HL20: James Andrews - Preventing Kids' Sports Injuries

Philip Betbeze, December 23, 2010

This article was published on December 2, 2010.


 "We're all for sports—they're the greatest thing in the world for our kids—but the motto is to keep kids on the playing field and out of the operating room."

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is James Andrews' story.

He's arguably the godfather of a subspecialty in healthcare that pioneered minimally invasive surgical techniques for shoulders, elbows, and knees using the arthroscope and magnetic resonance imaging that are now frequently used in surgeries far outside the orthopedic sphere.

He's also world-famous for being the go-to guy for injured super-athletes with multimillion-dollar contracts.

You'd think that man would be a little more self-aggrandizing, and, well, egotistical. But you'd be very wrong.

In fact, you get the feeling that Andrews talks to the media because he knows it's necessary to help achieve his goals on sports injury prevention, but what he's really interested in is the next case. In fact, HealthLeaders caught up with him between two surgeries.

Athletes with millions of dollars resting on the outcome of their surgeries trust him, and have for a couple of decades now. James Andrews, MD, whose name is almost always mentioned in association with surgeries on franchise athletes such as Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, or St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, has become a celebrity himself.

"You have to take the celebrity in stride. I've never let that interfere with my basic core values to take care of people at all levels," he says. "In fact, it's added pressure to my life and added extra workload."

Sucked into the spotlight, Andrews is content to give a lot of the credit for his success to his team, which he compares to a NASCAR pit crew. It consists of his physician partners in his two practices in Birmingham, AL, and Gulf Breeze, FL, his PR man, the chief of his charitable foundation, the 11 fellows he takes on at his two practices each year. Soon, he's talking about the importance of the secretaries and the maintenance personnel before a reporter is able to return to the focus of the interview—him and his work.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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