Discussing Sports Medicine with Dr. Colin Looney – Facebook Live

Dr. Looney, Tell Us A Little Bit About Yourself And What Specialties You See Here At Bone And Joint Institute

Dr. Colin Looney: I’m a sports medicine doctor here at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. I’ve been here about 15 years, have been in Franklin and Nashville for about 15 years and have been practicing sports medicine all that time. I’ve been on the sideline at Centennial for that long and have been taking care of Battle Ground Academy for some time now as well.

What Is Sports Medicine? Is it just athletes?

Dr. Looney: Sports medicine is a broad field. It’s taking the patient as a whole and looking not just at the athletic injury but at a patient who is an athlete, who has athletic desires. And, athlete, that’s a broad definition; we’re talking very young kids that might be on their pee wee baseball team all the way up to the weekend warriors who work through the week and then get out and do stuff on the weekend. It encompasses a large, vast swath of patients but our objective in sports medicine is to get patients doing what they love to do.

That’s a little bit different than orthopaedics in the sense that when you come in, not only are we going to ask you what you do for a living, you’ll notice one of the things we ask is “What do you love to do” because that’s sports medicine. When I talk to my 16-year old, he’s not going to tell me he loves geometry. He’s going to tell me how much he loves playing cornerback. That’s not necessarily always true, but, often it is.

Why do you love sports medicine?

Dr. Looney: I had a great experience the other day where I bumped into a mom where I took care of her whole family. What I love about sports medicine is kind of what she put all together for me and made me think about: I love seeing young athletes develop into great people; that that boy will develop into a contributing, fine young man and the girl I’ve taken care of forever on the volleyball team to develop into a great woman leader. All this to say, it’s really the development of my patients and watching them through time that means a lot.

Some of the people I’ve taken care of from all these high school teams, they still call me. Some of them play sports on Sunday and they’ll call me and still pick my brain and ask me “Ok, I’m up here, I’m playing here, what do you think about this” and so I love the relationship that we form with our athletes from very early on.

This story is two twins I took care of since they were little. When they got to Centennial, they were not the biggest starters on the team but they were the fastest, they were the most explosive and so they were always out there and they were always getting hurt. I helped them through multiple ligament injuries and then they went on to play college football. One of them desired to play college football at (Army) West Point and we even helped. West Point was reluctant, (they thought) “Hey, we don’t want someone who’s been injured in one of our academies” but I said “this kid is 100 percent. He’s 100 percent here (points to core and chest area) in enthusiasm and he’s going to be a great contributor to the U.S. military.” I bumped into his mom and heard what each is doing, one is now out of West Point, he’s a lieutenant down in Texas as a sapper and will probably go on to be a Ranger. And then his brother is in MBA school here in town and will be a great contributor in the Nashville community. They’re both great … well, I still call them boys but they’re now men. The development and watching them has been great. One of the things that made those guys what they are is they had an injury, they played sports and they stuck with it and overcame the obstacle of the injury to keep going and to keep playing and that’s made them better people. I think that’s what’s fun about sports medicine and seeing that spectrum of somebody’s life is amazing.

You’re the team physician for Centennial High School and Battle Ground Academy. Tell us your experience as a team physician and what you do at these schools for all athletes, not just football and basketball.

Dr. Looney: We as sports medicine doctors are constantly communicating with an athletic trainer. Williamson Medical Center has an athletic trainer at every high school in Williamson County. Particularly with every school we’re associated with, we’re constantly communicating with our trainers about various injuries throughout the year, not just during football season. We’re talking baseball, lacrosse and others. We take care of all athletic and a lot non-athletic injuries that happen at school, frankly. That’s one element of it that’s not just Friday Night Lights.

The beauty of it also is that, our job, we get to be part of one of the best things in life which is watching sports. That’s a great part of it and it goes throughout the year and is a real joy. But also, our collaboration and working with our athletic trainers is a great part of the job. Figuring out the time to put that patient back in and return is really the art of sports medicine.

What are some of the most common injuries that you see and treat in sports medicine?

Dr. Looney: Those are two different questions. One of my sub-specialties in sports medicine is taking care of very specific hip injuries in athletes. Everyone says “Yeah, Looney you’re a hip guy” and I’m like “Yes I am, but it’s sports so I take care of a broad range of injuries.” In hips, I do a special procedure where we fix the labrum of the hip and take care of soft tissue damage and I see quite a bit of that. Fortunately it is a little more unusual than the average sports injury.

Of the typical sports injuries I take care of, (one) is the ACL and that would be one of the most common that we see. Meniscus tears is another one. Another one that’s very common this time of year because of contact is shoulder dislocations. That’s when you rip the labrum of the shoulder off and we’ll arthroscopically or sometimes open repair that to stabilize the shoulder. Those are the more common ones. Rotator cuff is less common in that age group, we’re heavy labrum, ACL, and knee cap or patella dislocations; those are others we often will see.

Fortunately for our athletes, most of sports medicine is non-surgical. That’s great because a lot sports medicine is “This is going to get better, this doesn’t need surgery, but there is a timeline for return to play to make this safe.” The sprains, the MCL sprains, those are much more common than the surgical things fortunately, and so we see a lot of that.

Tell us a little bit about the comprehensive care we at Bone and Joint Institute can offer these athletes.

Dr. Looney: We’re a team here. Sports medicine is a team. I mentioned the athletic trainers, that’s a huge component of it. But just down the hall is our physical therapy. When we have an injury, we have to work with our therapists and collaborate with them because they’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting to get these athletes better. I’ll often be in (Bone and Joint Institute Director or Rehabilitation Services) Dave Kempfert’s office talking about this or talking about other athletic injuries and just coordinating how our patients are doing. That’s one element of it.

The other element is our after hours clinic. We have late hours in various areas of Williamson County and so we’re talking to our providers who are working there seeing athletic injuries that are coming in in the evening that happen that night on the field or court, so we’re coordinating with them. And then most importantly, my partners. We all work together here. This is a team effort and I’ve got great partners and it makes this job fantastic.   

To watch the full segment with Dr. Looney from Facebook Live, click here.

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