Episode 122 | The “Pro Team” Surgeon

Show Notes:

In this episode, we discuss building their ACL team and vetting the professionals involved in the process.

What is up team, and welcome back to another episode on the ACL Athlete Podcast. Today is going to be a unique episode and we are diving into this topic of the “pro team” surgeon, or honestly, insert any healthcare professional involved in this space. There’s going to be a little bit of an emphasis on the surgeon because this is a conversation that I have. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but I don’t really care because this podcast is really important to help you guys be equipped as you’re making decisions, and making sure that you’re building the best ACL team, that is going to help support you, and not just these fancy little accolades that we’re going to dive into.

Deciding on your surgeon is going to be a very big choice. We know this, especially if you’re going the operative route. Make sure you’re doing your due diligence and that is going to be so vital. And before diving in, I do want to say I have great relationships with surgeons and other healthcare professionals in this space, and there are amazing ones out there. It’s a team effort. And the ones who communicate really well, who sit down and educate, and who are a part of this team effort are awesome and I love it. But there is also just like any other single profession out there that exists, you’ll get the bell curve. And you’ll get the good, the bad, the ugly, PTs included. There’s tons of us who are not so great at this process, and there’s tons of us who are kind of average, and then there’s tons that are really awesome. 

And my goal with this episode is not to throw any shade at any particular profession or anything like this but to shed some perspective on basically the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with ACLers, physical therapists, surgeons, and the experiences that people really have with this process. Because when you think about it when you tear your ACL, usually there’s a process of going to see a surgeon or an orthopedist. They’re going to help you in making a game plan, hopefully, but they will at least advise like, okay, yeah, you need to have surgery or MRI, or whatever the next steps are. And then hopefully, talk about physical therapy and what the overall roadmap looks like.

Now, it’s usually a little bit of a rushed process. Therefore, that’s where you can start to vet the person and start to decide, okay, what is this going to look like for me in assembling my team? And I think what’s important here is that this is also going to have a big domino effect on your expectations and starting to formulate your game plan within your own head and thinking about physical therapy. And when you’re going to get back to your goals and things of that nature. There’s a massive domino effect of how this can unfold, which is why the surgeon is usually the first person who is going to kickstart the process and then go from there. I have a lot of conversations and consultation calls with ACLers who are seeking advice, but a lot of these calls are actually from people who are after that surgical process and they’re running into road bumps or they’re feeling a bit lost or not really taken seriously with some of the issues they’re dealing with. And this is where we have a conversation about their experience and the process itself and what that looks like. And I’ll ask about the surgeon and what was their interpretation of all this. What did they do? How was your experience specifically with them? 

And oftentimes, they will get touted, especially if it’s a big, well-known surgeon, that they’ll be touted as their ex-surgeon of this pro team or the college team or insert whatever cool accolade you want. And I find this super interesting because I get it. It’s humans. We want to tout these things that are really important, that shows vetting this person or the credentials if you will. And it’s important, even for people who are seeking out our care, I hope that they are asking us about these and making sure that our credentials are in place, our experiences are in place that we’ve actually worked with hundreds of ACLers which we have, and there’s proof to show that. And I think the thing that’s important here is when we are looking at the surgical process, sometimes whenever… 

I’m having these conversations, the ACLer will be like, yeah, well, they just told me this is what I’m going to get. This is the next step. Or maybe they’ll just see them, here’s the graft, here’s the surgery date, move on to the next, assistant handles most of the other stuff. And then there might be check-in at three months, six months, etc. And I’m not saying the surgeon needs to be overly involved, of course, they play their role in this process. But I think the experience and the education and understanding of what your options are are key here. I. And it’s not uncommon that I’ll see these athletes who are having these problems and they will say, well, they were supposed to be the best ex-surgeon of this team and they work for this team.

And I almost like, have to back up a second and let that not be a thing that influences my decision because that doesn’t necessarily tell me that they’re the best of the best. Just because they got in line with this pro team or college team. While I do think there can be value there, I think we have to go a little bit deeper into this to really understand, okay, is this person the right fit? They have their credentials and make sure that these accolades don’t kind of get in the way of what it is that needs to be done, or to figure out if this is the right person. And when we dive a little bit deeper, a lot of times what I’ll hear is that they didn’t really get much attention, or the problems are getting overlooked is like, ah, like it’s, it’s fine. It’ll get better. While there are times where, sure, the conversations around that can happen, but if something continues to persist and nothing’s being done, well, that’s not going to help you to get back to what you want to do. This is why I don’t think that these accolades really carry as much weight as we think.

And let me expand on this a little bit because I don’t want this to come off as a podcast episode where I’m just knocking these surgeons because there’s so many of them that are really awesome and these accolades do line up. But then I think sometimes what happens is, is when I get on these phone calls and then people are like, yeah, they were this surgeon. And then I talk about the experience with them and then they’re just like, yeah, this doesn’t line up really well of like it being this best of the best surgeon and you just kind of being this. Number in this process or maybe things get overlooked. 

Let’s dive a little bit deeper here because I do want to expand on this and when having these conversations, I realize that having this type of background, these accolades, or maybe this status, if you will, there are two things that can happen. The ACLer takes what they say and assumes this is the best without questioning it. And this is the shiny object syndrome. You’re also entering a space that you probably don’t really know, right? Most of the people who tear their ACL are just like, hit with a fire hose in the face. You’re just trying to figure out what is a graft? After having surgery, all these things, you’re just trying to survive. But with that said, you’re also trying to make sure that you have the best surgeon. And if someone comes in with this status or these accolades, you’re less likely to question things. And especially if you’re not sure even what options exist, you’re just going to take what they say and be like, all right, well, sure, yeah, let’s do that.

