Dr. Howard J. Luks, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, believes that because human beings are social, health care, by extension, is as well.
“Each injury or issue has its own personality,” Luks said. “A certain issue in a knee in an ultramarathoner or cyclist is going to present itself differently than someone who leads a much more sedentary life.”
Looking not just to an MRI finding but also to the patient’s lifestyle and the pain they’re experiencing, Luks tries to operate on his patients only when all other options are exhausted and it is entirely necessary.
“You need to paint a complete picture, and you need to listen to people to understand how it is impacting them,” he said.
Luks noted that because health care is one of the largest industries and drivers of gross domestic product in the United States, many physicians operate exclusively on MRI findings.
“(Surgeons) make more money by operating on someone than they will from telling them that they don’t need anything done,” Luks said. “But I think it’s very important to let people know that a lot of these findings on the MRI are actually age-appropriate findings, likely not a cause of their pain and, more often than not, don’t require an operation.”
Because almost all of the issues Luks deals with regarding sports medicine aren’t life-threatening, providers and patients have time to make a decision about whether surgery is the right option.
“We definitely need to be cautious and careful,” Luks said. “We need to digest all the information available, and, as patients, we need to seek second or even third opinions if necessary.”
A trail endurance runner and amateur cyclist himself, Luks works with many patients who are a part of various running groups in the region, of which he is also a member.
“Once you start to get a name and a reputation in those communities, you tend to see a lot more of them, and it’s great,” Luks said. “I love working with runners, cyclists and people who are very motivated to return to optimal health.”
Throughout his 25-year career as an orthopedist, Luks has returned many athletes to the playing field and replaced more knees than he can count.
However, Luks highlights that he’s also passionate about helping patients, and sometimes entire families, improve their health with simple lifestyle modifications. In doing so, Luks helps patients understand what is going on in their bodies as they age, and what improvements they can make.
“Those are now the biggest success stories in my practice,” Luks said. “That being said, if I can get a 50-year-old runner back out on the trails with a complex procedure and they do well, that’s also very enlightening to me.”
Growing up, Luks was an avid athlete who learned his way around an orthopedist’s office with injuries.
“I was in an orthopedist’s office more than my pediatrician’s office,” Luks said.
The experience, coupled with observing orthopedic surgeons while training in medical school, inspired Luks to take up the specialty.
“It seemed like a natural fit.”
Luks has been named one of the top sports medicine physicians in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. He has also been named one of the Top 10 “Social Health Makers” for Osteoarthritis, one of Twitter’s top 10 doctors, one of the top sports medicine physicians in New York for nearly 10 years in a row and served as an advisory board member of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media for three years.
As a result, Luks often gets calls from individuals across the United States and sometimes internationally. Through these consultations, Luks helps refer individuals to local orthopedists who can help carry out their care.
“By putting my information and articles out on social media and by having an evidence-informed website, I hope to give people beyond the four walls of my practice a very clear understanding of what these issues are all about, how they may or may not impact your life and what their true treatment options are,” he said.
After many years at Westchester Medical Center, Luks is now at Symphony Medical, located at the St. John’s Riverside Hospital Dobbs Ferry Pavilion.
Luks works alongside a team of physicians and nurse practitioners who specialize in addiction medicine, emergency medicine, OBGYN, hospital medicine and general surgery.
He underscored that the staff at Symphony Medical is like a close-knit family, working hard together every day.
“We discuss how to make things better for people, better for patients, easier to schedule, easier to get through,” Luks said. “And it’s working very well.”