Dr. Michael Smith used to live life in the fast lane.
"Having raced professionally through the 90's and mid 2000's, it gives me, I think, an advantage to actually know what it's like to be on the high banks of Daytona or race at homestead and I know the g-force and the affect that takes place on the driver’s spine."
And Dr. Smith says that knowledge gives him an advantage when treating patients with neck and spine injuries. Combine that with the latest technology and it's no wonder NASCAR drivers are seeking him out.
They say it's not a matter of "if", but "when, they're in a crash."
"Every driver does. There's not an exception where they haven't been into an accident, crash of some type, and what's interesting with all these safety devices that's in the car and on their head, there's still that first couple of milliseconds of that momentum before they hit the shock absorbing materials before the tethers stop the breaking of the spine."
It's called microtrauma and happens to the muscle and parts of the ligaments. With digital technology Dr. Smith is now able to analyze the damage in a way that will have the drivers back on track in no time and ultimately prolong their career.
"What we did on your neck is called digital motion x-ray and it's taking 30 x-rays a second. What we're looking for is ligament instability. In other words, if you had some type of a fall or auto accident or some type of a trauma we would want to look to see if the spine is still working the way it's designed to."
The machine allows Dr. Smith to see how ligaments are attached to bones. If they're torn or stretched, he can see excessive or abnormal bone movement.
"The reason this is better than a still x-ray is when we take a single image we're only seeing it statically without any movement at all. Most patients don't have that much pain if they're standing still or lying down. This is actually putting a person's spine through its normal movement and if we see something abnormal we want to see it while it's moving."
That helps determine the best course of treatment, whether it be therapy, exercise, or something more.
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