All athletes deserve the very best sports-related care and treatment that’s one-on-one and state-of-the-art. At Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, this involves conditioning to become stronger and faster, maximizing abilities, treating injuries if they do occur and improving future performance.
Sports Health is a unique center within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. It brings together top orthopaedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, physician assistants, physical therapists, athletic trainers, registered dietitians, radiologists and exercise physiologists to keep athletes in the game.
Our experts treat athletes in all sports, all ages and skill levels. As our patient, you have access to the same specialists who treat Cleveland’s professional sports teams and the orthopaedic program ranked #3 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Download a Free Treatment Guide
Cleveland Clinic offers a number of free treatment guides covering a broad range of information related to Sports Health.
Team and Event Medical Services
- We provide team physicians and athletic trainers for professional sports teams, high schools and college athletics.
- We offer educational opportunities for athletes, athletic trainers, physicians and coaches.
- We provide medical care for athletes at major sporting events.
Official Team Physicians for:
The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Indians
Baldwin Wallace University
Cleveland State University
John Carroll University
Notre Dame College
Cuyahoga Community College - West Campus
High School Athletes
Greater Cleveland Sports Commission
Rogue Winter Classic
What We Treat
What is a Sport and Exercise Medicine physician?
Physicians specializing in sports and exercise medicine undergo their initial training and board certification in a specialty such as family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine or physical medicine and rehabilitation. They then complete a one-two year training fellowship in sports medicine. This branch of medicine is dedicated to the comprehensive care of athletes and active individuals, promoting lifelong fitness and wellness, and encouraging the prevention of illness and injury.
What do they treat?
A sport and exercise medicine physician’s scope of care includes diagnosing and managing acute injuries, musculoskeletal conditions and illnesses (both chronic and acute) that can potentially affect performance.
Common conditions treated and services provided may include:
- Acute and overuse injuries (sprains, strains, fractures, tendonitis)
- Joint injections (corticosteroid or viscosupplementation)
- Injury prevention
- Return-to-play decisions for the sick or injured athlete
- Athletes with chronic or acute illnesses (such as mono, asthma, hypertension or diabetes)
- Athletes with chronic musculoskeletal conditions (chronic muscle injuries, arthritis of various joints)
- Exercise and performance counseling
When surgery is needed, our sports and exercise medicine physicians can provide easy access to our orthopaedic surgeons for help for both overuse or traumatic injuries, including:
- Torn ligaments (such as ACLs) and tendons
- Broken bones
- Damaged cartilage
- Arthritis and other degenerative conditions
- Complex problems of the shoulder of instability and dislocation
- Complex throwing related problems of shoulder and elbow
- Hip impingement
Our surgeons use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible to minimize pain, scarring and recovery time. Our services include:
- Arthroscopic surgery of shoulders, elbows, hips and knees
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction
- Meniscus transplant surgery
- Hamstring repairs
- Advanced surgery for articular cartilage
- Partial joint replacements
- Tommy John surgery
Our surgeries are typically done as outpatient, where the patient undergoes regional anesthetic rather than general anesthesia which leads to quicker recovery.
Orthopaedic surgeons work side by side with sports and exercise medicine physicians in the office and on the sidelines. Both specialize in diagnosing and managing musculoskeletal injuries that occur acutely and over time.
Sports Specific Rehabilitation and Performance
Proper early rehabilitation is essential for a swift recovery from injury. Our physical therapists, exercise physiologists, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning specialists collaborate to maximize care for each individual. Patients have access to advanced rehabilitation equipment and the latest in rehabilitation techniques. Our emphasis is on efficient transition from rehabilitation to peak athletic performance, and we pay special attention on educating patients to avoid re-injury.
Integrative Sports Medicine
After an injury, every athlete hopes to heal and get back to the game as quickly as possible. Our Sports Health team collaborates with experts from Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine to provide services with a special focus on supporting the body’s natural abilities to heal after a sports-related injury or condition, using techniques such as:
Combined with standard treatments, integrative medicine techniques can help reduce chronic conditions that prevent top-level performance, speed recovery from acute injuries, and enhance and improve conditioning and strength.
Chiropractic Sports Medicine
You can be confident that your Cleveland Clinic sports and exercise medicine specialist will recommend care that does not involve surgery whenever possible. Chiropractic sports medicine has proven effective in treating a wide range of acute and chronic athletic injuries, including:
- Overuse injuries
- Shoulder pain
- Peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes
Our certified chiropractic sports physician is skilled at identifying problems with body mechanics and eliminating the source of pain without surgical intervention.
Pediatric and Adolescent Sports Medicine
Children aren't just small adults; they need specialized care for any sports-related injuries or conditions.
Our dedicated team of sports medicine experts are specifically trained to provide comprehensive assessment and treatment for both non-surgical and surgical issues in children, teens and young adults, including:
- ACL tears
- Shoulder instability
- Joint cartilage problems, especially involving the knee and elbow
- Throwing and overuse injuries
- Sport-specific rehabilitation
We also are actively involved in ongoing research with other U.S. children’s hospitals to improve understanding and treatment for various pediatric sports injuries.
Dance Medicine Clinic
Cleveland Clinic has recently started a Dance Medicine clinic utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation, involving practitioners interested in the care of both amateur and professional dancers.
