The Most Valuable Player in Sports Is…This Doctor

Fast Company profiles Dr. James Andrews, who is creating champions,minting fortunes, and changing the business of sports.

New York, August 18, 2008 – James Andrews, a groundbreaking orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama, has become a hidden force in sports – rescuing careers, changing the outcome of games, and making billions for stars and teams – by mending the world’s best athletes and driving medical innovation. In the September 2008 issue of Fast Company, Chuck Salter profiles the doctor who helps put champions back together.


“If you could assemble a superstar, Frankenstein-style, from Andrews’s patients,” Salter writes, “it would have knees from quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb; a hip from dual-sports sensation Bo Jackson; shoulders from Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley; and elbows from the New York Yankees’ Andy Petitte and the Chicago Cubs’ Kerry Wood. ‘I’ve always liked fixing people,’ Andrews says. ‘I want to get these athletes back to doing what they did before.'”

For more than three decades, Andrews has been a leader not only in spurring cutting edge research but also in pioneering and refining operations and therapies that return athletes to action. “Along with free agency and TV,” Salter reports, “sports medicine has transformed sports from pastime to mega-business. Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham functions as a powerful lever, a multimillion-dollar enterprise that affects multibillion-dollar leagues. An injured player is the equivalent of a dormant assembly line: When he isn’t filling seats, he isn’t generating revenue. Yet he’s still getting paid. Last year, MLB teams spent $337 million – almost 14% of payroll – on players too hurt to play. When Andrews repairs those athletes (or helps them avoid injury), teams can optimize their investments, and players can extend their careers, reaping free agency’s rewards. Take it from super-agent Scott Boras, who estimates that his clients have signed about half a billion in contracts after being treated by Andrews.”

The sum total of Andrews work can be felt on the field as well. In the last 20 years, Andrews can be credited with at least 20 championships in Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA because he helped the star athletes who led their team to victory return to the games.

His latest advancements in the emerging field of biomechanics, testing and studying athletes’ individual bodies and throwing motions to predict injuries and then prevent them, will likely be the source of his next victories. Already, the 2007 Boston Red Sox credit their World Series championship to their pitchers’ program based on the work done by Andrews’ team. This injury research, then, may be the next competitive edge for forward-thinking teams, the same way the study of statistics, the Moneyball approach, has changed the fortunes of teams like the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox in the past decade.

Note: Chuck Salter is available for interviews regarding this story. Please contact Terry McDevitt at (210) 822-0066 or Sasha Berlin at (212) 389-5486.