Professional and college athletes, male and female, benefit from it. So do Olympians and active amateurs. The UNLV Health Sports Medicine Clinic, under the leadership of Dr. Wade Gaal, offers the latest in medical care to prevent, evaluate, treat, and rehabilitate injuries for both recreational and competitive athletes of all ages.
The medical team also helps people who sometimes suffer the same injuries as athletes in their daily lives and need the same care.
Professional athletes, ranging from MMA fighters to NBA players, find the clinic critical to their careers. Boxer Caleb Plant, a titleholder at super middleweight soon to fight Canelo Alvarez, and Kelsey Plum, an Olympic champion and point guard for the WNBA’s Aces, say the care coordinated by Gaal and his staff has been instrumental in their careers.
"It has been and continues to be a crucial factor in my procedural and wellness areas,” Plant said. Plum said the medical attention “has helped me feel my best on and off the court.”
Gaal, who also serves as the team physician for Rebels football and works with the Aces and Golden Knights, said all patients who walk through the doors of the clinic are treated with the same compassionate care.
“They can be children or the elderly,” said Gaal. They don't even need to be athletes. Strip musicians come to the clinic for treatment made necessary by the overuse of their hands, arms, and shoulders.
While the clinic treats chronic and acute injuries -- the clinic treats student-athlete concussions for the Clark County School District -- it also is a center that appreciates regenerative medicine.
Platelet-rich plasma regenerative treatments have become commonplace to support head wound healing and joint surgery. Needle-based injections, including therapies for osteoarthritis, are done under ultrasound guidance to ensure the correct placement of the therapy. Stem cell treatment, which often shows positive results for knee, shoulder, back, and joint treatment, is also administered.
Exercise-related asthma is treated. The best nutrition for active lives is considered. Sports psychologist Kacey Oiness-Thompson helps patients deal with performance anxiety.
“We deal with the whole person, with many people who don’t want surgery,” Gaal said, noting that he and his staff guide appropriate referrals to physical and occupational therapists, and, if necessary, expedite referral to an orthopedic/sports surgeon.
A native of Hawaii, Gaal says to become a physician he had to overcome the overwhelming beauty of the place where he grew up, the island of Kauai.
“You could easily become a surfer bum there,” he said. “It was so beautiful you could just live off the land. I’d catch lobster and hunt boar there for dinner. It was so wonderful it made it difficult to have motivation to do something different. But I wanted to do something where I could make a difference in people’s lives. I was missing a purpose. I had to leave and I found my purpose -- helping people live the most active lives they can.”