MSH-Orthopaedic-HR Jeffrey V. Mayer, MD, CAQSM

Whether you are a beginner, recreational athlete, or an elite professional, you can be sure to benefit from the fully integrated approach to recovery and maintenance of health and wellbeing offered by the MedStar Health sports medicine orthopaedic specialists. Our teams of medical specialists—including physicians, sports physical therapists, occupational therapists, and athletic trainers—are dedicated to helping you reach or return to your desired level of activity, as quickly and safely as possible.

What separates MedStar Health from other medical facilities is our unique understanding of athletes and physically active individuals and the injuries they suffer. We appreciate the sense of urgency and the high level of expectations our patients bring to treatment.

Focus on Total Performance

We know that to manage injuries appropriately, we need to look at why they occurred. So, in addition to traditional evaluation measures, our assessment includes careful review of training techniques, and inspection of equipment.

At MedStar Health, our goal is not simply to treat your injury, but also to integrate the injured joint or muscle into the total performance of the body. We emphasize early intervention, learning techniques to avoid complications, and maintaining good physical conditioning even during injury convalescence. Learn more:

Common Injuries

A number of injuries are common in the sports arena, and, depending on the sport you play and how often you participate, often require specific treatments. The list of possible injuries is almost as long as the list of activities in which you can participate, but a number of injuries occur fairly frequently in all sports.

Among the numerous conditions treated at MedStar Harbor are: 

Sprains and Strains

A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn, while a strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is injured. Most sprains and strains respond well to conservative therapy, which includes R.I.C.E. and rehabilitation.

  • R.I.C.E. therapy is best applied in the 48 hours after an injury and includes:
    • Rest and reduction in activities
    • Ice applied for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day
    • Compression, such as with elastic bandages
    • Elevation above the level of the heart to decrease swelling. (Over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help decrease pain and inflammation.)
  • Rehabilitation varies according to the injury, but may include special exercises and a gradual increase of activity until healing is complete. Some sprains or strains may be severe enough to require surgery to repair them.


Fractures are broken bones.Fracture treatment is different for each individual and depends on the extent and location of the fracture. MedStar Harbor physicians treat fractures in many parts of the body including:

Ankle Fractures

The ankle is made up of three bones, and the foot comprises 26 bones. Fractures can occur in any of these bones and are usually due to trauma such as a fall, blow, or severe twist. Symptoms can include:

  • Immediate and severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising and tenderness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty walking or putting weight on the injured foot/ankle
  • Lump or visible deformity

Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a fracture, every injury to the foot and ankle should be examined by a physician.

Fracture treatment is different for each individual and depends on the extent of the fracture. Treatment can range from a special shoe or cast to surgery for more severe fractures. A surgeon may use plates, metal or absorbable screws, pins, staples, or tension bands to hold the bones in place. Physical therapy is the second stage of treatment for a fracture, following the cast removal or surgery.

Hands, Finger, and Wrist Fractures

Generally, fractured hands, fingers, and wrists will heal without surgery and nonsurgical treatment often includes splints or casts and physical therapy.

If your injury caused your bones to shift out of place or break through the skin, you may need surgery to restore the proper alignment. During surgery, your orthopedic surgeon may use wires, screws, or plates to secure your bones back to the correct position.

Shoulder Fractures

Fractures that affect the shoulder typically involve the

  • Clavicle (collar bone)
  • Proximal humerus (upper arm bone)
  • Fractures of the clavicle or the proximal humerus often result from the force of a hard fall, collision, or motor vehicle accident.
  • The scapula is not as easily fractured because of the protection afforded by the chest and surrounding muscles. Therefore, scapula fractures are commonly the result of more severe traumas and are associated with injuries to the chest.
  • Scapula (shoulder blade)

Shoulder fractures may affect anyone but can be common in older adults when linked to osteoporosis. Children are more likely to fracture the clavicle, while adults fracture the proximal humerus more frequently. Some common symptoms of shoulder fractures include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Swelling and bruising of the shoulder area
  • Inability to move the shoulder without pain
  • A bump or disfigurement at the site of the fracture
  • Snapping or cracking sensation when moving the shoulder

Most shoulder fractures can be treated by setting the joint into place and using a sling or strap to immobilize it. After a period of healing, rehabilitation exercises are recommended to promote shoulder strength and motion. More severe cases, in which fracture fragments have been displaced from their normal position, surgery may be necessary to realign the shoulder.

Ligament Injuries

Ligaments are the tough, flexible tissues that connect two bones or cartilages or hold together a joint. The knee has four main ligaments: the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments. When the knee is suddenly twisted or directly impact, these ligaments can be injured.

  • Cruciate ligament injuries may respond to conservative treatment; however, most require surgery. The sports medicine surgeons at MedStar Health have significant experience and expertise in a number of surgical options and will discuss the best treatment choices with you.
  • Collateral ligament injuries are more likely to respond to nonsurgical treatments; however, severe injuries or ones that also involve the cruciate ligaments usually require surgery.

ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injuries

The most commonly injured of the ligaments is the ACL, and not just by athletes—over 250,000 ACL injuries occur annually within the general population. ACL tears generally result in surgery, extensive physical therapy, significant time away from recreational activities, and a likelihood of arthritis within 10 years.

ACL Injury Prevention

MedStar Health has developed a comprehensive program to reduce injury risk that involves proper dynamic warm ups, a targeted strengthening program, and a progressive plyometric program. Our mission is to help educate and train as many teams, coaches and parents as possible to help minimize the risk of an athlete suffering this common injury.

ACL Treatment

To initially manage ACL injuries, MedStar Health specialists focus on obtaining a full range of motion of the knee and allowing the swelling to subside. Once these have been achieved, both conservative and operative treatment options can be exercised.

  • Conservative treatment involves muscular strengthening and often bracing to help stabilize the knee. It is optimal for those who are older or less active, and those who do not plan to return to athletic or vigorous activity.
  • Surgical reconstruction offers a better alternative in preventing recurrent instability and allowing for return to function. More information about ACL surgery is available here.

Meniscus Injuries

The knee meniscus is a piece of cartilage that serves as a shock absorber between the ends of the leg bones, helps lubricate the joint, and distributes body weight across the joint. Meniscal tears are typically caused by twisting or hyperflexing the joint. These tears can also occur due to degenerative processes caused by aging. Occasionally, these tears may occur simultaneously with injury to the ACL. When the ACL is injured, these tears can result in pain, swelling, and often clicking or catching within the knee.

Minor tears may be treated with therapy and strengthening exercises. More extensive tears often require surgery to reattach the meniscus, replace it with donor cartilage or remove it. Most procedures can be performed using the minimally invasive arthroscopy techniques that allow shorter hospital stays and decreased recovery times. 

Tendon Conditions

The tissues that attach your bones to your muscles are called tendons. When your muscles flex, tendons spring into action, helping to move your bones. It is easy to injure the tendons in the arms and hands, since we use them so often.


Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon that causes pain near a joint. It generally develops when an accident or injury cuts or damages the tendon.

  • Tennis elbow is the common term for one of the most common types of tendinitis. It is an overuse injury that causes an inflammation of the tendon fibers that attach the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. As the name suggests, tennis players, as well as golf players and other athletes, often suffer from this type of tendinitis. But it can also affect you if you twist your wrist repeatedly on a regular basis, or if you type on a computer keyboard without proper support.

Although tendinitis can be painful, the good news is that it rarely becomes chronic if caught early and treated properly with the following

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Cortisone injections
  • Ceasing or changing your activity
  • Wrist splints

If surgery becomes necessary, arthroscopic procedures are minimally invasive, provide a relatively short recovery period, and can produce long-lasting results.

Tendon Ruptures

While uncommon, tendons can snap or rupture, causing severe pain and potential disability if left untreated. Tendon rupture typically occurs in middle-aged to older adults, but can happen to adolescents and younger adults in cases of direct trauma or heavy lifting.

The most common areas of tendon rupture are the quadriceps, Achilles (see below), rotator cuffs, and biceps. Symptoms typically include severe pain, inability to use the affected arm or leg, and bruising.  

Tendon rupture is usually diagnosed using a physical examination. Imaging may be done to confirm the diagnosis and decide the severity of the rupture.

Achilles Tendon Rupture

The Achilles tendon, which joins the muscles of the lower leg, is the largest tendon in the body. A ruptured Achilles is a serious injury that requires surgery. MedStar Health surgeons now expertly perform this surgery with minimal incisions, ensuring less pain, faster healing, and excellent long-term results.

Torn Rotator Cuffs

The rotator cuff comprises the muscles and tendons that hold the upper arm bone it its joint. A torn rotator cuff may respond to non-surgical therapies, but often will require surgery. Arthroscopy often is used to repair small injuries, and minimal incision surgery is now an option to repair complete tears. Read more about rotator cuff conditions here. Learn more about torn rotator cuffs

Sports-Related Concussions

A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way the brain normally functions. Concussions can occur in any athletic activity. MedStar Harbor orthopaedic and sports medicine specialists with expertise in concussion management urge you to have all suspected concussions evaluated—the primary risks of not receiving a medical evaluation may include:

  • Increased risk for severe brain injury or even death
  • Prolonged symptoms
  • Difficulties with schoolwork and other activities

Signs and symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Exhibits moody behavior or personality changes
  • Can't recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Headache or pressure in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish or foggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Does not feel “right” or is feeling “down”

Consistent with the Maryland and Washington, D.C., athletic concussion prevention laws, athletes suspected of suffering a concussion should remove themselves or be removed from the game or practice immediately, regardless of how mild it seems or how quickly symptoms clear. Continuing to play without medical clearance leaves athletes vulnerable to a more severe brain injury or, rarely, death.

Be aware that symptoms and signs of concussion may not appear immediately after the injury and can take hours or days to fully appear. Because athletes may not report their concussion symptoms, coaches, teammates, and parents need to be educated to recognize them and seek appropriate assistance. Learn more about sports related concussions.