Doug Freedberg, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon (with sports medicine subspecialty certification) specializing in knee and shoulder arthroscopy, ACL reconstruction, sports medicine, golf injuries, injuries to the throwing athlete as well as total knee arthroplasty. He followed his orthopedic residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NY, the #1 ranked orthopedic program in the country, with a sports medicine fellowship with world renowned Dr. James Andrews. He is a team orthopedic surgeon for the Arizona Cardinals and a consultant with the Oakland Athletics. He also serves on the AngelMD Clinical Advisory Board as co-Chairman of Orthopedics.
Tobin Arthur 00:00
Everybody’s Tobin, Arthur, your host for innovation for alpha, and today I’m joined by Dr. Doug Freeburg, who is a really interesting guy and orthopedic surgeon in Arizona does very cool things. I’m excited to have Doug on the show and spend a little time with you really appreciate your time.
Doug Freedberg, MD 00:36
Well, thank you, Tobin. Pleasure to be here.
Tobin Arthur 00:39
Doug, why don’t you give everybody a little bit about your background? You know how you came to Arizona and some of your training.
Doug Freedberg, MD 00:46
I grew up in New York through high school, then came to university Arizona in Tucson for undergrad and med school. Then went back to New York orthopedic residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Then followed that up with a sports medicine fellowship down in Birmingham, Alabama with Dr. Andrews, prior to his moving to Florida, and then I’ve been back in Arizona since 1999. Originally got here, because my grandparents were snow-birding and loved the weather. So I’ve been here for I guess we’re on 23 years now. Not including the college. So I’ve been in Arizona, longer than New York.And been in practice again since 1999. I started working with a guy in town for the first couple years. And you know, reasonably soon I realized it wasn’t going to be the right answer. And then a my current partner, who we ended up starting our own thing. What happened was, we had an internship together, he stayed in Tucson and did residency, I was in New York, we then both did the fellowship together in Birmingham, came into practice in Arizona. Different practices, and would see each other every now and again, and kind of realize, you know, what, let’s just do this ourselves. So in 2004 started our own thing, Arizona Sports Medicine Center. And it’s grown. We grew incrementally from 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 Docs and it’s been great. We are very similar. We are actually four days apart in age. So I guess I’m senior from that regard. But it’s been great running our own show, and you recognize things that had happened prior and think let’s do it differently. When we’re bringing people on, we’re gonna bring them on as partners and not as people who want to kind of abuse and then have them leave. It’s not really been our model at all. We were pretty early on combining orthopedic surgeons and primary care sports and ultrasound. And it’s helped out as we developed a pretty good profile out here.
Tobin Arthur 03:13
Speaking of profile, you work with some pretty high profile clients. You’ve got a pretty fun couple days ahead with the Arizona Cardinals Monday night football playoffs getting started. Talk a little bit about some of the sports work you do at that level.
Doug Freedberg, MD 03:28
It should be that’d be a fun weekend hopefully keeps going. It’s not our last weekend. The sports stuff started obviously doing training at certain relatively high profile places. At HSS, we dealt with a lot of the teams in New York, and then in Birmingham, similar. And so when I came out to Arizona, pretty soon, I guess, two, three months into being here. I was playing in a in a baseball charity golf tournament, and randomly was paired up with a guy who was doing some work with the Oakland A’s. He was one of the physical therapists. And he said, “Hey, do you have any interest in doing some baseball work?” And I said, Yeah, I mean, hell, I was doing stuff with Andrews and doing stuff in the back in New York. And interesting in that same foursome was playing with Dr. Lou Yocum in LA who unfortunately since is passed over Kerlon Jobe and so I started work spring training with the A’s in 2000. I guess rit’s apidly approaching 20 to 23 years this upcoming spring training as long as spring training happens with the lockout. The baseball stuff has been really cool. And then a couple years thereafter, this is right around the time where my partner started the Arizona Sports Medicine Center. We started taking care of the coyotes for NHL. And that was very fun. The athletes were phenomenal. I’m not a great skater myself. So it’s not like I could do that stuff. Whereas baseball obviously I did. And interesting at that time, we got asked by the Cardinals to talk to them about taking care of them. And it was really just the two of us as the doctors. And they were correctly concerned saying I don’t think you guys really have enough bandwidth to do this. And they actually went a different direction and told us we really liked you guys, but I don’t think this is gonna make sense. And then fast forward three years later, and they came back said, You know what? You guys want to do it? So then we talked to them again. And we’ve been doing it since I think, actually right after the Superbowl. So we did miss that when we started in 2009. And been doing it since. And it’s been great. So that’s been going on. And then a couple years ago, I think in 2020. We actually we took care of the the Phoenix Suns for that season, as well. We’re no longer doing that, but still enjoy the Suns and they’re doing great. They’re a great group. And our office, I’m not doing this, but our office is now been have been taking care of the Diamondbacks as well. I just wanted to stick with the A’s and make my life simple. So there’s a lot of traffic in the office from from different athletes, although obviously the the bulk of the practice is still everyday people that we see. But yeah, it definitely adds a little level of excitement.
