'The Athlete's Guide to Home Remedies’: Stay in the game

Smart injury-prevention secrets from nonsurgical sports medicine

TODAY Books—March 14, 2012

By Jordan D. Metzl, M.D.

Having completed 29 marathons and 9 Ironman competitions, Jordan D. Metzl, M.D. knows a thing or two about taking care of himself. In "The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies," Dr. Metzl shares his insight, fixes and injury-prevention tips to keep your body fit. Here's an excerpt.

You hurt. Maybe it’s just a nagging pain, something in your knee.

Maybe it’s a serious pain—borderline agony—in your lower back. You want to know what’s wrong, of course. But there’s something else: You’re an athlete. You might be a weekend warrior, or you might be a serious competitor, but either way, you just love to be out there doing it. You love the adrenaline. You love your chosen sport. And you want, more than anything, to get back in the game. How long will this pain keep you out? What can you do to help yourself right now? Do you need a doctor’s care?

This book will answer all of your questions. You see, I’m a doctor. I’m also an athlete.

Natalie Morales on the workout that whipped her into shape; see Dr. Metzl talk about the exercise classes he gives for strength and cardio.

Am I a doctor first, or an athlete first? Neither. I’m both at all times, and those two identities constantly feed off each other. If I’m on mile 24 of the marathon stage of an Ironman, you can bet that the doctor in me is assessing how I feel. You can also bet that the athlete in me is disregarding my own advice and fighting for the finish line, damn the consequences. And when I evaluate a patient with knee pain, the athlete in me is reminding me of what it feels like to be out of the game and how important it is to get that patient back to full form.

Becoming a doctor was probably my fate. My dad is a pediatrician, my mom is a psychologist, and two of my three siblings became medical doctors (the other guy has a PhD but gives medical advice freely). Helping people is in my DNA. When I was a kid I used to do rounds with my dad, carrying a little plastic doctor bag. Little did I know that my little candy pills would one day be replaced by antiinflammatories.

I also love sports. In high school, it was soccer and baseball. In college, I played even more soccer while doing pre-med. Then I did my first triathlon on a mountain bike in Columbia, Missouri, as a third-year medical student, and it was the most fun thing I’d ever done. As I swam in a semi-polluted lake, I kept thinking, This is awesome, I want to keep doing this.

So, you see why the combination of medicine and athletics seems so natural to me. People like you and me who play games or run races get injuries, from simple strains to broken bones. Having that athletic background fed my medical training, and vice versa.

Now I’m a sports medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, the number-one hospital for orthopedics. Every day I go to work and realize how lucky I am to help people achieve their goals. My practice has more than 20,000 patients, and I treat athletes of all ages and ability levels, from kids to adults, football players to dancers. (I’m also the sports medicine physician for the Radio City Rockettes.)

I focus on nonsurgical sports medicine. That means I try to keep people moving and find alternatives to surgery whenever possible. Sometimes surgery is both necessary and helpful, but not always. If there’s a way to get an athlete back in the game without surgery, I try to find it.

That’s where this book comes from. It’s the combination of what I do professionally and personally—15 years as a doctor, 30 years as an athlete. It all comes together here. I want you to stay healthy, and if you do get injured, I want to help you get back to whatever activity it is that you love as quickly and safely as possible. One of our greatest gifts as humans is our ability to move. Anyone who lives an active lifestyle—whether it’s as a serious competitor or a weekend warrior who just likes to drip a good sweat for fun—knows what I’m talking about. We weren’t built for couches and cubicles. We need to move. And when that ability is compromised by pain, you need solutions at your fingertips. I want to get you moving again.

I’ll be honest, sometimes you’ll need a doctor. I’ll tell you when—and you’d better go. But many times you’ll be able to use these home-based treatments to fix yourself and get back to what you love doing. Knowledge empowers you. I’ve always said, “If you’re an athlete, see an athlete.” An athlete-doctor, athlete-nutritionist, athlete–physical therapist, etc. I have a whole network of athletes for my patients. Athletes understand athletes. Use this book to help yourself.

The athlete will see you now.

Excerpted from THE ATHLETE'S BOOK OF HOME REMEDIES by Jordan D. Metzl, M.D.  Copyright © 2012 by Jordan D. Metzl, M.D. Excerpted with permission by Rodale.

Read the full interview at MSNBC.com.

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