June 19, 2008

Jennifer Gremmels

Olympic Champion, Paul Hamm, ‘Ready to Give it His All in Beijing’

World champion gymnast recovers from hand surgery and grateful to the hand surgeon who made recovery possible

Rosemont, Ill. - Paul Hamm arrived in Philadelphia today with his eye toward making the 2008 men’s U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. While Hamm is recovering quickly from hand surgery, he will sit out the trials and petition for a spot on the team. Hamm is spending his recovery time helping other patients in need of hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder surgery obtain information and resources to receive proper treatment from a “hand surgeon,” the specialists for these areas of the body. Hamm is partnering with the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), a group of board certified, highly trained hand surgeons, to spread the word.

“I partnered with the hand society because my hand surgeon helped me get back into medal contention shape,” said Paul Hamm, world champion gymnast. “I saw first-hand the tremendous work these specialists do and I consider my surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Lubbers, a key member of my Beijing support team. I wanted others to know how to get help if they are having problems with their hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders.”

Hamm broke his fourth metacarpal, (one of the bones between his wrist and fingers), in his right hand last month during his parallel bar routine at the U.S. men’s gymnastics championships in Houston. Over the last three weeks, he put his faith and hopes for another Olympic gold medal in the hands of hand surgeon, and member of ASSH, Dr. Lubbers.

“Paul Hamm’s recovery has been remarkable. Once he understood it was that it was possible to achieve fracture healing and return to competition, within such a short window of time, he was fully committed to the program,” said Lawrence Lubbers, M.D., attending physician Riverside Methodist Hospital, in the section of orthopaedic and hand surgery, Founding Partner Hand and Microsurgery Associates, Columbus, OH and clinical associate professor in orthopaedics at the Ohio State University. “Right now, his fracture is healing in an accelerated fashion.  He achieved full mobility within a week and he started strengthening within two weeks of surgery. We are now working to help him train appropriately as the hand regains full strength.”

Hamm says that the quality of the surgery as well as the results have helped place him back in medal contention. “I need to thank Dr. Lubbers for his work on my hand. Thanks to him, I am on the path to full-recovery and ready to take on the world’s best gymnasts in Beijing later this summer.”

“Hamm’s conditioning program hardly missed a beat and I am delighted that hand surgery assisted Paul in his return to competition. As a practicing hand surgeon for more than 25 years, I have had the opportunity to treat thousands of patients in need. In hand injuries, 50 percent of the quality of the result is due to the post-operative management. As with all my patients, I will manage Paul’s post-operative care during this critical time period and support him throughout his recovery.”

Where to Go for Help

While Paul is an athlete who depends on his hands for each competition, everyone needs the full use of their hands. Patients experiencing problems with their hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder, may locate a skilled surgeon, by logging on to the hand society’s website at and clicking on “find a hand surgeon.”

About Hand Surgeons
Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or general surgery. To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination. Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder. Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both. Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers. Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries, and congenital limb differences (birth defects). Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon need surgery. Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy, and injections. Hand surgeons are specialists devoted to hand care.

About the ASSH
The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is to advance the science and practice of hand surgery through education, research and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. Founded in 1946, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is the oldest medical specialty society in the United States devoted entirely to continuing medical education related to hand surgery.