FOR DR. KAZANJIAN, SPORTS MEDICINE AND ORTHOPEDICS HAVE NO AGE LIMIT
If want your clients to gain trust in you, to do business with you, it helps if you childhood passion is part of the makeup of your product or service.
For Dr. Jack Kazanjian, an orthopedic surgeon based in Havertown, PA, his background as a standout baseball pitcher at the high school and college level could not work more perfectly.
You see, Dr. Kazanjian, M.D. is highly trained in complex open and arthroscopic surgical techniques and specializes in disorders of the shoulder and elbow.
The baseball pitcher thing comes in handy when he needs to assure his patients or the parents of his younger student-athlete patients that the medical path he wants them to take is the right one, especially if the news in not well received.
Dr. Kazanjian said he did not get involved with orthopedics because of an injury that he incurred as a player. But as a former athlete, it works for him today.
“For me it actually helps me relate to my patients,” Dr. Kazanjian said in a recent sit down interview. “So when I have people who are athletically inclined or have young kids who are throwers, when they go to see a doctor they may say, ‘I’m not going to listen to him, I’m going out there and play.” But when you have an athletic background, it gives you credibility since I played Division 1 sports.”
Dr. Kazanjian, now 46, attended Devon Prep and played baseball for the Tide. He went on to a successful four-year career pitching for Bucknell University from 1990 to 1993 and is a member of the Class of 1993.
He loved baseball and wanted to continue to play. Kazanjian tried some independent baseball leagues, including, of all places, Shenandoah, Kentucky.
But Dr. Kazanjian realized that when you’re 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, pro baseball just may not be in the cards long term.
As it turned out a medical career was and it was something that just evolved as he went through college and started to think about his future.
“I had no clue whatsoever about orthopedics,” said Dr. Kazanjian, who said his best pitch was an 88-89 MPH fastball. “It wasn’t like I had an experience where I injured myself and wanted to be an orthopedic physician. I didn’t get into a shoulder disorder because I was a pitcher. It was just something I enjoyed doing while I was in training (to be a doctor).”
Dr. Kazanjian attended Bucknell University as an undergraduate, then earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine where he also performed his internship and residency. He completed his Fellowship at the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, GA.
But Dr. Kazanjian insists being drawn to orthopedics had nothing to do with his love of sports.
Could it have been subliminal?
“Who knows?” Dr. Kazanjian said with a laugh. “Maybe it was…When I was a resident, the shoulder was starting to become more complex, and they were doing more arthroscopic techniques and not a lot of guys were doing great intricate shoulder work, so I wanted to do something that was up and coming and progressive. I just got more involved with shoulders, not because of my athletic background at all, but just something I kind of enjoyed.”
Dr. Kazanjian talked about when decided he wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon.
“When I was a sophomore in college I was asking myself what I want to do,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “What do I want to major in? What do I want to focus on? My family were immigrants, they didn’t have any medical background. They were carpet installers, very hard workers with Jordanian, Syrian plus Trinidad and Tobago backgrounds. We all worked in the business.
“My parents always said ‘always be a good student, be a good brother, be a good friend. Always be there for other people.’”
Dr. Kazanjian said that sound advise gave him the freedom to think on his own and dream of his own future.
“Being raised like that gave me a lot of hats I could wear,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “I could be a scientist, I could be a student, I could be a patriarch, I could be a friend of the family. I am constantly challenged from the time that I start to the time that I finish. It was always evolving. I was never doing the same thing over and over again. So as a physician, you can be many different things that were stimulating to me. To do the same thing over and over and over again wasn’t very enticing to me. I always wanted to be challenged, doing something that’s progressive. And medicine, to me, gave that.”
Dr. Kazanjian said more and more student athletes come to him who believe they are scholarship athletes. He said his sports background allows him to give tips on what to do and what not to do, on and off the field.
“No.1, I tell them is to get your education,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “Not everybody gets a scholarship. Very few make to the next level. There are more people that are CEO’s and neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons than there are professional athletes. So focus on getting your education first rather than a top flight athlete. If you do become a very good collegiate athlete and you can get a scholarship it only benefits you in your preparation for your academics and athletics.”
Sports is an obsession in America. Not only with the way the public follows teams and athletes at all levels, but millions and millions of people participate in team and individual sports well into their 40s. 50S and even 60s.
Weekend warriors are not a joke. Sports such as baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, golf, volleyball, marathons, CrossFit, strength sports and rugby are played by participants who take competition seriously, train seriously and obviously are just as serious about the medical treatment they inevitably will need.
That need increases especially in the cases where people are trying new sports and activities.
Dr. Kazanjian was asked how much the sports craze fuels the orthopedic industry.
“A lot,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “You’re seeing a lot of different sporting activities who are in their late 30s. 40S, 50s, 60s…like Spartan Race and CrossFit. People are picking up stuff they’ve never done before. We’re seeing a lot of injuries from those types of sports that we never saw before. People are trying to be power lifters at 45 years of age. There are gyms popping up everywhere. It’s a great way to lose weight, it’s a great way to get in shape. But if you don’t have an Olympic lifting background, or if you’re trying to do CrossFit or Spartan Race or if you are trying to do box jumps and burpees, it’s hard for you to do especially as you advance in your age. You tend to see injuries that may not have occurred 20 years ago do to more recreational sports.”
Dr. Kazanjian says people will continue to play sports and be active for as long as they can, age is no longer a barrier with people.
“I tell people sports medicine is for people two until 102,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “I’ve got people in their 80s trying to play recreational sports. It’s either golf or tennis or swimming. I have lots more people who are staying much more active later on in their years, athletically active. They come to you to help keep them in the game.”
Knee, hip and shoulder replacements have reached new heights as far as effectiveness and durability. People who were in great discomfort and couldn’t do simple things like garden or perform their duties as a mailman or coach can now get treatment and resume what they love to do.
Zimmer Biomet is one of the leading companies that makes these products, and with the expanding expertise in putting these replacements into their patient’s joints, lives are being changed for the better.
How far can this science go? Will we ever see the day where a cyclist in his or her prime goes can get back to racing at the pro level?
“There are people that have gotten back to high level sports,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “But understand when you are doing joint replacements, they are fabulous surgeries to be able to resurface the joint, take away your pain and allow you to function on a daily basis is tremendous. But you also have to understand that it’s not biologic…it’s metal and plastic…there is a reality to it. The younger you are, the more you’re going to stress a joint, the more you stress a joint, the more the metal and plastic – in layman’s terms – is going to rub on itself. And it will be the quicker you’re going to wear that joint away and require a redo or a revision surgery.”
Dr. Kazanjian said, the younger you are, the more active you continue to be. “That joint will fail sooner.”
Dr. Kazanjian said the goal is to perform a joint replacement just once regardless of age. But the procedure and product work so well done now it is hard to hold back a 45-year old who wants to play flag football or enter a bench press contest.
“We’re looking into better metals and plastics,” Dr. Kazanjian said. “And alternate agents to replace the joint so there is less wear. But the bottom line is that only the Man who levitates in the skies can create bone cartilage and its biologic properties. We trying to figure out how to replace bone cartilage and preserve your joint but we haven’t gotten there yet. We’re hoping that happens some day.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii