Dr. Ron Noy – Orthopaedic Surgeon, Athlete, and New Yorker
By Taylor Smith
What initially drew you to the field of sports medicine?
I was a very good athlete growing up, but often injured myself, hampering my career. While at my peak, an ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] injury actually ended any hopes of continuing on professionally, so I decided to dedicate myself to learning how to get athletes back to pre-injury performance. I didn’t want anyone else to have to give up their dreams because of an injury.
What professional New York sports teams have you worked with?
My role with professional athletes in New York began early when I was a resident in the 1990s. My attending physicians were the team doctors for the Knicks and Nets, and I would accompany them to the locker rooms to treat the players. Because I had played with professional players before they went pro, I was very comfortable dealing with athletes, coaches, and agents early on. I quickly regained their respect, and my understanding of not just what the diagnosis and treatments are, but how it may affect play, future health and even contracts resulted in professional players gravitating towards me. Getting them back faster to play has kept them coming.
You covered the 2004 Olympics in Athens. What was that experience like?
Amazing! To treat athletes in the place where the Olympics began was indescribable. As one of the doctors for the Indoor Hall, I covered all of the gymnastic events and all the medal rounds for women’s and men’s basketball. It was my first experience treating athletes from around the globe, which definitely helps me even today as a significant amount of my patients come from Europe and Asia.
What kinds of services have you provided for runners in the ING NYC Marathon?
I was one of the Medical Team Captains for about 10 years. Initially starting on the 59th St. Bridge, which is around the half way point, I did my best to keep the runners going and make it into Manhattan from Queens, doing everything from taping to icing. I eventually moved to the finish line and took care of the Celebrity Tent one year. The goal at the end of the race is to keep everyone healthy and help them get home to celebrate. The tent often would remind me of a trauma center, as a marathon can really take a lot of someone who is not a professional runner. I’m proud to say everyone who entered our station got home safe and sound.
Do you have any advice for long distance runners who are prone to injury?
Definitely get a running coach to make sure you are running correctly, and training properly. Work with a personal trainer to help make sure you are in proper shape to handle long distance running. They can also help you prevent injuries by teaching you how to stretch properly. Make sure you are eating well. Poor nutrition, smoking, and other bad habits can lead to injuries as well. Make sure you are wearing the proper running shoes for your feet as this can make a big difference, and change them regularly because worn down sneakers are not working properly for you. See a sports medicine specialist early if you do get injured to help you prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem, and help get you back on track more quickly.
How does nutrition aid in sports injury recovery?
Nutrition is extremely important as the body needs the proper building blocks to repair damaged tissue. You wouldn’t repair your flat tire on your car with a cinderblock. You wouldn’t get very far! If you don’t put the elements that are needed to heal your injuries into your body, you won’t recover as quickly or as well.
The 2014 US Open takes place from August 25 through September 8. What types of injuries are common to these tennis players?
The most common injuries I see in this group are shoulder injuries, primarily labral tears and less commonly rotator cuff tears. The labrum is important for stability during the serve and a player will come in complaining of loss of velocity and accuracy as well as pain on impact. It is easy to fix, but we try to avoid surgery unless absolutely necessary as the player will miss 6-12 months of competition. Other common injuries include ankle sprains, back pain (including stress fractures which occur from repetitively arching the back during a serve), tendonitis, strains and blisters. Knee injuries seem to be less common than you would think, but I just fixed a young tennis player’s meniscus last week.
Why are ACL injuries more common in young women than in men?
Women on the average can have a thinner ACL, a narrower “A” notch (the space in the middle of the knee where the ACL lives), more rotation in their leg bones, more valgus in their alignment (knock kneed) and less muscle mass to protect the knee joint. Given an ACL injury event, they are more likely to tear the ligament because of these factors. Additionally, some people also point to the lower quality instruction and training for young girls in the past, but this has been changing in recent years, and may make a difference in the future.
How do you treat these injuries and what can be done to prevent them?
If you tear your ACL, we now fix everyone no matter what your level of sports may be. The ACL is the most important ligament in the knee, and is very important for normal joint mechanics. Without it, your knee will probably become arthritic even if you are not an athlete. The good news is we can now get athletes completely back rather quickly and routinely. When we do the surgery, we often put in a thicker graft and create more space in the notch, which reduces the chance of recurrent tears. For the past decade or so, we have been advising your female athletes to learn better techniques to help avoid putting the knee in the position where it can tear the ACL. This traditionally has been for landing from a jump, but better mechanics in general are now being taught to young girls by very good coaches as they are treated more equally as athletes and getting better instruction early on. Only time will tell if this decreases the incidence of ACL injuries, but the hope is it will.
What kinds of techniques have you developed to optimize post-surgical outcomes?
Getting the best result you can from surgery has several key components. The first is to educate the patient extensively prior to surgery as to what their problem is, how we are going to fix it, and what they will need to do after surgery to get back as though they never had an injury. This is key, and my staff and I spend a lot of time with each patient doing this. The second is I limit myself to only a few surgeries as I feel you can be the best at a few things, but only really good at everything. Take Michael Jordan. Arguably the best basketball player that has played the game, but couldn’t play baseball very well. However, if he had only played baseball and not basketball growing up, odds are he could have been a great player. I only do ACL and meniscus surgery in the knee, and labrum, rotator cuff and AC [acromioclavicular] joint surgery in the shoulder. This allows me to understand how each and every step can be maximized for repeatedly excellent results. Lastly, part of my training was in Indiana with Methodist Sports Medicine Center where they pioneer post-surgical protocols. I used this experience to create protocols that get athletes back quicker and with less pain. We utilize Aleve and Tylenol ES, cold therapy and elevation to prevent pain before it starts. The majority of our patients no longer take narcotics after surgery which allows them to have a much nicer experience and get back to work much more quickly with a clear head.
What are some of your favorite ways to stay active in NYC?
During the summer, I play softball out in Sag Harbor each weekend with the artist and writers that play in the annual Artist & Writers Softball charity softball game. I also try to play golf as much as I can. I really learned a lot from the PGA and LPGA players covering their events, and really enjoy the game now. I work out at a gym near my office as well as in my home in the Hamptons. I’ve had two knee surgeries, leg surgery and hip surgery to keep me going and on the field, and I’m never going to stop being active!
Dr. Ron Noy Prestige Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine is located on the Ninth Floor at 424 Madison Avenue in New York, NY. Appointments can be made by calling 646.862.0180. Hamptons Appointments can be made by calling 917.414.2003. To learn more, visit www.prestigesportsmedicine.com.