Tobin Arthur 06:43
That’s pretty neat. So for people not familiar, how does that work? With respect to the Cardinals in terms of how does your time commitment work? Are you going to most of the games? What does that look like post game, obviously, every game is going to have some injuries. I mean, what’s that whole quarterbacking of that look like?
Doug Freedberg, MD 06:59
In season we kind of try to coordinate things because we have certain days where things get a little nutty. So obviously, game day, there’s an NFL requirement to orthopedic surgeons to be at the game. So typically my partner or I are there at every game. As the years have gone, by the last two or three years, as my kids started getting a little busier with sports, I’ve kind of backed off to some degree and probably cover maybe about 70% of the games. So there’s certain weekends, I kind of want to chill with the kids. But interestingly, if it’s a home game, and I’m not covering it, it’s some of the coolest games, I can actually go as a dad and take my kids to the game and it’s it’s something you don’t see, when you’re on the sideline. Maybe your kids are way up in the stands, it’s not as meaningful as sitting there just being a regular dad, which seems kind of backwards because nobody wants to do this stuff, taking care of them. But it’s actually more fun when you’re in the stands with your kids. So I am covering the vast majority game still. So it’s game day, we are there two plus hours before the game. And after the game, we check out the players then the next day, we have our little bump and bruise clinic at the facility. And then another time during the week typically my partner’s has his schedule works better for this, we shoot back down there to see what’s going on with them and check out and then obviously, if it’s a road game, we’re leaving, whether it’s the day before, sometimes two days before for going to the east coast. And then it doesn’t end with the end of the season. We get geared up for Combine in Indianapolis. It’s the last year in Indianapolis, and they’re kind of opening up to other cities. But even that is a five day work fest. It’s it’s a lot of work seeing, you know, 300 plus guys where you’re doing exams on them and making little medical notes to help out with the drafting. And then there’s other meetings, and then the draft in June, and then mini camps and Offseason training. So there’s really not a huge offseason. I mean, our time committment is a little bit less during those times, but it’s a 12 month deal.
Tobin Arthur 09:12
During a game, for example, if people are watching the game, you see the player get injured on the field. And so there’s folks out there checking out the players. Would you be out there on the field with maybe trainers or who’s out there triaging?
Doug Freedberg, MD 09:25
Yes, that depends. So the trainers are kind of the first line they almost always are the first ones to run out there. But if you see something notable, we’re out there as well. So say the Christmas game we played the Colts and I don’t normally have my phone with me while I’m on on the sideline. It’s in the locker room. But I was out there seeing a player and after the game I got like 15 texts from friends who’ve seen me on TV. So it’s interesting.
Tobin Arthur 10:03
We talked a little bit earlier just shifting a little bit instead of the pros, but i want to talk a little bit about this issue of injuries and younger kids. I’ve got kids playing sports, as you do. Talk a little bit about that rise of specialization and what that means for injuries and kids.
