Dr. Robert Nirschl is a graduate of the Medical College of Wisconsin (Marquette University) and received his orthopaedic surgery training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He holds a Master’s Degree in orthopaedic surgery from the University of Minnesota. He served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy as an orthopaedic surgeon after his residency at the Mayo Clinic, before joining the clinical faculty (orthopedic surgery) at Georgetown University Medical Center and starting private practice in Arlington Virginia.
Dr. Nirschl’s research of sports techniques produced new treatments for tendon injuries of the shoulder, elbow and lower extremities. The Nirschl operative procedure for elbow tendinosis (tennis and golfer’s elbow), as well as his classification of pain phases and microscopic evaluation with Virginia Hospital Center pathologist Russell Stay (1979) of tendon failed healing (Introducing the term Angio-fibroblastic hyperplasia and subsequently adding the term tendinosis/Angio-Fibroblastic Tendinosis), is utilized by physicians worldwide. Prior to Dr. Nirschl’s research, failed tendon injury was erroneously thought to be an inflammatory process and inappropriately called tendinitis. With this new knowledge, Dr. Nirschl, along with Virginia Sportsmedicine Institute Physical Therapist Janet Sobal, published the rehabilitation book Arm Care (1981, with revision 1996), an elbow rehabilitation exercise book. These exercises were subsequently published in Chinese. Although the initial exercise concepts were designed for the elbow, they are appropriate to all failed tendon regions such as shoulder rotator cuff, Achilles and Plantar Fasciitis. In addition, Dr. Nirschl recognized the need to avoid sport overuse, he filmed the tennis stroke mechanics of world class tennis players (initially the United States Davis Cup Team 1970) and compared these players to recreational tennis players. With this information, he recognized injury-producing patterns and recommended good stroke/sport mechanics, and accommodating equipment. In addition to decreasing abusive tennis overuse patterns he devised a system of hand measurement for proper tennis handle grip size and designed a series of Count’R Force braces to protect the elbow, wrist and lower extremities during tennis/sport participation. This program was published initially in the Physician and Sports Medicine (1973) and produced in a video program “Good Tennis is Good Medicine” by the network of continuing medical education (N.Y. 1976) and multiple publications thereafter. Dr. Nirschl was also an early innovator in the use of reinforcing patch grafts for the repair of large shoulder rotator cuff tears (1988-Video Journal of Orthopedics). Dr. Nirschl’s first rotator cuff patch graft (1987) was performed on another patient with polio paraplegic who was at the time the world record holder in wheelchair shot put and discus throwing. He also devised a unique repair of bilateral shoulder separations to allow the first polio paraplegic patient to attempt to swim the English Channel, not only once but twice, reaching a distance of 18 miles.
Dr. Nirschl was one of the first in the world to publish the bone patella bone technique for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction of the knee (1967). Following the lead of Dr. Fred Allman, Dr. Nirschl was the second physician in America to incorporate sports fitness exercise equipment in a medical physical therapy unit (Virginia Sportsmedicine Institute 1974). He also recognized the value of the tension cord resistance. Introducing the term Isoflex and publishing a monograph of exercise (1991). In 1959, while still an orthopaedic resident at the Mayo clinic, Dr. Nirschl was one of the first physicians to recognize the potential harm of two surgical procedures widely accepted at the time: 1.Total meniscectomy of the knee (the need for 7-8 days of post-operative hospitalization causation of later arthritis) and 2. Excessive Acromioplasty in rotator cuff surgery (risk of delayed painful and compromised rehabilitation, and injury to the deltoid muscle). His recommendations concerning elimination of this shoulder surgery technique published initially in the Clinics of Sports Medicine 1988 and The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Instructional Course Lectures 1989).
Dr. Nirschl is the Founder of the Virginia Sportsmedicine Institute and Nirschl Orthopaedic Center for Sports Medicine and Joint Reconstruction (1974) and was the Founder (1989) and Director of the Nirschl Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship program for 25 years. He is board certified in orthopaedic surgery and served nationally on the Board of Councilors and Legislative Committees for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Board of Delegates for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. He also served as President of the Virginia Orthopaedic Society and the Arlington County Medical Society. Dr. Nirschl was the first to organize and sponsor Tennis Medicine Symposiums (New York 1980 and London during Wimbledon 1983). During the early 1980’s when sports medicine was in its early stages he also organized multiple symposiums in the U.S. (Palm Springs California, Steamboat Springs Colorado, Hilton Head South Carolina, Washington D.C. plus Paris France). Dr. Nirschl has also been visiting professor and lecturer at numerous medical universities, presented on orthopedic and sports medicine topics in 8 foreign countries, and was invited speaker at the 100 year anniversary celebration of the founding of the Orthopedic Department at The Mayo Clinic (2010).