And then the second thing that happens is surgeons of this type of status sometimes can come in and say, this is the only way and the best way to do it. And while that can be the case, I don’t want to say that like, oh, like every time you go to do this, you should have 10 different options given. Of course, we need to make sure that the most important thing here is that this can get people into trouble for if you walk in and you’re just told this is what’s going to be done, and then it’s almost like this transactional meeting. It’s almost too much blind trust for such a major surgery. And I think that the main point I want to get across here is that you need to make sure you vet this person, and even with your PT or whoever else you’re working with, there needs to be some vetting. Figure out who you’re working with because this is going to be such an important player in this process.

Now, let me talk about an ideal scenario. A surgeon walks in, you’re there trying to figure out what’s going on, and what are the next steps. They’re educating you on what’s happened? And what are going to be those next steps? Discussing if surgery is an option or not, from that big picture point of view. And then if surgery is an option, then we’re looking at different graft types and we’re considering your goals within that. And there are plenty of conversations I’ve had with surgeons and with ACLers where they’ve been consulting different surgeons and the surgeon will be like, well, hey, in this case, I would typically do a patellar tendon. But since you are a BJJ athlete, a jiujitsu athlete, you might be on the ground more, kneeling can happen. Let’s see if we could do maybe a quad tendon or consider some other options. But if it’s the surgeon that’s just kind of coming in and it’s like, Hey, you’ve torn your ACL. Here’s the graft. See ya? Like that’s something that I’m just like, ah, I don’t think no matter what the transaction is, that’s not going to work for people because of this being such an important surgery. And your graph type can make a big difference in terms of your recovery. Hopefully, there’s a conversation around what that whole process looks like, and then also the rehab game plan.

When you walk away from your visit with your surgeon, you understand those options, you understand what those potential next steps are, versus just this like transactional, this is what’s being done to you. Goodbye. And I think that’s what happens a lot in healthcare because we have built it up to be this kind of transactional volume-based. All right, here’s this number. I got to see this many patients. Let’s just get ’em in, get ’em out. And of course, there is revenue tied to those things. And while that can exist, sure, it’s the thing that gets us in trouble and allows people to fall through the cracks. And I see this being this way more than I don’t, unfortunately, and that’s what I want to shed light on here with you guys, is depending on the credential, sometimes this can get overlooked. And so no matter the background, No matter those accolades, you should always ask questions and get those answered.

If you feel like you’re being rushed or if you feel like the surgeon doesn’t have time to entertain those, then it might be time to find another surgeon. And it might be going out of your geographic location a little bit further to do that because this is not a surgery to be overlooked. As someone who’s done this twice, as someone who has worked with so many people with this, this surgeon is going to be a key player. Your physical therapist is going to be such a key player, and I wanna make sure that you guys feel equipped to be able to ask those questions. If you need those, you can download a resource that we have on our website. It’s free. You can go to theaclathlete.com. You also have podcast episodes seven and eight for eight questions to help ask your surgeon about ACL surgery. It’s just to help vet them, see how many surgeries they’ve done, the graph types, the rehab process, the testing. 

The other big thing here is the gut test. Make sure your gut is giving you that feeling that this is the person you want to go with. I always advise people to consult multiple surgeons just to get some good options. I told a story recently of evaluating a recent athlete who tore her ACL and her knee was pretty blown up, and swollen, couldn’t move it very much, a lot of pain. She said she saw a surgeon pretty quickly after and he wanted to get her in the next week for surgery. I was like, oh, red flag. We need to pause here because your knee is freaking out from the ACL injury and we don’t need to rush in there and just have surgery because that’s just going to complicate things further.

This is where it’s going to be really important to have the surgeon that is dialed in and gives you a really gut feeling and to get multiple opinions and then make a very good-informed decision. Find that surgeon who is going to educate you, provide the options, communicate well, answer your questions, and knows this process, not the one who’s done a few ACL surgeries or who is the big shot, who has done this surgery for this athlete, because, you know, the other thing that can get overlooked is that if they are so focused on these high-level athletes, then are they going to give you the same amount of attention compared to someone who’s Sally, who wants to play ultimate frisbee again. And I find this that happens in this space a lot because there can be this thing where there’s favoritism, whether you believe it or not, it happens. Every one of us does it. And this is the other thing to think about with this space and with choosing your surgeon, choosing your healthcare team, in all honesty. Because every single player in this is going to be so valuable and is going to help move the needle for you. 

And as I wrap up this episode, the goal here wasn’t to bash any particular profession or particular surgeon. It’s just to shed some light on some of the conversations that I have around these types of figures or people who are influenced a lot by these certain accolades. I just want to make sure that you guys are able to make decisions about your care and not let the shiny object syndrome get in the way of what could be a very good experience and your ultimate outcome of getting back to what you want to do. And this applies from the surgeon to the physical therapist, to the strength coach, to anyone else involved. I think it’s important to make sure that we have the person in our corner who’s going to be on our team, and who’s going to hear us out and educate us to make sure we have our questions answered. And to support us even if something doesn’t go the right way. And so that’s what’s really key here, and I don’t want that to get overlooked. Capish? Does that sound good?

All right guys, that’s going to do it for today. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing off.

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