Being a runner helps orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kieran Cody cure injuries

Dr. Kieran Cody, right, and his sister, Jolene, celebrate after completing a half-marathon in California.
      Sir Isaac Newtown almost certainly did not have running in mind when he completed his first law of physics by stating “. . .a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by a net external force.”
      But the science behind the statement rings true to this day when it comes to moving one foot in front of the other at a rapid speed.
      In the case of runners, what breaks that tendency more times than not is an injury, usually one to that most critical of joints, the knee.
      Fortunately, we have experts who know how to take care of this so-called external force and get us back in motion again.
      They’re called orthopedic surgeons and their mission is to either counsel an athlete in distress by way of remedies such as a stretching program, mileage regulation, rest, etc. or, if necessary, an operation to fix the problem.
      In Bucks County, Dr. Kieran Cody is considered the premier sports medicine orthopedist for runners not only because of his technical expertise as a surgeon but because he is a runner himself and speaks the athlete’s language. In a way, he can relate to wear-and-tear kinds of injuries which are perhaps the most common among both sprinters and long distance striders.
      Dr. Cody, a member of the Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists staff, has been a runner all the way back to his track and cross country running days at Central Bucks East High School, from which he graduated in 1981. To this day, he maintains a personal training program and continues to compete in distances up to the 13.1-mile half-marathon.
      A quote from him on his biography on the Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists website pretty much says it all:
      “Each patient brings his or her own unique problems and personal goals and my approach is to offer a range of options based on my medical knowledge and experience,” he says. “There is no single, right answer for everybody, and it takes a partnership to get the best results.”
      Dr. Cody’s interest in orthopedics began as a child when his father, a physical therapist, would bring home bone models from work. That early introduction and a love of physics eventually led to the study of the physics of human motion.
      For Dr. Cody, returning people to motion is what orthopedics is all about.
      “Sports medicine was always an interest of mine,’’ Dr. Cody said in a telephone conversation. “Staying in shape, personally, and I really enjoyed helping others reach their goals. That’s what sports medicine is really all about. I did a fellowship in sports medicine at Stanford University (where he worked with both San Francisco 49er and Olympic athletes) and that’s where I really kind of cemented that. I had an interest in sports all through college (undergrad at Penn, medical school at Temple). . .not as a spectator but I really enjoy working with athletes and helping them achieve their goals.’’
      Being able to relate to his patient’s needs is what makes him so attractive to both high-end and recreational runners alike.
      “One thing I would take as a philosophy is I don’t tell people, ‘stop doing this.’ You know the old doctor line: ‘If this hurts, stop doing it,’+” Dr. Cody said. “Because I realize that people are driven and a lot of times it’s more than just their fitness, it’s who they are. That’s very true of runners and triathletes. Telling someone to not run is really not an answer I use. I tell people to modify their running, maybe more time to recover. The goal is always to get back if at all possible. I understand for people, running is more than a hobby, it’s a need.’’
      People may be under the impression that most knee problems are the result of osteo-arthritis. Dr. Cody maintains that running in and of itself is not the issue.
      “That’s kind of a common myth,’’ he said. “There’s not evidence of a higher incidence of knee arthritis in runners. The meniscus, which is the cartilage between the thigh and knee bones, just tends to wear out with use, so it’s a wear-and-tear type of injury. Meniscus tears can run in families, arthritis can run in families and it also depends on people’s alignment, that’s something you’re born with. Not every meniscus tear needs surgery but if they don’t get better or they limit activity, then they probably do.’’
      Dr. Cody also performs surgery on shoulders, injuries particularly prevalent in swimmers and triathletes. Again, overuse might be considered a big culprit in the long run. Impingement can lead to bigger problems like rotator cuff tears if not treated in prudent fashion.
      As for prevention of knee problems, two possible solutions: Rest/recovery and cross-training. Some runners jump on their bicycles to rest certain body parts and strengthen others.
      “If you do have an injury and something hurts and it hurts more each time you’re running, you probably need to take a little break,’’ Dr. Cody said. “Get on the bike or swim more. Also, coaches and trainers are invaluable because they’re going to help see things that are wrong with your form, your technique, just to keep you out of trouble.’’
      Dr. Cody is also the orthopedist for his alma mater, CBE. He sees all kinds of motion-related issues with young athletes. Getting them on he right path early to prevent injuries in adulthood is noble work.
      He and his wife, Judy, reside in Buckingham and have four sons who all attended Germantown Academy. The three oldest (Devin, an electrical engineer; Logan, an English teacher; and Braden) were runners and the fourth (Ethan) played soccer. With this family, it’s just a total sports environment.
      And so the word has been out for a long time that Dr. Cody knows all about what makes athletes tick. It’s as much about the psychology of sport as it is the physiological.
      “A lot of athletes do come in because I understand what it is to be an athlete,’’ he said. “I’m not going to tell them to stop and rest for three months. If they have to rest, I try to give them another avenue to try to work around the problem, not completely avoid them. Part of the visit is finding out what a patient’s goals are. Two people might have the same problem — one person wants to be able to walk to the end of their driveway and the other wants to run a marathon. The goals sometime can be more important than what the problem is.’’
      It’s all about keeping a body that’s in motion, staying in motion. Somewhere, Sir Isaac Newtown must be smiling.
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Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.