someone is playing a potentially vigorous sport like football, basketball, baseball or softball and they do it on the weekend but don’t do much during the week, they are more likely to get injured,” says Mark Theiss, MD, Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus. “Problems can occur if they don’t normally do gym, cardio and weight workouts during the week to maintain strength, fitness and flexibility.”

On Your Team

The most common types of injuries weekend warriors face include joint and ligament problems affecting the knees, shoulders, ankles and fingers. Typically, injuries are a result of chronic overuse, extreme exertion or accidents. Throwing a ball can affect the shoulder or elbow, while running track or marathon training can lead to injuries of the foot, knee or ankle, says orthopedic surgeon Robert Najarian, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus and a team physician for the Washington Nationals.  “There are those unlucky times, though, where we can sustain acute injuries like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, shoulder dislocations and tears to the meniscus,” he adds.

Fortunately, the Inova Sports Medicine team is highly qualified to care for injured sports enthusiasts. For athletes who come to Inova Fairfax Medical Campus for emergent injuries or surgical services, the hospital offers the highest level of expertise and equipment for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

“We have a great diagnostic and emergency care process to rapidly identify and treat emergent injuries,” says Robert Theis, Vice President of Neurosciences, and Administrator, Inova Fairfax Medical Campus Orthopedics and Rehabilitation. “Our diagnostic services feature 3T MRIs, which are some of the top-performing, state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging equipment available; our Emergency Department physicians are experienced level 1 trauma care providers — the highest level of emergency services that can be provided in Northern Virginia. When our patients need something more than conservative treatment, i.e., surgery, we have outstanding surgeons who have demonstrated outstanding outcomes.”

The Inova Sports Medicine Program also provides physical therapy, athletic training and nutrition counseling to promote healing in patients who have experienced sports injuries.

Not a “weekend warrior”, but accidents happen

While some weekend athletes suffer from sprains or strains by pushing themselves past their limit, others get injured by accident. That’s what happened two years ago to Navy microbiologist Preston Fulmer when he was playing basketball after work with some of his buddies. An amateur sports enthusiast, Preston, 36, played basketball two times a week and participated in crossfit classes, jogged and went on hikes. But one day during a pickup game on the court, his career as an amateur athlete came to a sudden halt.

“I landed funny and I knew something was wrong pretty quickly,” says Preston. “It was just a freak thing.”

The painful landing resulted in a torn ACL in his right knee. A friend referred him to Dr. Najarian, and Preston knew he was in good hands. “Dr. Najarian is great. He definitely knows what he’s doing and he has a sports medicine background,” says Preston.

After assessing Preston’s knee, Dr. Najarian ordered an MRI to assess the damage. Based on the test results, he told Preston that if he wanted to continue to play basketball, he would need to have his ACL reconstructed. For Preston, his love of the game overrode any surgery concerns and he chose to have a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.

Shortly after the procedure, he was walking with the help of crutches, and within two weeks he was able to walk without assistance. Dr. Najarian recommended physical therapy, so Preston attended sessions at Dr. Najarian’s Arlington office for two months, within walking distance of his home.

These days, Preston is back to playing basketball and running and hiking on weekends.

“I don’t have any pain or any range-of-motion issues. It’s like nothing ever happened,” he says. “I don’t have any limitations.”

Injury Prevention

Taking proper steps prior to exercising may prevent some injuries.

“The best thing is choosing low-impact exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and maintaining healthy limits on how much exercise you do,” says Dr. Najarian.

He recommends warming up prior to exercise, stretching, preparing yourself before you start a new sport, knowing your limits and knowing when to stop to prevent overuse injuries.

Of course, not all injuries are preventable. “There are instances where no matter how well-trained you are or how in shape you may be, bad luck can occur and you sustain an injury,” he says.

If you are experiencing pain or have concerns about injury, call your doctor for a consultation.

Build on Your Strengths

Being active is an important part of staying healthy. To avoid being sidelined by an injury, Inova offers Sports Injury Testing (SIT) to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and optimize your performance.

The tests include:

  1. A recording of your sports history of prior injury and sports participation.
  2. A video analysis of jumping and landing mechanics, functional hop tests and vertical jump assessment.
  3. A single leg squat and hamstring flexibility assessment.

Conducted by the Inova Physical Therapy Centers’ Sportsmetrics Training Program, certified physical therapists are able to use the information from your SIT test to customize training to your unique needs and track your progress as a way to improve your athletic performance and lower your chance of injury.

To schedule a Sports Injury Test, call 1.877.604.6682.

Sports Medicine Doctors in Northern Virginia

To schedule an appointment with Inova Fairfax Medical Campus Orthopedics, call 703.970.6464.

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