Inside the world of U.S. pro sports' Most Valuable Physician
(CBS News) Dr. James R. Andrews was once inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. But he's not an athlete -- he's an orthopedic surgeon.
He's now written a book called "Any Given Monday," about how he's helped some of the biggest names in sports come back from devastating injuries.
Pro football is a violent game and people do get hurt, so most NFL sports executives and agents carry around one doctor's phone number the way the rest of us do our family physicians. They all know Andrews is a one-man powerhouse of second chances.
When Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his right knee earlier this month, the Redskins turned to their MVP, most valuable physician -- Andrews, arguably the most renowned orthopedic surgeon in all of sports.
That's why elite, but broken athletes, college and pro, flock to the Andrews Institute, a surgery center and rehabilitation clinic in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
But no piece of equipment gets worked out there more than his cell phone. Asked how often he gets phone calls from an NFL general manager or agent or athlete saying they need help, Andrews said, "Well, I have had probably five or six this morning. That's a commonplace (thing) that goes on on my cell phone seven days a week."
Andrews, now 70, could open a multi-sport Hall of Fame in his operating room. His patients have included Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and both Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.
Andrews recalled, "When I started, sports medicine wasn't even a word. We all wanted to be team physicians. That was the big word back in those days."
In those days -- the 1970s -- orthopedic surgeons usually repaired a damaged joint by cutting it open. Andrews pioneered the arthroscopic approach in the operating room that's less invasive and less traumatic, and has a faster recovery.
"Up until that point, you had to open the knee wide open to see anything and even then you really couldn't see," Andrews said. "So for me, the arthroscope is the number one revelation over the last 40, 50 years."
In 1984, Jack Nicklaus brought his damaged knee to Andrews' operating room.
Andrews said, "That really put me on the map to some degree. And then I had my career in baseball and that signature patient was Roger Clemens."
Bo Jackson was his signature football patient. Andrews said, "He was a challenge, multiple phone calls every day."
Asked about the pressure of dealing with marquee names, Andrews said, "People expect you to fix them regardless of how big a problem they have. And the pressure builds and builds and builds. You got to have a special personality to handle that."
In 2007, he opened the Andrews Institute, a sprawling, $40 million complex, to go along with the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
This past season, Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Petersen rushed for his 2,000th yard. He did it one year to the day Andrews repaired his left knee.
Andrews said, "Every time he was tackled, I was saying, 'Get up get up, get up. Hope you're OK.' But there was some anxiety watching him out there. But there was also some joy."
But for Andrews, nothing matched being in the stands for Super Bowl XLIV three years ago when the New Orleans Saints played Indianapolis Colts.
Andrews said, "The thing that really caught my eye was out of the starting 22 players for the Saints, 12 of the 22, I had operated on."
He had also operated on nine Colts players, 21 of the 44 starters on offense and defense for both teams. Andrews said, "To know I had in some small way, some small relationship with those two teams that were playing, that was probably as high a mark in my career as there ever has been."
Andrews wrote his book hoping to prevent serious sports injuries, especially among kids, which he sees as an epidemic. His institute is researching stem cell technology, which he sees as the next frontier of sports medicine.
For Mark Strassmann's full report, watch the video in the player above.
Editor's note: "Any Given Monday" is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS.
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