In our Ask a Doc series, we sit down with physicians and other clinical experts across our networks, including at Allegheny Health Networkm for a chat on an important health topic. In this edition, we’re talking about sports medicine with Dr. Patrick DeMeo, who appeared on Medical Frontiers Radio on KDKA Monday, Oct. 19.

Along every sideline and behind every bench in the professional sports world, you’ll find experts specially trained to make sure that your favorite second baseman can pull off that spectacular 4-6-3 double play or that your goalie can make that highlight-reel save. They know how to fine-tune these elite athletes’ bodies so they can be at their best all season long.

But you don’t have to be playing for a professional team to work with the experts. Sports Medicine specialists like Allegheny Health Network’s Dr. Patrick DeMeo can help patients of all ages and skill levels reach their peak athletic or fitness performance.

Amanda Changuris (AC): Dr. DeMeo, what are some of the common conditions you see among your patients who play sports or work out but who aren’t professional athletes?

Dr. Patrick DeMeo (PD): We have runners who may have ankle, knee and hip problems. We have tennis players and golfers who may have shoulder and elbow problems. We may have swimmers who may have shoulder problems. It’s really sport-dependent and activity-dependent.

AC: According to the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, knee injuries are responsible for about one-third of all doctors’ visits for muscle and bone pain. In your practice, what types of knee injuries do you see?

PD: Typically we would see knee injuries in athletes who are involved in cutting-type sports (in which quick side-to-side movements are necessary): football players, basketball players, volleyball players, soccer players. In the younger age group, we see more of the ligamentous injuries. In the older age group, the weekend warrior athlete or the runner, we see more degenerative-type problems such as cartilage and meniscal problems.

AC: Are there any common mistakes people make that lead to injuries? What precautions can we take to avoid them?

PD: People need to prepare for competition through strength training and flexibility programs. This is the best way to prevent injuries and to reduce the age-related declines in strength and flexibility.

A New Home for Sports Participation, Performance Enhancement and Physical Therapy

AC: The new Allegheny Health Network Sports Complex at Cool Springs in Bethel Park, PA, south of Pittsburgh, opens its doors Nov. 1 for its athletic fields, with other parts of the facility scheduled to open early in 2016. The 169,000-square-foot addition to the Cool Springs facility features a turfed indoor multipurpose field for football, soccer and lacrosse; basketball and volleyball courts; and a fitness center.

The facility will also be home to a Sports Performance Center. Dr. DeMeo, what will be offered through this program?

PD: The Sports Performance Center, led by former Pittsburgh Pirates strength and conditioning coach Frank Velasquez, is designed for the high-end athlete. The athlete who’s an elite high school athlete, college athletes, as well as professional athletes and some of our Olympic athletes we’ll be training will all be using the center. We’re helping them reach their optimal potential.

AC: And I understand those of us who aren’t quite Olympic athletes can still tap into some of that expertise through physical therapy and sport-specific rehabilitation programs. Can you walk me through those offerings?

PD: Let’s say you’re recovering from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. You had surgery and you had your ACL reconstruction and you did your typical three or four months of rehabilitation, and now you want to get ready to come back to whatever sport you play — usually it’s basketball or soccer — but there’s nobody to bridge that gap between traditional rehab and becoming game-ready.

At the professional level, we have plenty of that. We have physical therapists and trainers in our clubhouse who not only rehab an injury but also help the athlete return to play. There’s a gap there in the community for getting athletes ready to play following an injury or a surgery. That gap can increase the risk of reinjury, but I also think closing that gap provides a psychological boost.

AC: It sounds like this specialized rehabilitation can help athletes get back in the game both quickly and safely. Just how specific can sport-specific rehabilitation get?

PD: The demands on a football player are different than the demands on a basketball player, or a soccer player, or a hockey player. They’re different sports, they require different activation of muscles, and they have different requirements.

Even within each sport, there are sport-specific performance metrics. So you wouldn’t train a quarterback the same way you would train a defensive tackle. You wouldn’t train a soccer player the way you would train a hockey player. You wouldn’t train a center fielder the way you would train a pitcher. It’s not only sport-specific, but it’s position-specific within the sport.