Sports Medicine Expert care that's not just for athletes

Dr. Tailor examines Audrey Phillips' knee. "When I was referred to Dr. Tailor, I could barely walk...now I have zero pain in my knee - without surgery, "she says.
“DESPITE ITS NAME, the medical specialty of sports medicine is not just for athletes,” says Rajiv Tailor, MD. Dr. Tailor serves as Medical Director of the Eisenhower Sports Medicine Clinic in La Quinta — a full-time, non-surgical sports medicine clinic. Board Certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine, he completed a fellowship in Sports Medicine at Eisenhower Health with didactic and ultrasound certification from the University of California, San Diego.

“Sports medicine is really for anyone, of virtually any age, who wants to get or remain active, to keep playing recreational golf, tennis or pickleball, for example, without letting physical limitations stop them,” he says. “My focus is on non-surgical approaches to help them do just that.”

Taming inflammation — the culprit in most musculoskeletal pain — is a key part of the care Dr. Tailor provides.

“Inflammation is like a fire that you have to extinguish,” he says. “This can be as simple as icing a sore body part after an injury or overexertion, taking oral anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, or having targeted corticosteroid injections to relieve joint pain.”

He notes that he frequently has to educate patients about the correct way to take oral anti-inflammatory medications.

“All too often, patients will achieve pain relief after a dose or two, so they’ll stop taking the medication — and the pain comes back,” he says. “But to manage inflammation, you have to take oral antiinflammatories regularly for a period of time, to maintain the level of the medication in your system.”

When injections are indicated, Dr. Tailor uses ultrasound imaging guidance to verify the most accurate and safe placement of the medication.

“There are multiple studies that demonstrate 90 to 100 percent accuracy versus 75 to 80 percent without guidance, depending on injection location,” he notes. “Accuracy is important in diagnosing pain generators as these injections are both diagnostic and therapeutic.”

The most common sports medicine conditions

"But we don't just treat symptoms...we work to get to the bottom of what's causing the patient's pain...and correct the problem."- Rajiv Tailor, MD
The conditions Dr. Tailor sees most frequently include osteoarthritis (the “wear-and- tear” type of arthritis that causes joint pain), overuse injuries such as stress fractures, tendinitis and tendinosis (including golfer’s and tennis elbow), acute injuries including ankle sprains, joint injuries, dislocations and non-surgical fractures, and rotator cuff issues.

“There’s an entire non-surgical side to orthopedics today, thanks to technology advances in medicine that reduce the need for surgical intervention,” he says. “With my training, I can help sort out if surgery is needed and, if not, provide appropriate medical treatment.

“But we don’t just treat symptoms,” he emphasizes. “Cortisone is a great antiinflammatory, but it won’t fix the underlying problem. We work to get to the bottom of what’s causing a patient’s pain or dysfunction and correct the problem — whether it’s working on specific muscles or tendons through physical therapy, increasing bone density to prevent fractures, or prescribing certain exercises to build a stronger core.

“And when surgery is the solution, I’ll refer my patient to the appropriate surgeon,” he adds. “Because I work closely with orthopedic surgeons in all subspecialties, I generally can get my patients in to see someone quickly — and they don’t have to spend more time getting a diagnostic workup since I’ve already done it, which also saves time.”

Who benefits from sports medicine?

Importantly, patients don’t need to have a musculoskeletal problem or injury to benefit from sports medicine expertise. “A big part of what we do is help people prevent injury,” Dr. Tailor says, “which is why it’s so important to get a physical evaluation before you start any new activity.

“Anytime a body isn’t used to doing something, whether you’ve been away from a sport or physical activity for one year or 20, your body mechanics aren’t ready to take on something new, and that’s when injury happens,” he continues. “For example, if you take up running, you can get tendinitis because your tendons aren’t used to moving that way.

“But if you start off with strengthening and stretching, it can prevent injury,” he notes. “And injury prevention is especially important as we age because our muscles and tendons don’t move like they used to.

“When you’re injured when you’re young, you heal more quickly,” he explains. “But as we get older, we don’t get as much blood supply to the tendons and muscles and that blood supply is necessary for healing.

“When you don’t pay attention to conditioning, it’s way too easy to get into a pain cycle and develop chronic, long-term issues that can be harder to fix,” he adds.

Tips for avoiding injury

“Adequate stretching and strengthening are an important foundation for any activity,” Dr. Tailor says. “It’s also vital to understand the physical requirements of the specific activity you’re undertaking.

“Tennis, for example, requires lots of overhead serves and twisting of the knee,” he continues. “So we assess what your body is capable of, where its shortfalls are, and how you can strengthen or support any potential problem areas through such things as bracing. The most appropriate approach depends on the activity you’re undertaking.

“Unfortunately, too many people go from zero to 100 too fast when they’re starting something new,” he adds. “But if you pace yourself, for example, exert a little less pressure every day by wearing the proper brace, after a few weeks it’ll hurt less and you’ll be able to do more.”

While the majority of patients Dr. Tailor sees are adults, he also serves as the team physician to the Rancho Mirage High School football team during their season. In this role, he works closely with athletes, athletic trainers, parents and coaches to care for athletes, and help make return-to-play decisions for those who are injured.

“Here in the desert, we have a large population of retirees,” he says. “This is their time to enjoy life and remain as active as they can. Physical activity, in turn, helps them maintain their cardiovascular, brain and bone health. “I see it as my job to help keep these individuals happy and healthy by keeping them moving and pain free,” he adds.

One happy customer

Psychologist and pickleball national champion Audrey Phillips is very grateful for the care she has received from Dr. Tailor, recommending him to friends and associates every chance she gets.

“When I was referred to Dr. Tailor, I could barely walk,” says Phillips, who is 71. “I was having major problems with my left knee. I am an avid pickle ball player, playing almost daily, as well in tournaments. Now I have zero pain in my knee — without surgery.

“Dr. Tailor is a young, old-fashioned country doctor who takes the time to know all of you. That’s what makes this man so unusual. He evaluates everything and he is so creative with what he does. He heals the soul as well as the knee. He’s made a huge difference in my quality of life.”

To contact the Eisenhower Sports Medicine Clinic, call 760.837.8731.

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