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Athletes embrace cutting-edge doctors,
methods to speed recovery

By Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY

Trainers, agents and players unions can provide guidance for athletes seeking medical help, but often word of mouth - especially coming from a well-known figure - provides impetus for some to try specific doctors or cutting-edge approaches.

Richard Steadman, a co-founder of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail who specializes in knee injuries, operated on former German soccer star Lothar Matthaus, in the early 1990s and soon found his services in demand among European players.

Fellow orthopedic surgeon Marc Philippon, a hip specialist at the same clinic, made a name for himself when he treated golfer Greg Norman in 2000.

Last year, Philippon performed arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum on the right hip of three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, using a procedure he calls "a little bit outside the mainstream." The modification allowed Rodriguez to return to action after two months, instead of the usual 10 to 12 weeks, and also to avoid a second operation that was part of the original plan.

Philippon says he gets great satisfaction out of helping athletes return to their previous form after a severe injury, as was the case when Rodriguez helped the New York Yankees win the World Series title with the best postseason of his career, but acknowledges the risks of treating such high-profile figures.

"If you provide a high-level service and you have a very good track record but you have one bad result, it's going to reflect on you," says Philippon, who has operated on more than 550 pro and Olympic athletes.

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