LOUISVILLE In much of medicine, care is focused on the sick. An abundance of chronic health issues, particularly in Kentucky, means physicians are providing lifetime care for patients whose problems may fluctuate in severity but are never actually resolved.
In sports medicine, the balance of health is different. “It is rewarding to be able to take care of patients who are motivated to make the investment to resolve their own condition,” says Mark Puckett, MD, a family practice physician specializing in sports medicine with Baptist Health Sports Medicine. “I enjoy the concept of seeing a problem, doing some problem solving, getting to the root cause of what that problem is, and seeing people get better.”
Originally from Louisville, Puckett went to medical school at the University of Louisville and attended residency and fellowship at Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood, S.C., in family medicine and primary care sports medicine respectively. During his training, he worked with recreational and collegiate athletes and tended to a lot of endurance sport athletes, such as triathletes and collegiate soccer players. He joined Baptist Health Medical Associates Family & Sports Medicine at Baptist Health Eastpoint in 2012.
As a family practice sports medicine specialist, Puckett’s focus is non-surgical sports medicine, but he is quick to note the general focus is sports health issues and not just injuries. For instance, “Sometimes that can be an endurance athlete who has fatigue or breathing issues when he or she runs,” he says. Puckett also sees non-athletes with repetitive motion injuries, such as a bow hunter with elbow issues and musicians with overuse injuries.
Getting to the root cause of problems is part of Puckett’s treatment philosophy, one he learned from mentors during his training. For example, if a runner has an injury, he looks at how they run, not just their symptoms. Once a problem and its cause are properly assessed, Puckett focuses on the best solution for each patient, whether it be medication, physical therapy, a non-surgical procedure, or even surgery. “Because of that, I see a range of patients from 10-year-old soccer players with knee pain, to professional athletes, and older folks trying to stay active and healthy.
In terms of non-surgical treatments, perhaps the newest approach Puckett employs is loosely referred to as prolotherapy, which he defines as “pro-inflammatory treatments to prompt a healing response without surgery.” Prolotherapy can be as simple as aggressive physical therapy. It can also include using ultrasound to break up scar tissue under direct visualization, or platelet rich plasma (PRP), “where we take somebody’s own blood and separate the component that has growth factors for healing and inject into the injured tissue,” he explains.
Other treatments include steroid injections for pain relief or “gel” injections to lubricate damaged joints. The practice is also equipped for testing for conditions such as compartment syndrome.
Baptist Health Sports Medicine services are headquartered at their Eastpoint location in east Louisville, where Puckett and his sports medicine colleagues share office space with orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists. When the best prescription for a sports issue is surgery or physical therapy, or something that falls outside of Puckett’s purview, he can simply walk the patient down the hall to the most appropriate provider. “We can put our heads together right while we are seeing patients. It really allows us to think about what’s the best thing for the patient on an individual basis, not just, ‘What can I do within my skill set?’” he says.
He describes the connectivity with Baptist Health physical therapists as an “invaluable tool for everything we do” and says there are “no barriers to us communicating.”
Community Participation and Education
As an organization, Baptist Health Sports Medicine provides athletic training and team physician services to a number of area high schools. Puckett and orthopedic surgeon J. Steven Smith, MD, are the team physicians for Ballard High School in Louisville.
The group recently entered the proathlete arena becoming the team physicians for the Louisville City Football Club, the city’s new professional soccer team. Puckett, Christopher Pitcock, MD, family and sports medicine physician, and Nicholas Kenney, MD, orthopedic surgeon, serve as the team physicians. Baptist also provides a full-time athletic trainer for the Louisville City FC, as well as training, performance, and injury prevention exercise programming through their sports performance program.
Education is also high on the group’s priority list. On July 29, 2015, Baptist Health Sports Medicine will host its third annual female athlete seminar. The seminar was created in response to a trend in injuries physicians and athletic trainers were seeing in the community. “We began to see a cluster of folks with stress fractures that may have been related to nutritional insufficiencies with training,” says Puckett. The seminar will include presentations from orthopedic surgeon Kittie George, MD; Baptist Health Sports Performance Program Coordinator Nick Sarantis; a Baptist Health physical therapist; and a private practice sports nutritionist, Anna Grout. Topics will be specific to female athletes and will cover issues such as preventing injury patterns in runners, preventing ACL injuries in soccer players, and nutritional components that help promote bone health in female athletes.
A knack for problem-solving and a propensity for treating healthy, motivated patients may give Puckett and sports medicine physicians like him a great sense of satisfaction, but the connectivity and comprehensive nature of services Baptist Health Sports Medicine provides are bound to equal that level of satisfaction with athletes of all ages.
Sports medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists can put our heads together while we are seeing patients. It really allows us to think about what’s the best thing for the patient on an individual basis, not just, “What can I do within my skill set?”
2400 Eastpoint Pkwy Louisville, KY 40223 (502) 253-6699 www.baptistsportsmedky.com