Ask almost any high school age student where they would like to be on a Friday fall evening, and they will likely tell you, “The football game, of course.” Perhaps indoor sports are more your style, and you wouldn’t dream of missing the sound of shoes squeaking on a freshly waxed floor during an intense game of hoops. Better still, imagine indulging in the smell of peanuts and popcorn that fill the air during a springtime baseball game as players try to wow the fans with a home run. Whatever your pastime, there is a risk to the thrill of the sport. When things go well, athletes make their game look like a walk in the park, but what happens when things go a little sideways and injuries occur? Is Billings a place where athletes can be sure there’s someone on the sidelines not just to cheer them on, but to make sure they are staying safe? The answer, thankfully, is yes!
Dr. Roger Bentley is an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Specialist who focuses on injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of active individuals. Unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities and active lifestyles are a hallmark of our city and state, but with those adventures come the threat of injury. Dr. Bentley says, “The patients I take care of range from competitive athletes to weekend warriors and everything in between!” Dr. Bentley is one of five physicians in the Sports Medicine department at OrthoMontana. Although Dr. Bentley focuses explicitly on sports medicine, OrthoMontana offers a wide range of comprehensive care that includes dedicated spine, hand, foot and ankle, and pediatric centers to serve our region.
Dr. Bentley is no stranger to the pull of rugged alpine air for a would-be mountain biker or ski enthusiast. His college days spent in Utah grew his love for the mountains and all they have to offer. He says, “My training took me elsewhere – Arizona, Oklahoma, and finally California – but I always knew I would end up back in the Rockies.” The Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Los Angeles was the site of his fellowship (an extra year of sub-specialization training) where he learned from world-renowned experts about the latest advancements in shoulder, knee, and hip surgery. OrthoMontana was his next stop in September 2017.
One of the techniques he is most excited to bring to Billings is hip arthroscopy. While it is a new field, arthroscopy brings the promise of a minimally invasive surgical procedure to hopeful athletes and non-athletes alike. The technique gets its name from a small camera, called an arthroscope, which is inserted into the hip joint. The surgeon uses the images produced by the camera to guide tiny surgical instruments into the damaged joint. The smaller incision that is made results in less pain and joint stiffness for patients, and often shortens the time it takes to recover and get back to their active lifestyle.
Patients often procrastinate seeking orthopedic care because of how far they may have to travel for surgery or other procedures. By bringing advanced procedures such as arthroscopy to Billings, Dr. Bentley and the OrthoMontana staff have removed one obstacle for residents of our area. He says, “OrthoMontana is a unique orthopedic group in that all of our surgeons have done extra training in sports medicine, spine, arthroplasty hand, foot and ankle, trauma, or pediatrics. That extra training can translate to more accurate diagnoses and better treatment outcomes for the patients we see.” Dr. Bentley doesn’t foresee the extra training his colleagues have received going to waste any time soon, as he describes the innovative services the group is continuing to expand and offer. “When I arrived last September, I became the first surgeon in Billings to perform hip arthroscopies. We have also expanded our use of ultrasound technology to help aid in the treatment of joint and tendon ailments.”
It is easy to take a healthy body that runs like a well-oiled machine for granted. Hardly a passing thought is given to our elbow joint as we reach to swing a tennis racket for a well-placed serve. How often do you appreciate the work of your fingers as you type an email or the motion of your knees or hips as you enjoy a Yoga class? When there is an injury to joints or bones, however, these moving parts come to the forefront of our attention. For Dr. Bentley, one of the most rewarding parts of his job is helping people get back to doing what they love. He says, “Many of our patients have been living with pain, instability, or weakness for a long time. Others have acute injuries from playing sports or horseback riding. I think the most rewarding part of being a sports surgeon is seeing patients get back to what they enjoy doing. Watching them go from the frustration of having an injury to the elation they feel once they are back to doing what they love makes it all worth it.”
Despite a busy schedule that includes seeing patients in the office, performing surgeries, and spending time with his two young sons, Dr. Bentley finds a way to stay connected by serving the community. He is a sports physician with AMP, which stands for Athletic Medicine & Performance. A collaboration between St. Vincent Healthcare, OrthoMontana, and Yellowstone Surgery Center, AMP has a goal of “helping athletes prevent injuries and, if injuries did occur, to provide them the absolute best medical care.” Through his work with this program, Dr. Bentley is helping to ensure that Billings athletes of all ages and skill levels excel in their chosen sport and stay healthy. High school and college level students, and even our own Billings Mustangs, benefit from his knowledge and support to step up their game. Look closely, and you may also find Dr. Bentley himself venturing out into the sports arena, rock climbing, hiking, or hitting the backpacking trail through our great and adventurous state.
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s July 2018 issue.
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photos by Matthew Struck