Issue 6 Stories

Off and Running

New Sentara Sports Medicine Center Treats Athletes of all Levels

At the new Sentara Sports Medicine Center at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, every patient is treated like a professional athlete. The center, which opened in January 2018, offers comprehensive care in one location for a wide range of injuries, from strains and sprains to torn ligaments, joint dislocations and fractures.

The 30,000-square-foot facility, housed at the Sentara Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center at Pantops, offers advanced imaging, outpatient surgery and rehabilitation services. Sports medicine physicians and surgeons deliver care using the most advanced techniques, such as plasma-rich platelet injections, hip arthroscopy, cartilage-regeneration procedures and more.

The center also includes an artificial turf area and sophisticated equipment that allows providers to evaluate and assess athletes in action—throwing, pitching, kicking and running. As well, the Sentara Neurology Department, partners with the Sentara Sports Medicine Center to offer a concussion screening program.

“Many of these features and services have been in place at Sentara Martha Jefferson for years, but the new Sentara Sports Medicine Center brings them all together under one roof,” says Jennifer Smiley, director of operations for Sentara Martha Jefferson. “The new facility offers convenience and efficiency for our patients and allows us to better support them in meeting their athletic and fitness goals.”

The Sentara Sports Medicine Center brings together a highly skilled group of specialists who provide collaborative care, including:

•     Fellowship-trained sports medicine surgeons

•     Fellowship-trained shoulder reconstruction surgeon

•     Fellowship-trained nonoperative sports medicine physicians

•     Certified athletic trainers

•     Physical therapists with additional certifications in sports medicine and orthopedic conditions

•     Exercise physiologists

•     Musculoskeletal radiologists

•     Neurology Department concussion clinic

The sports medicine center designation acknowledges Sentara Martha Jefferson’s commitment to being a leader in Central Virginia, and throughout the Sentara Healthcare system, in the field of sports medicine. With the new facility so close to home, area patients and athletes don’t need to travel outside the region to receive superior care for sports-related injuries.

“The Sentara Sports Medicine Center is focused on customer service, with specialists who bring extensive experience and expertise to the local community,” says Stephen Gunther, MD, medical director of the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital Shoulder & Sports Medicine Service. “We developed a comprehensive center, with all of its many components accessible to our patients in one convenient location, so patients no longer have to travel from place to place for treatment. The center offers the highest level of expertise, as well as an environment in which different providers can collaborate to provide patients with the best possible care.”

Appointments typically are available within a few days. Patients with acute sports injuries can come to the walk-in clinic, which is open Monday through Friday.

“We are here to serve everyone—from professional athletes to weekend warriors to people who don’t even consider themselves athletes,” Smiley says. “We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated in coming to our center. Our goal is to get all of our patients back to enjoying their active lifestyles as soon as possible.”

Back in Action: Getting Athletes Back in the Game

Sabias Folley

During the 2017 football season, Charlottesville High School (CHS) running back Sabias Folley pushed through a torn meniscus for his best season yet. The junior, selected as a first-team Jefferson District and second-team all-region pick, rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored 27 touchdowns.

“I tore my meniscus in July while doing drills,” says Folley, 17. “It happened the week before football camp, but I really didn’t want to miss the season.”

Folley went to see the CHS team doctor, Matthew Panzarella, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. Folley would need surgery to repair the meniscus, the small segment of cartilage that pads the space between the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). After a careful review of Folley’s condition, the decision was made to delay surgery so that Folley could finish the season, and Dr. Panzarella ordered a specialized brace that would take some of the force off the torn meniscus. In addition to wearing the brace, Folley worked with an athletic trainer to strengthen the muscles around the knee.

Dr. Panzarella performed the meniscus repair procedure on Folley’s knee in early December. The surgery went well, and Folley missed only a few days of school. He started physical therapy in early January and hopes to progress quickly, so that he can start workouts with his team.

“Everything went great,” Folley says. “Everyone at the hospital was wonderful, and Dr. Panzarella is awesome.”

Bobby Sims

As a professional bullfighter, Bobby Sims works to protect bull riders during rodeos, and has twice been named Bullfighter of the Year by the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association. Trusted for his skills by cowboys across the country, Sims has sustained and pushed through injuries to continue enjoying his passion.

In early 2016, Sims continued bullfighting despite a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus. But when he fell off a horse that spring, Sims also tore his lateral collateral ligament, leaving him unable to walk. Family members took him to the Emergency Department (ED) at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

The ED staff referred Sims to orthopedic surgeon Clark Baumbusch, MD, who repaired the ligaments in May 2016.