Performers interested in being seen in Dance Medicine clinic may call 216.518.3475 to arrange for an appointment.
Where: Cleveland Clinic Sports Health
5555 Transportation Blvd, Garfield Heights, OH 44125
When: Dance Medicine Clinic is on the second and fourth Tuesday each month from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Nutrition for Athletes
Optimal nutrition is important for maximizing your stamina and ability to perform. Our sports health nutritionists can help you stay healthy, avoid injury or accelerate your healing. Nutritional requirements vary by sport, so our nutritionists will work with you one-on-one to design a nutrition plan that helps you achieve you goals, including:
- Improving your diet and hydration status to maximize your performance or workout
- Assist with weight loss, muscle and weight gain
- Prevention of bone loss and injuries
- Playing your best with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease
Athletes interested in being seen by our sports health nutritionist may call 216.518.3475 to arrange for an appointment.
Where: Cleveland Clinic Sports Health
5555 Transportation Blvd, Garfield Heights, OH 44125
When: Sports Nutrition Clinic is every other Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cleveland Clinic Courage Award
Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award is an honor given annually by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Sports Health at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards banquet each January. It is awarded to a student athlete who has faced a medical challenge in his or her life and approached the situation with courage and determination to get back into the game.
2019 Courage Award
If you know a student athlete who has overcome a medical challenge in his or her life and would like to submit them for the 2019 Courage Award nominate them today.
2018 Courage Award
Presented by Cleveland Clinic Sports Health
2018 Award Recipient: Sophia Pecjak, Lake Catholic High School, Soccor
Feet away from 10-year-old Sophia Pecjak’s Cleveland Clinic Children’s hospital room, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, two of her physicians were discussing next steps in the treatment of her sudden heart condition.
A talented soccer and basketball player, Sophia had complained of pains in her chest and a rapid heartbeat. Trips to her pediatrician and the emergency room revealed she had likely contracted a form of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by a viral infection, such as influenza. Further tests and heart biopsies confirmed its seriousness.
“I remember saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t develop more arrhythmias that will be pretty significant,” recalled pediatric electrophysiologist Peter Aziz, MD, of his conversation with Gerard Boyle, MD, Medical Director of Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Services.
Moments later, Sophia went into full cardiac arrest. With mom Carole and dad Michael looking on in shock, Drs. Aziz and Boyle rushed in and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It was just one in a series of serendipitous events over the next few days that pulled Sophia back from the cusp of death – so ultimately, she would recover completely.
“Sophia proved at that time, and continues to prove, that she is a special soul,” noted Dr. Boyle. “She never let the disease define her. From the beginning, she was determined to be back playing sports.”
For her tenacity in overcoming her serious heart condition and returning to elite-level athletic status, Sophia, now 15, has been named the recipient of the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award. Bestowed annually by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, the award honors a student athlete who has faced a medical challenge in his or her life and approached the situation with courage and determination to get back into the game.
“It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to play again,” said Sophia, a freshman at Lake Catholic High School in her hometown of Mentor, Ohio. “When people find out what happened, they’re kind of shocked that I’m fine now. I guess my case was very out of the ordinary.”
According to Dr. Boyle, Sophia went into cardiac arrest again that fateful day (and was again revived) while waiting to be placed on venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a room-sized device that often serves as a bridge for patients awaiting heart or lung transplants.
“Generally, patients on ECMO have to be heavily sedated. It can be very difficult to endure,” Dr. Boyle explained. “But Sophia always remained calm. At one point, she motioned and made it clear she wanted a selfie of herself on ECMO, with the breathing tube in. Of course, she had a smile on her face.”
By now, further testing revealed: Sophia had a form of the disease called fulminant myocarditis, which typically results in either sudden death or is self-resolving in a matter of days. Fortunately, Sophia had the latter result. She was off ECMO after five days, and was discharged soon after – returning home with her parents and two older siblings, John and Catie.
“Her care was phenomenal, but our faith was a big part of her healing process,” observed Carole. “It helped us get through this, stay sane and get to the other side.”
While Sophia bounced back quickly, a long and arduous recovery remained ahead. Extremely weak from the effects of the virus and her cardiac events, she endured months of physical rehabilitation. While she couldn’t return to playing sports for more than a year, she stayed around them – often standing alone, dribbling a basketball, during practices held by her father, who was a middle school coach at the time.
“At times, even without exerting herself, Sophia’s heart would be racing,” Michael recalled. “Every time she didn’t feel quite right, we would take her pulse. She quickly grew tired of that.”
Eventually, with the help of medication she no longer has to take, the heart episodes decreased and ultimately stopped. Sophia returned to the sports she loves. She played goalie and forward mostly, on the Lake Catholic JV soccer team in fall, as well as some Varsity games. She also splits time between the varsity and JV teams in basketball.
“It took about a whole year to get back in shape,” recalled Sophia, who is interested in pursuing a career in medicine. “But I’m fine now. It doesn’t affect me at all anymore.”
The nurse in Sophia’s room when she went into cardiac arrest, Colleen Nasman, RN, Pediatric Heart Transplant Coordinator at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, nominated Sophia for the courage award: “She embodies the essence of courage, facing a life-threatening illness with grace, faith, strength and of course, courage. Never a complaint, never a why me, just determination and enduring optimism.”