Dr. James Andrews

Orthopaedic Surgeon - Sports Medicine

Dr. James Andrews is commonly known as the most important man in sports.  One ought argue that this man is not the most important man in sports, rather he is the most important man in all of sports, sports medicine, and sports culture, whose influence extends beyond the famous athlete.  His accolades are too numerous to count, with an extensive history of founding practices, fellowships, research institutes, and sports programs, sitting on numerous boards, holding numerous academic appointments and honorary degrees.  He is the recipient of countless awards across all spectra of the sports and humanitarian world in addition to hundreds of peer-reviewed publications and books. He has performed over 50,000 surgeries on patients ranging from those simply looking to regain function and quality of life to the planet’s greatest athletes, and while doing so has trained over 300 surgeons who now restore function to thousands more.   He is one of the most influential surgeons of our time, and a pioneer in the realm of fixing the injured.  He is an expert artisan on the stage of the theater known as the operating room who has perfected the craft of caring for active people, and he consistently executes that art with precision and excellence.  A master seer of human emotion and drive and a communicator extraordinaire, he possesses a unique finesse and bedside manner that instills trust, optimism, and confidence in all patients he treats.  He is the quintessential team player and captain, valuing the opinion of all team members to achieve the ultimate goal of improving the well-being of the patient.  He helped craft the world of sports medicine as we know it today, and is the epitome of the ultimate gifted, charismatic, skilled, and human surgeon.   A living legend, an icon, a mentor, a godfather of sports medicine, and a humble orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews

Podcast Links

Episode Outline

Dr. James Rheuben Andrews – personal background [4:50]

Importance of mentorship [16:25]

The shoulder and elbow [22:17]

Schools currently covered by Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics Center [24:36]

Transitions in the field of sports medicine – open to arthroscopic procedures [26:36]

The move to Birmingham [29:03]

The hire of Dr. Lyle Cain and Dr. Jeff Dugas [32:40]

The importance of a sports physical therapist [37:18]

Treatment of Drew Brees [40:53]

Relationship with Nick Saban [41:58]

New Orlean Saints [45:55]

Development of his philosophy [48:05]

Longevity and Legacy [1:01:25]

Youth sports injuries and prevention [1:04:31]

Treatment of Roger Clemens [1:16:13]

Biggest failures and lessons from them [1:17:47]

Surgeries [1:20:40]

Treatment of Jack Nicklaus [1:23:17]

Return to play [1:25:50]

The next revelation in sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery [1:28:51]

Personal information [1:31:17]

Closure [1:36:04]

Show Notes

“If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you are not doing much today.” Jenelle Andrews

Dr. James Rheuben Andrews – personal background [4:50]

  • Born May 2, 1942 in New Orleans, LA (and grew up in Homer, LA
  • Father went overseas to serve as a Quartermaster in the Army during World War II when he was born
  • Grew up living on his grandparents’ farm with his mother and sister
  • Spent time picking cotton and learned a lot of lessons on the farm
  • His grandfather was a big influence on his life
  • His grandfather was a healer and developed salves and made tinctures
    • He planted the seed of Dr. Andrews’ ambition to become a doctor
    • “He planted the seed in my mind at an early age when he said… ‘You’re going to be my young doctor when you grow up’.” – James Andrews

What was it that led you to sports medicine and orthopaedics? [8:40]

  • Growing up playing seasonal sports and his father, a former football player at Northwestern State, encouraging him along the way
  • This developed his desire to be a team physician
  • His background as an athlete made him want to combine medicine with athletics

How do you deliver care differently as a team physician? [11:09]

  • Availability and communication are key
  • Two jobs – treating athletes in the clinic and taking care of athletes on the field
  • Passion and the love of sports are what keeps the team physician involved
  • Football is king in the South – High School Football on Fridays, College Football on Saturdays, and NFL Football on Sundays

Relationships with the entire athletic staff [13:00]

  • Athletic trainers, sports physical therapist and physician must work as a team
  • Have to understand the lingo within the sports
  • Compassion for the injury is the key to the relationship with patients

