Orthopedic surgeon teams up with OSU baseball

Pat Casey
Feb 13,2013
Oregon State University baseball coach Pat Casey and orthopedic surgeon Luis Vela, DO, have been well acquainted for years. As a team physician for Beaver Athletics at Oregon State University since 2006, Vela — who specializes in treating overhead and throwing athletes — has cared for a number of Casey’s players. But in December of 2011, Casey fell upon the chance to experience Vela’s surgical skills personally.

“I really wanted to test his ability,” joked Casey. “So I fell off a roof and broke my wrist.”

Vela surgically reconstructed Casey’s wrist at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and has worked closely with him during his rehabilitation.

“The detail and level of care Dr. Vela provided were amazing — first class,” said Casey. “I’ve seen that for years with our players, but now I have personal experience.”

Casey said it’s not only Vela’s medical expertise that’s praise-worthy, but his interaction and relationship with the team that make him a great doctor.

“Dr. Vela is a fabulous surgeon, but he also has a wonderful feel for what it takes to be a student athlete,” said Casey. “He has a great relationship with our staff and our team and we really value the relationship we have.”

That relationship began in 2006, when Vela‘s specialization in upper extremity orthopedics and love of sports proved a great fit with the baseball team. “I love taking care of ball players,” said Vela. “I was a tennis player in college, which lead me to become interested in overhead injuries as a physician.”

One of the procedures Vela has performed a number of times on OSU baseball players is the Tommy John surgery. Otherwise known as an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, the procedure replaces a ligament in the elbow with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The surgery has become common among “overhead” athletes in several sports, but particularly for baseball pitchers.

“There are surgeons in Southern California who have national recognition for performing the Tommy John on athletes,” said Casey. “We’ve talked with them and they have huge respect for what Dr. Vela is doing here in Oregon. They said, ‘Don’t come to Southern Cal, have Dr. Vela do it.’ It’s pretty great to have a world-class surgeon right here in Corvallis.”

Vela said he’s actively treating or working through rehab with six to seven players on the OSU roster at any one time and is frequently on campus to interact with the team. He also visits with members of the football, softball and wrestling teams who have upper extremity injuries, including shoulder conditions.

“I’m at most home games, some away games and I make it a point to stop by practice when I can,” said Vela, who has a busy practice caring for all types of orthopedic patients, in addition to serving as the director of medical education and orthopedic surgery residency program director for Samaritan Health Services.

“We really enjoy having Dr. Vela as part of our team,” said Casey. “He’s a terrific person, the players trust him and I’m always confident that he’ll get our guys back to peak performance as quickly as possible.”

Watch a video about Coach Casey’s experience.