Athletes with sports-related injuries can’t help but feel morose over both the setback to their performance and the inevitable multiple trips back and forth to various surgeons, therapists, and other experts.

The new Rockwood Integrated Sports Medicine Clinic on Spokane’s South Hill addresses this problem by combining recovery needs into a one-size-fits-all facility. Complete with therapy, performance training, and the basic functions of an orthopedic surgery clinic, the clinic services injuries from ACL tears to rotator cuffs, and the average orthopedic injuries in between. “This allows me to just say to the patient, hey, walk with me and I’ll introduce you to a therapist who I think you’ll really enjoy working with,” says Christopher Dewing, M.D., who joined Rockwood Clinic in 2015. “They already know the routine, they’ve met the team, they’re part of our family, and it makes the whole process seamless.”

Integrated facilities are one of the many changes occurring in the sports medicine field. “Sports medicine has become more focused,” says Dewing. “Team physicians are now doing on-field coverage and working directly with athletes.”

Science in the sports medicine field has also come a long way, making advances in injection treatment, platelet-rich plasma, and stem cell therapy, all of which fall under biological rejuvenation medicine. And sports medicine has begun to integrate with other service lines like therapy, performance training, on-the-field training, coaches’ training, clinics, injury prevention, and concussion treatment. “Concussions are a huge topic among soccer players and football players,” says Dewing. “The main problem with concussion treatment is whether or not there is good baseline testing on our athletes. Even young athletes in elite programs are being tested pre-season for a baseline profile on their brain function. That way, if there is a severe concussion, we can do a follow-up test.”

Another big change in sports medicine comes in the form of equipment. The Rockwood Clinic boasts an anti-gravity treadmill that allows personnel to monitor what is happening from both a surgical and therapy standpoint. The anti-gravity treadmill allows post-op patients who, say, still have healing incisions, to start recovery without worrying about the water exposure associated with pool therapy. “From the very first week of post-op therapy, we can have somebody walking or doing drills at a fraction of their normal body weight,” says Dewing. “They can be anywhere from 0 to 100 percent of their body weight, depending on what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Research has shown that physiologic motion during recovery from surgery promotes rapid healing, keeps neural networks vital, and keeps oxygenation high. On the flip side, the anti-gravity treadmill also has benefits for those trying to increase training capacity without stressing joints. That’s why these innovative treadmills are used at Olympic centers and other high-end physiotherapy clinics. “Patients here use the anti-gravity treadmill for anything from back injuries to toe injuries,” says Dewing.

The physical space of the clinic is inviting too, with open and lighted spaces designed to inspire patients and add a social aspect to recovery. “There’s a certain level of excitement when you’re watching someone else progress in their rehab, and you know that’s ahead for you,” says Dewing. “When I was in the military, I would watch the Navy SEALs compete over who was going to get their motion in fastest. Inspiration comes from watching other people recover.”

The clinic provides coverage for all Division 1 teams at Eastern Washington University, including football, basketball, tennis, and track and field. It also covers Spokane’s Shadow soccer club and the endurance sports community in town. “It’s gratifying to see those young athletes go from sitting in a puddle of tears to getting back to doing what they love to do,” says Dewing.

The clinic opened this summer, and its staff members are excited to get to work. Dewing enthuses, “We’re here together, we’re interacting, we’re learning from each other, and I think that is going to create an amazing experience for patients.” The Integrated Sports Medicine Rockwood clinic is located at 2420 E. 29th Avenue in Spokane. //

Elena Gardner loves to explore, travel, and write, and her favorite camp meal is instant coffee. Read more of Elena’s writing at egardnerblog.wordpress.com.