Importance of mentorship [16:25]

  • His patient philosophy was developed through the influence of his mentors
    • “Your credo of taking care of patients is an accumulation of what you have learned from all of your mentors.” James Andrews
    • “If you want to be successful, you have to pay homage and tribute to your mentors.” James Andrews
  • The mentors in his life growing up:
    • Grandfather
    • Father – motivated him to keep education first and combine it with athletics
    • Mother – master’s degree in education and served as a music teacher
  • The mentors in his life during residency and fellowship training:
    • Jack Hughston – one of the early fathers of sports medicine in Columbus, GA
      • “Like a father to me … my year with him was probably the most important year of my development as an orthopaedic surgeon and team physician.” James Andrews
      • Served as the team physician for Auburn University
      • First man in the country to start covering Friday night high school football games on the field
      • Andrews returned in 1973 at the Hughston Clinic – worked with Dr. Hughston for 13 years
    • Frank McCue III – the team physician at the University of Virginia
    • Albert Trillat – the “king” of sports medicine in Europe – based out of Lyon, France
      • “My mentors were the key to everything that I have done.” James Andrews

The shoulder and elbow [22:17]

  • Hughston’s main interest was the knee and football injuries
  • This created opportunities for Dr. Andrews to treat upper extremity injuries in baseball athletes
  • Multiple college and high school teams came to the clinic for athletic injuries
  • Andrews also gained a lot of exposure to golf related injuries

Schools currently covered by Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics Center (ASMOC) [24:36]

Transitions in the field of sports medicine – open to arthroscopic procedures [26:36]

  • “It did not come easy for me because Dr. Hughston did not believe in the arthroscope.” James Andrews
  • Middle of 1970s – Dr. Andrews recognized that arthroscopic surgical techniques were the new revelation in sports medicine
  • Andrews and his early involvement with arthroscopy in the knee
    • Moved to the St. Francis Catholic Hospital with fellows to conduct arthroscopic procedures because Dr. Hughston did not like the arthroscopic procedures
  • “Arthroscopy became the greatest revelation in sports medicine in the past 50 years.” – James Andrews

The move to Birmingham, AL [29:03]

  • “Dr Hughston was a father to me… but never wanted to give up any Dr. James Andrews
    • “Once a fellow, always a fellow” mentality
    • Andrews foresaw the potential mess after Hughston’s retirement due to lack of planning for the future
  • Initially, Dr. Andrews worked with the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) to build one of the first sports medicine hospitals in the country outside of Columbus, GA
    • This was an attempt to work together again with Dr. Hughston now that arthroscopy had a foothold in the field
    • Andrews became a member of the Board of Directors at the HCA
      • Initial idea was for the HCA to build a facility in Nashville, TN 
    • His wife, Jenelle, wanted to be close to family in Phenix City, AL which ultimately led to the decision to move to Birmingham
    • They mapped a 200-mile radius around Columbus, GA and Birmingham was within the boundaries
    • Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center (ASMOC) was established in Birmingham, AL in 1986

The hire of Dr. Lyle Cain and Dr. Jeff Dugas  [32:40]

  • “I saw them [Jeff and Lyle] as me when I was ” Dr. James Andrews
  • Both were fellows in 2000 and remained at ASMOC after fellowship
  • Andrews had confidence in both of them to carry on the work of the clinic and trusted them to take over once he moved to Gulf Breeze, FL
    • Benton Emblom also came in as a fellow in 2008 and helped lead the clinic along with Dr. Cain and Dr. Dugas
    • “You want to train people to be better than you were.” – James Andrews

The importance of a sports physical therapist [37:18]

  • While with Dr. Hughston, Dr. Andrews met George McCluskey who developed his appreciation for sports physical therapy in the overall patient care of athletes
    • Andrews met Tab Blackburn at the University of Virginia and brought him to Columbus, GA to work with George McCluskey
  • Andrews met Kevin Wilk at a conference and convinced him to come to Birmingham, AL
    • Emphasis on the two of them working together
    • “The most well-known sports physical therapist in the world. No question.” – Dr. James Andrews
    • Several athletes, including Drew Brees, moved to Birmingham for months to work with Kevin after his shoulder surgery

Treatment of Drew Brees [40:53]

What was it about Drew Brees that allowed him to recover and become one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history?

