Peter Millett, MD, is a partner of The Steadman Clinic, based in Vail, Colo., and a specialist in shoulder surgeries and sports medicine.
He recently spoke with Becker's about the development of sports medicine, including emerging trends, recent changes within the industry and possible challenges in the future.
Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.
Question: What are some developing trends in sports medicine that you've been keeping an eye on?
Dr. Peter Millett: I've been interested in a couple of things. One is less invasive, more tissue-friendly types of repair techniques for shoulder instability, which will hopefully hasten recovery to decrease the time out of play and will decrease the risk of subsequent recurrence, subsequent injury and joint damage down the road. For example, I consulted on a hockey player that had prior surgery, but he had a new injury and had an issue that is now more difficult to treat because of the prior surgery. Some of the newer surgical techniques and implants used to fix shoulder instability will make the risk of needing subsequent surgery lower, but will also make any revision surgery easier.
The other thing that I am following closely are my own results in the success of the Latarjet procedure in high-level professional contact athletes like the NHL and NFL and the ability to get them back to sports quickly and safely in three to four months. Historically, once they had surgery, they would be out for the season, but I've had a number of players in the past years that have been able to come back and help their teams in the playoffs. This is incredibly exciting for many obvious reasons.
Q: How do you think sports medicine has changed over the past few years, either for better or for worse, with the new changes and new technologies?
PM: I think sports medicine is evolving so quickly, there are so many innovative surgeons, companies and technologies. We all share the information immediately with each other through educational videos, society meetings, and literature that the rapidity of information transfer allows for much faster levels of innovation and improvement in our abilities to treat athletes. It is probably one of the most rapidly changing fields in orthopedics and in medicine. Additionally, sports medicine surgeons get immediate feedback of whether the athlete is able to perform or not. In other branches of medicine, you have to wait, perhaps several years, to understand whether it had an effect. In this case, you are getting feedback pretty quickly on how quickly the athlete can return to play and how their performance is once they return. That feedback is really valuable from a learning perspective and helps us continue to get better at our craft.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the field and facing sports medicine today?
PM: I think that the biggest challenge is trying to prevent the long-term risks of playing sports at the highest level. For example, for an athlete with a joint injury, we want to not only return the athlete to the highest level of sport, but also prevent long-term problems such as post-traumatic arthritis. There's not really a great treatment for that once it develops, so we are actively working on that and trying to find early interventions that can be used both therapeutically and preventatively. Figuring out a way to prevent or delay the onset of post-traumatic arthritis is something that is incredibly important for sports medicine specialists to work on for the future.