Westside Specialist Spotlight: Rob Flannery, MD, Sports Medicine
November 28, 2017
UH Clinical Update - August 2017
Rob Flannery, MD, Sports Medicine, University Hospitals; Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopaedics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
As a new primary care sports medicine specialist at University Hospitals, Rob Flannery, MD, sees it all, from high school football players who’ve suffered a concussion to middle-aged golfers who’ve strained a muscle in their shoulder or back. Although the treatment is always tailored to each patient, Dr. Flannery’s general approach to each case is the same – quick access and continuous communication.
“A good patient experience starts with access,” he says. “If someone gets hurt, whether they see me or one of my partners in Sports Medicine, the chances of them being seen within 24 to 48 hours is very good. Beyond that, it’s communication. We want to get our patients back to normal as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible, and communication is a big part of that. We want each patient to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I take the time to answer questions and spend as much time as I can with them. The athletic trainers that we work with through 44 high schools in Northeast Ohio also all have my cell phone number, and they can call me any time if they have questions.”
As part of the UH Sports Medicine team, Dr. Flannery serves as Assistant Medical Physician for the Cleveland Browns and Assistant Team Physician for Oberlin College; he also helps out with team physician duties at John Hay and Rhodes high schools, both in Cleveland Metropolitan School District. During his fellowship training in sports medicine at Rutgers University, Dr. Flannery also treated Rutgers athletes and athletic team members from Princeton University.
“It was a great learning experience,” he says. “It allowed me to look at the athlete as a whole and realize that there are different drivers for people to excel in athletics, whether it’s trying to go pro or just for the love of the sport. I was also lucky enough to train with Dr. Margo Putukian when I was at Princeton, who is one of the concussion gurus in the country. She has been a co-author on every major set of guidelines that have been released over the last decade or so.”
“Concussion can be a challenge to treat because it really is a multifactorial injury,” Dr. Flannery adds. “Our approach is to involve the athlete’s primary care physician and athletic trainer at the high school, but also the high school nurse and guidance counselor. It’s as important to get the patient back into the classroom as it is to get them back out on the field. Return to learn is as important to us as return to play.”
Dr. Flannery splits his time between the Eastside and Westside suburbs, seeing patients at both UH Mayfield Village Health Center and UH Westlake Health Center.
“My practice is a combination of sports medicine and non-operative orthopedics,” he says. “We also do some regenerative medicine with stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. We’re working toward the future and how to more fully integrate that into our service line for patients with arthritis or orthopaedic injuries.”
Dr. Flannery is also one of just three physicians in Northeast Ohio to offer the minimally invasive Tenex procedure for patients with tendonitis that hasn’t responded to conservative therapy. The procedure uses ultrasound guidance to identify diseased, pain-generating tendon tissue and employs a tiny needle moving at ultrasonic speed to remove it.
“The typical procedure from going into the room to leaving the room takes about 20 minutes,” Dr. Flannery says. “The actual procedure time itself is probably less than five minutes.”
Clinical studies show that about 80 to 85 percent of patients are pain-free within weeks of a Tenex procedure. Dr. Flannery says his results are similar.
With all these services, Dr. Flannery says his goal is to serve the sports medicine needs of the entire patient population.
“Our tagline in Sports Medicine is that we see everyone from pee-wees to pros,” Dr. Flannery says. “That’s really true.”