Growing Trend of Younger Patients Seeking Ortho Treatment

Sep 13, 2022 at 01:41 pm by pjeter



More effort being directed toward prevention


Growing up the son of two physicians, Drew Murphy, MD, decided early on that his future lay in medicine. Now looking back over more than a quarter century of practicing at Campbell Clinic, the foot and ankle specialist is convinced he followed the right path.

“I grew up immersed in medicine, so it wasn’t a great surprise to my family that I chose a career in it,” Murphy said. “But I never felt pressure from either parent to choose their specialties. They allowed me to pursue my own interests and supported me when the time came to choose a specialty.”

Unlike his plastic surgeon father or his radiation oncologist mother, Murphy opted for what he said had traditionally been characterized as a more mechanical discipline. He was attracted by the chance to help patients improve their quality of life.

“Generally speaking, orthopedics isn’t about life-or-death conditions, it’s about improving or restoring mobility,” Murphy said. “I find it rewarding to help patients lead better lives.”

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Murphy grew up in Memphis and graduated from Briarcrest. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Mississippi and went to medical school at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. He completed his residency at Campbell Clinic and has been on staff there for more than 25 years.

“Memphis is home for us and there never really was any question of our moving elsewhere after I finished my medical training,” Murphy said. “Campbell Clinic is a fantastic place to practice and combines the feel of a private practice with a strong academic/research/teaching side. It is truly a unique place and there’s nothing like it across the country.”

Founded in 1909, Campbell Clinic has expanded from one location to five clinics and two surgery centers across the Memphis metropolitan area. The practice also offers extended hours through Campbell Clinic After Hours.

The clinic has grown to respond to increasing – and evolving – patient needs, Murphy said.

And the clinic’s evolution reflects a field that has changed dramatically in the last three decades, Murphy explained, transitioning from a strength-dominated discipline to one that showcases greater finesse. Along the way, more women entered orthopedics and treatments evolved to include preventive measures.

One growing trend is the prevalence of younger patients seeking treatment, Murphy said. With so many adolescents and preteens involved in year-round athletics, sports-related injuries are increasingly common.

In addition, overtraining is taking a toll on young bodies in ways that weren’t common a couple generations ago.

“For example, elite cheerleading and some year-round sports require these young athletes to practice for hours a day to achieve a high level of performance,” Murphy said. “As a result, we’re seeing more stress fractures and more overuse injuries than we ever have before.”

Gymnastics is another area where Murphy has witnessed increased numbers of injuries. While the sport itself offers a great community that promotes family involvement, young people whose bodies are rapidly changing can be at greater risk for getting hurt.

“Young athletes who can perform extraordinary exercises at 70 pounds may find their bodies responding quite differently when performing difficult exercises when they grow taller and gain weight,” Murphy said. “We’re seeing more feet, ankle and back injuries and working with these patients to address these concerns before they result in catastrophic injuries.”

One treatment that has emerged over the last 10-15 years is therapy for Vitamin D deficiency in athletes. Young people involved in heavy training for winter sports such as basketball are at risk for stress fractures in their legs and feet because so much practice takes place on indoor courts and there is a lack of sunlight exposure.

“We check their Vitamin D levels and prescribe Vitamin D if they’re deficient. We also educate them about proactive muscle training and core strengthening to help them avoid injuries,” Murphy said. “There has been a cultural change in our field and we’re no longer treating a patient who comes in with a sprain or a broken bone. Now we’re working to reduce injuries before they occur.”

Along with an increase in sports-related injuries among adolescents, Murphy has seen an uptick in the number of young people whose injuries are complicated by obesity or diabetes. Those conditions can slow wound and bone healing, so the practice offers medical management for patients and their families.

“We work with them to gain better control of their risk factors to ensure a better outcome following their treatment,” Murphy said. “This is something you didn’t see 15 years ago, but now it’s part of our regular routine.”

Although Murphy is quick to point out that while not every ankle sprain requires attention by an orthopedic surgeon, cases such as pediatric elbow injuries that seem minor may need a specialist’s care.

And there is one area that is always cause for concern among young patients.

“Back pain in young people is never normal,” Murphy said. “In children or adolescents, if it lasts more than a couple weeks, then it needs to be addressed. At that point you need to come see us.”

Spending his professional time promoting healing in others has made Murphy aware of his own physical condition and the older he gets the more aware he becomes of focusing on his quality of life. A long-time member of an adult soccer team, he’s now comfortable trading his cleats in favor of more time in the garden or in the kitchen.

“At my age, the risk of injury keeps rising, so I don’t mind leaving soccer to the younger players,” Murphy said. “My wife and I grow vegetables and cook and entertain and that’s our focus these days. Everything has a season this is the one we’re in now. And we’re loving it.”