Dr Fitzpatrick assessing shoulder injury

Sports Medicine Q & A with Dr. Sean Fitzpatrick

We sat down with Great Basin Orthopaedics newest surgeon, Dr. Sean Fitzpatrick, to learn more about his specialty area — sports medicine — and his approach to patient care. Our questions and his answers are below.

Q: What is a sports medicine doctor?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: Sports medicine surgeons have undergone additional training and certification in the field of sports medicine. We are uniquely qualified to treat and rehab athletes and patients dealing with sport and exercise related injuries. Over the years, the field of sports medicine has evolved into a specialty that focuses on injury prevention, conservative treatment protocols including biological therapies such as PRP (platelet-rich plasma), surgical management of sports and athletic injuries and appropriate rehabilitation.

Q: Why see a sports medicine doctor versus a primary care doctor or other doctor?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: Primary care physicians see a wide variety of patients with a broad range of issues. They are well versed in many nonoperative treatment modalities of common conditions. When these treatments are no longer effective it may be time to consult with an orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon. During a consultation I provide patients with a number of different treatment options including many non-surgical options. I think it is important to provide patients with treatment options and together develop a patient-specific treatment plan.

Q: Are all orthopaedists sports medicine doctors?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: No. Sports medicine surgeons spend an entire year of training in a sports medicine fellowship which is in addition to the requirement of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. During the course of the year, the surgeon gains expertise in the management and surgeries related to sports injuries. Not all orthopaedic surgeons have this additional qualification.

Q: Do I need to be an athlete to see a sports medicine doctor?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: Absolutely not. While sports medicine doctors have additional qualifications to treat athletes and individuals with sports related injuries, it is very common for us to treat non-athletes as well. Since we are specialists of the knee, hip, elbow and shoulder, we are often uniquely able to address some of the more chronic problems that patients may be experiencing. After all, my biggest goal is to get patients back to doing the activities they love: whether that’s professional sports or just being able to go for a walk and be pain free.

Q: What injuries do sports medicine doctors treat?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: Some of the most common injuries and conditions I treat are rotator cuff tears, labral injuries, shoulder dislocations, ACL tears, meniscus injuries, and knee arthritis.

Q: What treatments do sports medicine doctors use?

Dr. Fitzpatrick: I believe in a patient-specific treatment plan. It is my job to provide all treatment options to the patient including many non-operative modalities such as PRP and stem cell therapies. I then discuss these options with the patient and develop a custom plan to manage their condition. While I prefer an initial non-operative approach, in some cases surgery may be the best option. An added benefit of my training as a sports medicine surgeon is that I able to perform many minimally invasive surgeries using arthroscopic techniques which can often speed up recovery and get patients back to the activities that they love.