Get to know your Vail doc: Dr. Robert LaPrade
VAIL CO, Colorado
Dr. Robert LaPrade moved to Vail with his family – wife Sandy and three teenage sons – a year ago this month. He’s an orthopaedic sports medicine specialist at The Steadman Clinic, and has been practicing sports medicine for 16 years. LaPrade specializes in complex knee injuries and as such, he has a passion for researching new ways to reconstruct knees. He is also the director of Biomechanics Research at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute in Vail. He took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: What are you excited about in the world of medicine?
Robert LaPrade: In my particular field, there are many new exciting things on the horizon. In addition to some of the work I have performed to try and better devise surgical reconstructions for complex knee injuries; we appear to be on the verge of biologic treatments to use one’s own stem cells and growth factors to enhance healing and, possibly in the future, to regenerate cartilage and ligament injuries. It seems that all of orthopaedics is turning toward trying to reconstruct injuries according to how one’s anatomy was prior to the injury. While this may intuitively sound like it was something that has been done all along, it was not that long ago when a large number of orthopaedic surgeries were sling procedures trying to restore function rather than actually restoring the ligament or tendon injury according to how the normal anatomy was prior to injury.
VD: How did you get into your field?
RL: While in college I had several sports injuries. Through this, I was introduced to the local team physician. While I was an engineering major at the University of Maine, I soon realized I could have a job that I would enjoy going to each morning if I was a sports medicine specialist. Thus, my sole desire upon entering medical school was to become an orthopaedic sports medicine specialist.
VD: How are you different from other orthopaedic surgeons?
RL: While some people would say I am a workaholic, I prefer to believe that I have true passion to make people better both through my surgical skills and also through my research efforts. I get up early every morning, work out, and strive to be at work by 6 a.m. each day. I truly love my job and enjoy getting up that early so I can get into the office and start work. Part of the reason I have been able to develop international recognition is because I have tackled very complex problems about the knee in a very systematic fashion. I have always started to develop treatment for specific knee injuries by understanding the basic anatomy, then gone on to clinically relevant biomechanics, developed new means to diagnose these complex knee injuries, tested new anatomic reconstruction techniques and then validated the new techniques with clinically published outcome studies. I truly believe this is how all orthopaedic work should be performed and am proud to have surrounded myself with a research team that has a similar passion to solving these problems as I do.
VD: Tell us about your background/education experience.
RL: I grew up in a rural area and played four sports in high school. I then went on to college and played one year of college football and threw the 35 pound weight and discus in track. While my degree in forest engineering was not medically related, the grueling labs and engineering type work prepared me for medical school and future research projects that I became involved with while in residency and fellowship. My medical school training was at the University of Illinois, my residency was at Michigan State University, and my sports medicine fellowship training was at the Hughston Clinic in Columbus, Georgia. My first two years in practice was as an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. From 1996 – 2010 I was at the University of Minnesota where I was director of the Biomechanics Laboratory and a Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery. I was also the team physician for the University of Minnesota men’s ice hockey and baseball teams.
VD: What is the No. 1 thing people should do to be healthy?
RL: I think the best way I can answer this is based on my orthopaedic surgery knowledge, rather than any general medicine knowledge. Probably the most important thing to keep your joints healthy is to participate in a regular low-impact exercise program. This can also address your mind, your heart and other important organ systems in the body. In addition, it is important to train properly for whatever activities one participates in. A large number of the injuries I see and the complications from these injuries are related to either inactivity or patients who do not train properly prior to activities.