“Dr. Baumbusch gave me a good feeling right away,” says Sims, 40, who also trains and coaches at the MMA Institute in Charlottesville. “I asked if he could fix my leg so that I could get back to bullfighting, and he said: ‘Yes, it will be better than it was.’That was all I needed to hear. He was confident that he could fix my knee, so I knew I had the right guy.”

A member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Sims returned to bullfighting in early 2017 and is now doing well. Dr. Baumbusch and several of the nurses who took care of Sims during his hospital stay have taken their families to seem him in action.

“I’m grateful for the excellent care I received at Sentara Martha Jefferson,” says Sims. “There’s such a family atmosphere, and I felt so comfortable there. My experience was 100 percent perfect.”

Nicolette Merle-Smith

A horse trainer and competitive rider, Nicolette Merle-Smith injured her shoulder while washing a horse in 2003, at age 15.

While drying the horse, Merle-Smith recalls attempting an “Indiana Jones-type bullwhip flick” to the tail in an effort to remove excess water. As she swung the heavy tail up over her head, her left arm was pulled backwards, causing her shoulder to pop out of joint. In excruciating pain, Merle-Smith popped it back into place herself by pulling on a bar in the stable.

Over the next 10 years, her shoulder continued to pop out of joint with even the slightest exertion, causing the surrounding ligaments to become stretched and loose. While she would pop it back into place herself each time the separation occurred, she finally sought medical help in 2013.

“My shoulder was inhibiting my livelihood,” says Merle-Smith, now 30 and owner of Silver Trophy Stables in Florida. “I started to need help with tasks such as tacking up my horse. I’m a very self-sufficient woman, and I didn’t like that.”

Merle-Smith’s family doctor referred her to orthopedic surgeon Stephen Gunther, MD, at Sentara Martha Jefferson. Dr. Gunther performed surgery in November 2013.

Four months after the procedure, Merle-Smith was back to competing.

“The experience at Sentara Martha Jefferson was great,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I was just a number. I felt safe, and everyone was caring. Having the surgery has allowed me to continue doing what I love.”

Treating the Pros

The sports medicine surgeons at the Sentara Sports Medicine Center at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital have extensive and diverse experience in caring for athletes at all levels, from professionals and Olympians to high school and collegiate players. Here’s a snapshot of some of their past and current work:

Clark Baumbusch, MD

Clark Baumbusch, MD

•     Head physician, PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic

•     Former assistant team physician, Los Angeles Lakers

•     Former assistant team physician, Los Angeles Dodgers

•     Former assistant team physician, Los Angeles Kings

Services to athletes include surgery and nonoperative care, injury prevention training strategies, and sport-specific rehabilitation.

“I think the most significant thing I’ve learned from taking care of high-level athletes is how important it is to investigate and stay up to date with treatment strategies that don’t involve surgery,” says Dr. Baumbusch. “These strategies can often be beneficial to people who have activities they may need to return to in a timely fashion. For professional athletes, it might be a playoff game. For members of our local community, it might be a job or an important family event.”

 Stephen Gunther, MD

Stephen Gunther, MD

•     Head team physician, USA Canoe & Kayak, 2003-2009

•     Consultant, USA Olympic Training Centers

•     Head team physician, Mendocino College, 2005-2011

Services to athletes include surgery and nonoperative care, including training strategies, injury prevention and technical aspects of orthopedic care.

“During my experience working with Olympic athletes, I learned a lot about the specific physical requirements involved, which vary widely among different sports,” says Dr. Gunther. “I enjoyed working collaboratively with the sports psychologists, physiologists, strength coaches and team coaches at the USA Olympic Training Centers.”


Matthew Panzarella, MD

Matthew Panzarella, MD

•     Team physician, USA Cycling Elite

•     Team physician, C-Ville FC (soccer)

•     Team physician, 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

•     Team physician, 2015 UCI Road World Championships

•     Team physician, Central Queensland (Australia) Comets Rugby, 2009-2010

•     Team physician, Charlottesville High School

•     Team physician, Fork Union Military Academy

•     Team physician, Miller School

•     Team physician, Soccer Organization Charlottesville Area

Services to athletes include orthopedic surgery, event coverage, and injury prevention and rehabilitation.

“Seeing the level of dedication and effort that professional athletes bring to their rehab to return to high-level performance enables me to use them as an example to inspire the other athletes and nonathletes in my practice,” says Dr. Panzarella.

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