  • “Drew Brees is one of the most competitive persons and athlete that I have ever operated on… He was motivated from the recovery room on.” –
  • Andrews, Dr. Cain and Dr. Dugas all performed the operation on Drew Brees
    • “The best team you could put together.” – Dr. James Andrews
  • Click here to learn more about Dr. Andrews’ relationship with Drew Brees and his shoulder repair in 2006

Relationship with Nick Saban [41:58]

  • Andrews conducted physicals at the NFL Combine
  • Discussion with Nick Saban, coach at the Miami Dolphins at the time, about his quarterback for the season (2006)
    • “You need to hire Drew Brees.” James Andrews to Nick Saban
    • Miami team physician stated that Drew Brees would never play football again after his injury – Saban took the advice of the team physician over Dr. Andrews
    • Saban credits Dr. Andrews as the reason he is at the University of Alabama since he didn’t take his advice about Drew Brees
      • “Andrews, you know that you are the reason I am coaching at the University of Alabama right now… If I had listened to you and hired Drew Brees, I’d still be coaching at Miami.” James Andrews, quoting Nick Saban

New Orlean Saints [45:55]

What communication did your team at ASMOC have with the New Orleans Saints?

  • Andrews had a history with the New Orleans Saints – been working with them since residency at Tulane
    • He assured them that Drew Brees would recover from his injury
  • Drew Brees went on to win the Super Bowl XLIV against the Indianapolis Colts
    • Andrews had also operated on Peyton Manning
    • Overall, Dr. Andrews had operated on 22 players that played in the 2010 Super Bowl XLIV

Development of his philosophy [48:05]

  • Andrews Institute
    • Andrews carries this card around in his pocket
    • Andrews noticed the great standard of care at Ritz-Carlton Hotels and the Credo that the employees carried around in their pocket
    • A former patient of Dr. Andrews helped start Waffle House and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
      • He wanted to put Waffle Houses at many of the interchanges on the interstates but his three partners told him that would never work
      • He got the rights to the stores and the rest is history
      • Click here to read more about the connection between Waffle House and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
    • Patient Philosophy – developed by a physician who completed a fellowship at ASMOC
      • The patient is always right
      • Make the patient feel he or she is treated properly by previous medical providers
      • Do not say anything bad about another physician or another person, for that matter
      • Always be open-minded
      • Listen to the
      • Do not be the first person to make the big statement
      • Attitude, responsibility, knowledge, desire, availability are always necessary to be successful
      • One must always be able to read the patient
      • A physician must be confident with his diagnosis and surgical skills
    • “When Dr. Andrews tells you you’re going to be fine, you believe him. That’s half the battle.” – Rod Hood, Tennessee Titans Cornerback
    • Developing trust with patient
      • Must be able to communicate with patients in their own terms
        • “Be patient, but do it in a hurry.” – James Andrews
      • Reassuring the parents and other family members of the patient
        • “If mother ain’t happy, nobody’s – Dr. James Andrews

 

Longevity and Legacy [1:01:25]

  • Six children and eleven grandchildren
  • Big emphasis on personal health after suffering a heart attack and undergoing a quadruple bypass
    • “I thought I was – Dr. James Andrews
    • Changed diet and gave up alcohol completely
      • Had a difficult time giving up hotdogs
      • Refers to football games as Hotdog Weekends because it’s all they have to eat at the games

Youth sports injuries and prevention [1:04:31]

  • Started tracking youth sports injuries in 2000 through the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI)
    • A 10-fold increase in youth sports injuries since the year 2000
    • Click here to learn more about the research conducted by Dr. Andrews and ASMI
  • Andrews was on the Board of the Little League International for 12 years