Doug Freedberg, MD 10:26
I think, overall, there’s been a huge change. Because it seemed like, and again, I’m 54 just give you a background. We grew up as kids, you play baseball, you play basketball, play different sports, and particularly growing up in New York, it gets cold, you’re not playing a lot of outdoor sports. So just the weather, and seasons, change your what you’re doing with your body, and sports. So if you play one particular sport only, your body gets used to that. And there’s a lot of compensations that happen. And it’s a very wonderful thing for your body to do different sports, the cross training is phenomenal. So obviously, as you go, whether it’s just whether you go out south in Arizona, and Texas, in Florida, you have the ability to be able to play 12 months a year. But it’s also grown that there’s a specialization with coaching, where kids are told at super young ages, this is the only sport you can play and you don’t play anything else. And it happens at super young age, whether it’s baseball, whether it’s tennis, whether it’s soccer, and there’s a lot more injuries that happen. And the problem is, the parents oftentimes have to get in the the way between the coaches who are well meaning but aren’t thinking that their priority is to see how many days Johnny has pitched or not pitched. And you have to separate that because you really need a time off during a year to allow your your muscles and body to relax and rest. As the if you’re trying to emulate the highest level players, they’re taking number of months off and not continuing to throw a baseball or play football during the offseason. So that’s really important. And we’ve seen way too many injuries, whether it’s shoulders and elbows in baseball players, whether it’s ACLs, and soccer. And that’s obviously a lot more injury and not overuse. But it’s it’s just it’s a shame to see how young you’re now seeing players when we’re working with trainers back in the day used to be it was the professionals and college kids who were hurting their their elbow ligaments, and now you’re seeing high school players. And sadly, because most players do very well with the surgery, it is by no means 100%, But the vast majority do well, they’re obviously crazy people thinking wow, let me just blow up my ligament in high school and then hell I’ll be better and be perfect. It’s clearly not the recommendation. So it’s sad but it’s got to change. And it’s got to be the kids and the parents individually saying we need to take a break and not specialize despite the pressure from the coaches.
Tobin Arthur 12:59
One of the things that we love to talk about his his physicians start to look for some things to do outside of clinical work. And where possible, leveraging their expertise and training. What are some of the things you found over time?
Doug Freedberg, MD 13:13
You know, obviously, the sports stuff has been been great. I love it. I really do. Outside of that. I mean, I’ve been involved for a number of years and some surgery centers that I’ve been working with. That’s been fun. There’s two of those that have been going on over the years. In the office, I took a fair amount of responsibility, It wasn’t anything officially listed. But we kind of dealt with a lot of the financial stuff. And I wasn’t a managing partner by any stretch. But I’ve dealt with a lot of that stuff. We had purchased two office buildings sold one and in the process of considering another one. So there’s a lot of that. I have kind of worked with a number of startups there’s it’s interesting that there are a lot in Phoenix and Scottsdale. A fair amount that are there. So some started crazy. There was a guy when I was still doing trauma call. So I sat in the ER for like a wrist or elbow fracture. And I started talking and he ends up being a CEO of an orthopedic company. And he asked me to help him out with some prototype stuff and I did that and he had a couple companies go public and and then it turned into a couple other things. So I’ve been involved, not at some insane level, but kind of I’d say peripherally, and it’s kind of cool. So I like seeing different things. I’ve always thought of myself as kind of a businessman. I’m the only one of the family in medicine. It’s not like I come from a lineage of physicians. So I like that part of it too.
Tobin Arthur 14:59
On the surgery centers. How did that evolve? Was it just things that you were you guys were gonna build yourselves? Or what was the evolution there?
Doug Freedberg, MD 15:05
I mean, the first must go going back probably to about 2004. And there wasn’t a huge about at the time in Arizona there were some. And that was an early one and other people told me “Oh, I don’t know, man, I don’t think that’s be a great idea as that. I don’t know, I think it’s gonna be probably pretty good.” You never know for sure. But what the hell. And that’s gone very well. And there was a point at which I think, I don’t know, maybe I lose track of the time and you get that 2009 or 2010, a good percentage of that was was sold. We’re still in the but not as full owners. And then another one was started in about 2012. And that one sold to USB. It’s nice to do things outside of regular day to day practice. And also, it sure helps, from a economic standpoint to there’s so much downward pressure on physicians to not allow you to make money, the insurance companies rule the world, right. And it’s nice to be able to have a little piece that is outside of their control.
Tobin Arthur 16:10
How do you find on the time side, because you’ve got a lot going on. This weekend as an example, you’ve got kids going here and there for sports, you’ve got your own playoff game coming up. And then you’ve got a practice to run and on and on. How do you find time and maybe it ebbs and flows, depending on the season of the year.
