Sports doctor helps athletes, weekend warriors get back in the game

Published on Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Dr. Stephen Kana

Dr. Stephen Kana

Dr. Stephen Kana practiced medicine for 30 years and worked in the Upstate for more than 20 years. He recently joined Spartanburg Regional’s Sports Medicine Institute team as an orthopaedic surgeon, concentrating on knee, shoulder and elbow injuries.

“It’s a big change,” he said. “I think what I wanted to accomplish with the move was to establish the Sports Medicine Institute to uniformly deliver top quality care to our high school athletes, our college athletes and professional athletes.”

 Kana said now that Spartanburg Regional has an extensive training network throughout the community and pretty much has a presence in every high school and college, he wanted to spend a little bit of the time he has left in his career, the next five to ten years, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. “If someone has a concussion at Spartanburg High or a concussion at Wofford they are going to be treated the same way.  If someone has an ACL tear at Byrnes High School or ACL tear at USC Upstate, they are going to be treated the same way. It’s easier for me to do that at the hospital than in private practice.”

Physical specimen … How things have changed 

I have been doing this for 25 years or so and the kids in sports are bigger, faster and stronger,” Kana said. “Look at college programs and you have 6-foot-5 guys who weigh 270 pounds. And they run a 4.5 – 4.6 (seconds) 40 (yards). That’s going fast, really fast. They’re not big heavy guys like they used to be. 

“You can look at the Green Bay Packers 30 years ago and they were a bunch of guys that played football on weekends. Look at offensive linemen of NFL teams. They aren’t fat guys, they are just big human beings. They are in great shape. They have better ways of training their athletes, better weight lifting techniques, kids just are getting  bigger and faster but unfortunately there is an increase of injury with those players. When you start to get bigger and faster and people running into each other, something’s got to give.”

Oh, those hits

 It’s a huge controversy, particularly with physicians who take care of sports teams, about how to advise kids about the risk of concussions. “If you look at collegiate football, there is a one-in-four-chance that playing collegiate football that you are going to have an injury,” Kana said. “In football, that will be an operation. That’s a high risk, and it’s hard to counsel young kids. I do it all the time. I operate on young athletes, and the first thing I tell them is, ‘we’re going to make you better so that you will have an active and productive lifestyle.’ ” 

Kana said it’s not really “go get back on the football field.” Very few of them hear that. Their parents hear it. But they need to make the kids understand that it’s hard to tell a 20-year-old what to think about when they are 40 or 50, in the yard playing soccer with their kids. It is a hard thing to do. But we look at the long-term outlook and try to advise them on the best thing to do. 

 There were at least a couple of players I had this year,” Kana said, that I had the conversation with them and their parents that “if you were my child, I wouldn’t let you continue to play basketball, soccer or whatever because the risk is really great for you to do more damage to yourself and will affect you long term in your career.” 

 “So, if I take your collarbone out and put a steel plate and a bunch of screws in, the collarbone will be stronger? Something like that. The bone is reinforced with some type of steel rod and screws that will make you stronger than your native bone. So, is there some truth to that?  I don’t go out and tell kids this is stronger than you had before and to test it. But fortunately we are able to get back pretty close to their level of competition. I guess original equipment . I don’t know if I would do it. It’s still not as good as what I had. 

 “The big question is if you put them out there in an environment and they get hurt pretty bad, every time you’re not going to able to recover to what you had.”


Businesses mentioned in this article.

Pelham Medical Center


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