While in medical school and residency at Southwestern in Dallas, Dr. Cunningham felt the career pull of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. He completed knee and U.S. Ski team/sports medicine fellowships with renowned orthopedic specialist Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado, as well as shoulder fellowship training in England and Vancouver, Canada.
He has spent his career trying to lessen that toll for people who run, golf, ski, play tennis, etc.—as well members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Ski Team, Dallas Cowboys, Austin Ice Bats and numerous area high school and college athletes.
He is dedicated to staying on top of cutting-edge technology, with a private practice emphasis on regenerative sports medicine. Dr. Cunningham is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, but always seeks the least invasive treatment.
What led you to your particular field?
“After more than two decades of orthopedic sports medicine practice, as my athletic patients grew more ‘seasoned,’ it became clear that the answer to every knee and shoulder joint problem was not surgery.
With the desire of baby boomers to remain athletically active in a way that no previous generation had, there often needed to be a better answer than joint replacement. In other words, what would keep a ‘weekend warrior’ strong, fit and athletically active in middle age, that did not necessarily require (nor always improve with) surgery?
I went to Europe to find the answer; Italy, Spain and France had been using restorative and regenerative medicine techniques for years, with good supporting clinical studies and results.
I began incorporating those innovative treatments into patient care in 2015. Today, regenerative medicine makes up half of my orthopedic practice.”
How has healthcare changed in the past two years, with regard to treating patients during a pandemic?
“This philosophy of ‘non-surgical treatment first’ fit perfectly with the decrease in elective surgery necessitated by the pandemic. Even more successes were realized in a safe and effective manner, utilizing office-based procedures.”
How has regenerative medicine advanced over the past few years?
“In the six years that I have focused on regenerative medicine, great strides in ‘ortho-biologic’ treatment of cartilage, tendon and ligament injuries and arthritic joints have been made. I use office- and surgical-based PRP/platelet rich plasma, bone marrow concentrate and adipose stem cell treatments, taken from the patient’s own sources, to treat these painful conditions. This cutting-edge care is becoming mainstream, and it seems that every year brings a new refinement of these techniques that are applicable to my patients.”
What is most important to you when working with your patients?
“I always try to present both surgical and non-surgical options, often combining the two for maximum effect. But the patient always decides what is best fit for them, based on current studies and previous series of treated patients.”
Where do you see orthopedic regenerative sports medicine headed in the future?
“Regenerative medicine does not yet fully regrow joint cartilage; that is the ‘holy grail,’ and is hopefully obtainable in the near future. For now, we refer to the field more as ‘restorative medicine,’ with the goal of providing significant relief from joint pain for prolonged periods. Likewise, continued advances in genetic engineering will allow us to treat potential arthritis at a younger and younger age. Perhaps one day, artificial joint replacement will make up the minority of our athletic medicine care!”
Reach out to Dr. Kelly Cunningham & Austin OrthoBiologics today for your bone & joint aches & pains, including knee, shoulder & hip arthritis and cartilage injury, including non-joint replacement alternatives.
Cellular “stem cell” & PRP therapy alternatives to surgery!