Meet Damien Richardson, MD: an expert on all things related to the foot and ankle
After completing a bio-engineering degree at Arizona State University, he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 1998 NFL Draft. His seven-year NFL career as a strong safety included a National Football Conference championship and a trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Career-ending neck and knee injuries led him to graduate from medical school at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and complete his fellowship training in foot and ankle at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital.
What made you choose Providence St. Jude?
St. Jude continues to earn some of the nation’s top honors in orthopedics, such as recently being named one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals in Orthopedics by Healthgrades. Distinctions like this reflect a culture focused on superior outcomes and constant improvement, which is exactly the environment I wanted to practice in. St. Jude Heritage Orthopedics includes experts in every area of the body, from hand to shoulder to hip, which offers patients an expertise that can only come from specialization and allows physicians to bring a singular focus to innovation and advancement within their area.
What’s new in treating foot and ankle pain?
One of the most important advancements is our ability to surgically treat a growing number of conditions minimally-invasively, using 1-2 cm incisions. Achilles tendon repair, bunion correction, and hammertoe surgery are all examples of procedures that just a few years ago required large incisions and are now routinely performed through incisions as small as 3 or 4 millimeters. Meanwhile, non-operative solutions also continue to improve. We’re finding new ways to use biologics, such as platelet-rich plasma, to accelerate recovery and improve healing in conditions ranging from plantar fasciitis to cartilage injuries. Physical therapy protocols and techniques also continue to grow more sophisticated and effective.
What’s the right approach for severe ankle arthritis?
For end-stage arthritis, fusion has been the gold standard in giving patients back a pain-free and active lifestyle. But in the last 2-3 years, improvements in surgical techniques and implant durability are allowing us to offer ankle joint replacement to younger patients with excellent long-term outcomes. Which option is best requires carefully considering an individual’s unique needs and lifestyle. While both are equal in relieving pain, a replacement allows more natural movement of the surrounding joints and better restores the biomechanics of the ankle. We now use CT scans and 3D technology to create implants specific to the patient’s anatomy, an important advance as variation in the ankle joint is even greater than in the knee and hip. Several years ago, we would have expected an implant to last 10 years before a revision surgery was needed. Today, that number is closer to 20 years, while at the same time, we’ve significantly improved the success of revisions. But there are also advantages to a fusion procedure: unlike ankle replacement, it is performed minimally-invasively, recovery is considerably shorter, and it never wears out. Biologics are often used to increase the strength and success of the fusion and despite a reduction in range of motion, many fusion patients’ gait is not affected as the hindfoot joints maintain their flexibility. A fusion also allows patients to return to aggressive sports and hobbies, while an ankle replacement requires moderation in activities such as skiing and mountain hiking.
Has playing in the NFL impacted how you practice medicine?
The discipline and dedication required to perfect your trade as a professional athlete, are equally valuable when your passion becomes medicine. As an NFL player, you can’t think one-dimensionally and you can’t lose the desire to constantly hone your skills, both qualities that translate well to being a surgeon. My background also gives me additional insight and compassion for patients who want to return to doing what they love, whether that’s golf, dancing, grandchildren or college athletics. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Richardson, please call (714) 626-8630.
Join Us for a Free Webinar
CURING THE PAINFUL GRIND OF FOOT AND ANKLE ARTHRITIS
Tuesday, March 8, 6 – 7 p.m.
Millions of Americans live with pain from arthritis in the foot and ankle —and the options for treatment only continue to grow. Join Damien Richardson, MD, a Harvard-trained foot and ankle orthopedic expert to learn more about available options: from approaches to preventing or slowing joint deterioration, to treatment choices for end-stage arthritis, including fusion and joint replacement. A Q & A period will allow you to get answers to your specific questions. To register for this online class, please call 844-925-0944 or click here.