What is a Sports Medicine Doctor?

Colorado’s high country is home to a large demographic of active athletes. Professionals, elites, masters, juniors, amateurs and enthusiasts alike take advantage of the high country setting, and also utilize the world class sports medicine care with Dr. Richard Cunningham when needed. Known as the Vail knee and shoulder doctor, Richard Cunningham, MD is a certified sports medicine specialist. Dr. Cunningham provides both preventative care and injury diagnosis and treatment.

As a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Cunningham has the training and experience required for active patients. Some patients require conservative treatment such as physical therapy or injections, while others require surgical treatments. As a Board Certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cunningham offers innovative surgical treatments when indicated. His patients enjoy the quickest return to their sports and preferred activities, as well as ample prevention strategies to minimize future injury.

As a sports injury specialist, Richard Cunningham, MD is in a unique position to help every patient, not solely the athletes among us. Any patient with the goals of either preventing injury, minimizing the short and long term impact of an injury, or making a quick return to preferred activities can benefit from an evaluation from a sports injury specialist like Dr. Cunningham.

When is it time to see a sports medicine specialist?

Proactive patients choosing to access the preventive and optimizing expertise of a sports medicine specialist, are choosing maximum health. Likewise, when dealing with injury, a sports injury specialist is an excellent choice for a full recovery. Two injury types indicate the right time to reach out to Dr. Richard Cunningham. These are, acute injuries, and overuse injuries.

Acute Injuries

Examples of acute injuries include any impact event, from bruising and cuts, to fractures and dislocations. Symptoms often include mild to severe pain, and loss of function, range of motion, and strength. It’s time to see your sports injury specialist if:

Pain disrupts daily activity and/or sleeping, or radiates away from the injured area
Function is markedly altered from stiffness to the inability to use the body part
The injury area has obvious visible changes such as deformity, swelling, numbness, hot to the touch and redness.
Any worsening of symptoms is also an indicator to see your specialist.

Overuse Injuries

Examples of overuse injuries include chronic inflammation such as tendonitis, bursitis, fasciitis spondylolysis, and body mechanics challenges resulting in conditions like shin splints, stress fractures, nerve impingement, or growth plate problems in young athletes. Symptoms include pain and discomfort during triggering activity, with relief during rest. Tightness, clicking, joint limitation, swelling and weakness can be present. Over time, the negative impact on activity increases. It is time to see your sports injury specialist If:

  • Pain worsens over time
  • Stiffness, swelling and weakness interrupt daily and sports activity
  • Home remedies, including rest, ice, and medication decrease in effectiveness
  • Pain affects daily activity or impacts sleep

What to expect from treatment

When seeing Dr. Cunningham for an initial sports injury examination, you can expect a comprehensive evaluation of your health history, injury event, and the symptoms related to the injury. Dr. Cunningham assesses the location and degree of pain, and what increases or reduces it. Impact to range of motion, function and strength are evaluated. Diagnostic imaging is ordered, like x-ray or MRI, to derive a complete picture of the injury.

Dr. Cunningham evaluates and treats patients with the full range of sports injuries. As a knee and shoulder specialist and orthopedic surgeon, he can expertly treat injury to the knee, such as a torn anterior cruciate (ACL) ligament, torn meniscus, or to the shoulder, such as a torn rotator cuff or torn labrum. Non-surgical treatments are the first explored, with surgical treatments reserved for the acute injury emergency, and conditions that are unresponsive to non-surgical treatments.

Recovery and prevention

Every treatment plan from Dr. Cunningham includes a comprehensive prevention and recovery protocol. Recovery begins as soon as possible to prevent loss of strength and the onset of stiffness. Dr. Cunningham will provide a detailed recovery schedule such that the pace minimizes loss of function, yet, avoids reinjury. Medications are used for pain and swelling management, and are tapered over time. Stabilizing supports are utilized, when indicated, to protect the healing process. The physical therapy clinic is accessed to provide essential treatment components. Therapeutic massage, heat and cold therapies, and electric or sound wave stimulation may be indicated. Range of motion exercises, and stretching and strengthening regimens are prescribed.

In addition to these components of therapy, Dr. Cunningham and his physical therapy team provide real time monitoring as to the rate of progress for athletes. With an eye on an optimal return to a patient’s sport, the therapy seamlessly compliments the prevention program, moving forward. Elements of prevention often include:

  • Continued reevaluation of return to play with an eye on safety
  • Overall conditioning plan, including developing support to the injured area
  • Monitoring of safe training and equipment use
  • A comprehensive nutrition and healthy lifestyle regime
  • A prescribed warm-up and cool-down protocol
  • Stress reduction, mindfulness and listening-to-the-body techniques

Richard Cunningham, MD, and his talented care team are committed to preventing and treating sports injuries. When surgery is indicated, the goal is to return the athlete to their preferred sport as soon as possible. Contact Dr. Cunningham and his team today.

Rediscover your inner athlete

Dr. Cunningham specializes in the treatment of knee, shoulder, and sports injuries.