  • Two causes of youth sports injuries
    • Specialization – playing one sport year-round with no rest
    • Professionalism – training a young athlete as if he/she were a professional athlete (also refer to this as “overserved” athletes)
    • Statistics show that 70% of young athletes drop out of sports by age 13 (source: coachsafely.org)
    • “The two things that drive the injuries in youth baseball are velocity and ” – Dr. James Andrews
    • Click here to read more about velocity and fatigue driven injuries in youth baseball
    • “You’ve got to change the culture in youth sports.” – Dr. James Andrews discussing how to prevent youth sports injuries
  • Active rest
    • In baseball, every youth baseball player should have at least two months off (preferably three to four months off)
  • Multi-sport athletes
    • 217 out of 255 (85%) players drafter in the 2020 NFL Draft were multi-sport athletes in high school (source: Trackingfootball.com)
    • Super Bowl LI in 2017 between New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons
      • Studies showed that 88.7% of the players in that game were multi-sport athletes in high school (source: Trackingfootball.com)
      • Tom Brady participated in four sports in high school
      • “Before you become a star in one sport, you need to become an athlete first.” – Dr. James Andrews

Treatment of Roger Clemens [1:16:13]

  • Treated in Columbus, GA with one of the first shoulder arthroscope procedures by Dr. Andrews in 1985
  • The next year, Clemens became the first pitcher to throw 20 strike outs in nine innings
  • Click here to learn more about Dr. Andrews’ relationship with Roger Clemens

 

Biggest failures and lessons from them [1:17:47]

  • “The only results you ever really remember are your bad ones.” – James Andrews
  • Do not make the mistake of distancing yourself from your failures – reach out to the patient and express compassion

 

Surgeries [1:20:40]

  • Signature surgeries are ACL reconstruction and Tommy John (UCL reconstruction) surgery
  • In terms on number of surgeries completed: “Too many to count, and not enough to quit.” – Dr. James Andrews

 

Treatment of Jack Nicklaus [1:23:17]

  • Jerry Pate, a former Alabama golfer, initiated the relationships between Dr. Andrews and professional golfers
  • Andrews served as the doctor of the Southern Open at the Green Island Country Club in Columbus, GA where he met Jack Nicklaus
  • Andrews performed an arthroscopic knee procedure on Jack Nicklaus in 1984
  • Nicklaus played and won in the Skins Game at Desert Highlands two weeks later

 

Return to play [1:25:50]

  • Publicizing athletes like Adrian Peterson who have a quick return to play can be harmful to young athletes who become injured
    • It creates a problem in young athletes who try to return to play too early after injury without having the same level of rehabilitation as a professional athlete
    • It can lead to a significant reinjury rate in young athletes
      • “30% incidence of retearing ACL graft or a tear of the contralateral ACL in athletes who return to play six months after injury.” James Andrews, describing female soccer players after an ACL reconstruction
      • “For every month that an athlete returns to play shy of nine months, there is a 10% increase in risk of reinjury.” James Andrews
      • Click here to learn more about the risks of reinjury related to timing of the return to play after surgery

 

The next revelation in sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery [1:28:51]

Personal information [1:31:17]

  • Favorite book: the Bible
  • “I’ve written some books I haven’t Dr. James Andrews
  • Started pole vaulting after watching Tarzan played by Don Bragg
    • Don Bragg previously held the World Record in the pole vault at 15’ 9.25”
    • This started Dr. Andrews’ career in pole vaulting in high school
  • Went to LSU on scholarship for pole vaulting
  • Mondo Duplantis LSU pole vaulter
    • Holds the World Record for the indoor pole vault at 6.18 meters (20’ 3.3”)
    • Holds the World Record for the outdoor pole vault at 6.15 meters (20’ 2.1”)
    • Former patient of Dr. Andrews

 

Closure [1:36:04]

  • “I’m the luckiest guy in the world…” James Andrews
  • His legacy
    • The number of former fellows that he has trained and their success
    • Being known as someone who cared for patients and prevention of injuries, particularly in youth sports

 

Many thanks to James Harris for creating these detailed show notes