The University of Arkansas announced Aug. 12 it has “expanded and extended” the school’s agreement between its athletics department and Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists of Fayetteville.
The extension means that AOS, which has about 40 employees, will remain the official orthopaedic and sports medicine provider of the Razorbacks through 2020. The partnership began in 2009.
“AOS has helped us develop a comprehensive medical services program that encompasses every aspect of the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” UA athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “With the assistance of our dedicated athletic training staff, AOS has delivered outstanding medical care to our student-athletes.”
The expansion part of the agreement means there are now additional doctors who will provide care for the UA’s approximately 460 athletes in 19 sports.
Specifically, the number of AOS physicians has increased recently from four to seven.
In addition to longtime physicians Drs. Chris Arnold, Mark Powell and Terry Sites, Dr. David Yakin has been hired to join the orthopaedic surgery group, focusing his practice on hand/wrist and foot/ankle injuries. He was most recently at Sports Orthopedics and Spine in Jackson, Tennessee.
AOS has also increased its number of primary care sports medicine (PCSM) doctors from one to three. Dr. Casey Wagner and Dr. Derek Worley have been hired to join Dr. Ramon Ylanan — a member of the AOS staff since early 2012 — in the non-surgical PCSM group.
Responsibility for the care for each of the UA’s 19 sports teams is divvied up among the seven AOS physicians.
“Each team is treated the same,” Arnold said. “Track and field is treated the same as tennis and football all the way down the line.”
Added Sites: “I think we have proven in the time we have taken care of them that we have been very successful in terms of returning the athlete back to their level of high performance. And the [physicians and staff] who are doing it are very well trained and dedicated.”
AOS administrator Judd Semingson said the company now has the largest group of PCSM physicians in Northwest Arkansas. They focus on non-surgical orthopedic options for patients, whether it’s a joint ache, degenerative issue or sports injury.
PCSM physicians, Semingson explained, are trained medical professionals who specialize in the treatment and care of those who are physically active. They treat acute injuries or illnesses, nutrition issues, stress fractures, tendonitis and other athletically associated ailments, and work closely with orthopaedic surgeons should surgery be required.
“They are typically a primary care physician that has undergone an additional fellowship certification and training specifically in sports medicine,” Semingson said.
Ylanan, who completed his fellowship in Birmingham, Alabama, with well-known orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, said a growing national trend among orthopaedic surgical groups is to move toward a business model that encompasses primary care sports medicine physicians in the care of athletes.
“About 20 years ago was when the first primary care sports physician came to be, so it’s relatively new,” he explained. “You’ve had your family medicine docs and your internal medicine docs, but there wasn’t anybody who was able to be that quote unquote full embodiment of a team physician.”
Sports medicine is not a recognized residency training specialty, Ylanan said. A doctor can, however, achieve special qualifications in sports medicine after completing a residency program in another specialty. Most PCSM physicians, he said, choose family medicine.
To that end, Ylanan was instrumental in helping launch the state’s first sports medicine fellowship in the summer of 2015. It was developed in partnership with the UA athletics department and the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Ylanan was appointed to serve as director of the program, which hosted an accreditation visit on Sept. 1.
Semingson said the increase in the company’s PCSM physicians should benefit not only the athletes at the UA, but the general public as well.
“While we are very appreciative of the affiliation with the University of Arkansas and grateful to continue our agreement, we are not here simply to take care of the athletes,” he said. “The doctors here are part of a community program and are in private practice. The vast majority of our time is being available to the general public.”
In Northwest Arkansas, Semingson said the AOS practice is adjusting its business model in response to a larger number of activities and a more active population.
“The [Razorback Regional Greenway] has affected that,” he said. “We’re seeing different endeavors and more road races and multisport events. We’re seeing a community, activity-wise, that has continued to expand what it does.”
Arnold said the advantage of integrating more PCSM doctors into the orthopaedic group is their availability. They are in the office five days a week, rather than the operating room, and can provide consistent, accessible care.
“I think it is better care for the patient all the way around,” he said.
Sites, who has been in practice in Northwest Arkansas since 1993, said the approach at AOS when it comes to the community is to educate the population.
“Whether it’s a community athlete, weekend warrior, high school, junior high, college or even pro athlete, this encompasses the whole umbrella of treatment,” he said. “Having access to go straight to a sports doctor for these injuries gives the opportunity to see an expert immediately and bypass the redundancy that oftentimes occurs when you access the medical care system on a primary level.”
Sites added that the three new physicians will undoubtedly make AOS better from a business standpoint, but that wasn’t a primary factor in hiring them.
“I mean, we hope to be successful business-wise, but our focus on the front end has been in terms of elevating the level and sophistication of service,” he said. “Doctors oftentimes approach things backward. We don’t say, ‘OK. This is how we’re going to generate this much revenue.’ This is our love. This is what we know, and this is what we think can happen here.
“At this stage in Northwest Arkansas, it’s big enough population-wise to have a level of sophistication and treatment that you can find in any metro area in the U.S. And I think that is exactly what is happening.