Doug Freedberg, MD 16:33
Step one is try to have a very understanding wife, which I do. She’s actually in Las Vegas with one of my other daughters at a soccer tournament. And I’m hoping the other two between soccer and basketball, and then I will delay going to the game until Monday morning. I’m going to fly myself separate from the team. So I can spend time with the kids Sunday, and then it’ll be Monday. So I actually I had to cancel surgeries Monday because obviously during our last game, we didn’t know what would happen where we’d be playing. Would it be home? Would it be away? Would it be a Saturday, Sunday or Monday game. And one of the guys who scheduled for surgery is a friend of mine, a golfer and I told him two weeks ago, hey, listen, I may have to change your schedule surgery because if we have a game on Monday, I’m not able to do it. So we pushed him two days. So he’s on Wednesday. And I had to cancel the whole rest of the day on Monday and then half a day Tuesday because we’re doing the clinic. And so you got to kind of roll with the punches. And the office staff has been great with that too. But in general, I kind of stepped back a little from covering every single game because for about eight or nine years, it was every game Home and Away. And my wife pointed out smartly, interestingly, she said, You know how long do you want to do this for? I still really enjoy it and I want to do at least where kids can grow up a little bit and really enjoy it. And then only a wife can say it, she says, Why do you think it’s so fun for him to be in the stands and see you 150 yards down there, he wants to spend time with his dad. And that’s why I go into the game sitting in the stands with him. And I’ve taken one of my daughters as well. Those are some of the coolest days. So I’m trying to find the balance like that.
Tobin Arthur 18:17
That’s pretty neat. What was curious to us thinking the other day, you must get to know some of these players. And you become a trusted resource for them. Do you end up getting pulled into those relationships? Or how does that how does that look?
Doug Freedberg, MD 18:35
I would say definitely yes, the guy who probably by far takes the brunt of that is the head athletic trainer, he is the clear hub in the whole process. So often he gets a call that somebody’s sister or somebody’s brother’s neighbor has a problem and we end up taking care of a lot of peripheral people as well. And it’s nice it’s no different from you take care of somebody and then their neighbor wants to come in and take care of some some the dad and then the son comes home. So it does flow to family members as well. No doubt about that. When I first started I was not that far off from the age of some of these guys. I was a little bit older than these guys but not much. And I was single and these guys were friends of mine. We played golf all the time go out and ended up being I was in their weddings, they were my wedding. And now it’s interesting that I’m still seeing them in the office, but it’s seeing their kids.
Tobin Arthur 19:41
Maybe we’ll wrap up with just a little prediction. So this week you’ve got a big game.You guys have actually had a pretty incredible season. I think it came out of nowhere. Most people did not expect the Cardinals to be as good as they were this year but it’s been a great story. What do you foresee this week?
Doug Freedberg, MD 19:57
I hope that the team plays as well as they played the first half of the year, it’s something where I really looked at and say there really, there shouldn’t be a lot of pressure. It’s go out and play, you know, this is the one and done you like it go play your best and, and do it I think we get off to a good start and that would be go a long way towards towards beating the Rams rams are a good team, you know, we’re good team we play well and don’t don’t beat ourselves up. You know, we had a problem last week, but unfortunately, so did they. We beat them in their building last time. So what the hell one more time?
Tobin Arthur 20:33
That’s right. Are there any guys on the team that sort of stand out that are characters that you end up interacting with more than others? Or is it sort of like you’re in and out?
Doug Freedberg, MD 20:43
No they’re all great guys. Everybody has their own personality. They’re great, guys. I always have a little pep talk with Chandler Jones before a game and Buddha Baker. And there’s there’s some great guys on the team. And it’s fun. It’s fun to be a little small part of the team. It’s great.
Tobin Arthur 21:01
That’s cool. Well, we’ll be rooting for you, this week looking for you on the sidelines, hopefully not on the field because that will mean someone’s injured, but just enjoying the game. Doug, thanks a ton for spending some time. It’s been really neat to hear a little bit about your practice. And I think this week, we’re all Cardinals fans.
Doug Freedberg, MD 21:20
Sounds great Tobin, I appreciate it.