Dr. Nirschl was a founding member of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Sports Science Committee (1988). He has operated on world class athletes including past Wimbledon Champions. Dr. Nirschl served as an Orthopaedic Surgery Consultant to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under the Reagan administration (1982-1989) and Chairman of the Sports Medicine Committee of the Medical Society of Virginia. He has been recognized by his peers as one of the area’s “Top Doctors” for many years in such publications as Washingtonian Magazine and Northern Virginia Magazine, and has been listed in top doctors in America by the Consumers’ Research Council of America. Dr. Nirschl is also profiled in Marquis Who’s Who in Medicine, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, in Sports Illustrated, U.S. News and World Report, Washingtonian, Virginia Business, American Athletic Medical Association, and United States Tennis Teaching Professional Magazines. He has made many television appearances regarding athletic injuries, including on ABC’s Good Morning America. He was Chief Medical Editor for Orthopedics Today (1981-1991), an international publication. He has written 54 medical book chapters and 65 medical articles (many published in international journals). He served on the editorial board of The Medical Sentinel, “The Physician and Sports Medicine” and was medical contributor to World Tennis Magazine (51 medical articles). In addition he has published numerous sports medicine and health fitness articles in medical magazines and newspapers.
Dr. Nirschl has been a strong advocate for patient control of health insurance benefits and has written many articles concerning health care financing especially the need for tax equality in the purchase of health insurance. As such, he has chaired the Legislative Committee of the Arlington County Medical Society and was appointed to the Legislative Committee of the Medical Society of Virginia and The America Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery on a national level.
Dr. Nirschl has been honored by receiving the prestigious Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumni Award (2017). He has also received the Lifetime Career Award from the Virginia Orthopaedic Society, The Welburn Award for community service from the Arlington County Medical Society; The Achievement Award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award; The Virginia Board of Medicine Service Award; Outstanding Service Medal, the highest civilian award from the Uniformed Medical School (USUHS); Georgetown University Vicennial Medal; Distinguished Service Awards from the Virginia Athletic Directors Association and Arlington Secondary School Athletic Council. Dr. Nirschl has served as orthopaedic consultant and team physician for Marymount University and many local Virginia high schools. He holds four U.S. patents on functional Count’R-Force sports braces. These braces allow patients to participate more safely in athletic activities.
Dr. Nirschl was a founding mentor in the development of the United States Military Medical School Family Practice Sports Medicine Fellowship Program (1990) and Founding Director of the Nirschl/Virginia Hospital Center Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship Program (1989). Dr. Nirschl has mentored hundreds of medical students, family practice residents, orthopaedic surgery residents, family practice sports medicine fellows and post-graduate orthopedic sports medicine fellows. Two of his fellows, Francis O’Connor, M.D. and Robert Wilder, M.D., have become chairmen of medical school departments and have dedicated their 2014 951-page book Running Medicine to Dr. Nirschl, whom they call their most important and influential mentor.
His words of wisdom and humorous quips, referred to as Nirschlisms, not only put patients at ease but help them gain a better understanding of their injury. The most famous Nirschlism’s used worldwide are: “You don’t play a sport to get in shape. You get in shape to play a sport,” and “The goal of sport is not good health, the goal is to win”.
Dr. Nirschl’s wisdom is constantly sought out for consultation and second opinions. His dedication to his patients and his contribution to the understanding and treatment of sports and tendon injuries and advancement of modern medicine have helped, and continue to help, generations of patients worldwide.
Post Operative Protocols
- MD, Medical College of Wisconsin (Marquette University)
- MS, University of Minnesota (in orthopaedic surgery)
- Orthopaedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN
- American Board of Orthopedic surgeons
- Founder Nirschl Orthopaedic Center and Virginia Sportsmedicine Institute
- Named a Lifetime Achiever by Marquis Who’s Who
- Mayo Clinic Distinguished Alumni Award (2017)
- The Virginia Board of Medicine Service Award
- Outstanding Service Medal, the highest civilian award from the Uniformed Medical School (USUHS)
- Founder and Director of the Nirschl Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship Program
- Lifetime Career Award from the Virginia Orthopedic Society
- The Wellborn Award for community service from the Arlington County Medical Society
- The Achievement Award from The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
- Profiled in Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World
- Served on the Board of Councilors for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery
- Served on the Board of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
- Served as President of the Virginia Orthopaedic Society
- Served on the Arlington County Medical Society
- Founding member of the United States Tennis Association Sports Science Committee
- Served as an Orthopaedic Surgery Consultant to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under the Reagan administration
- Northern Virginia Magazine’s "Top Doctors"
- Consumers’ Research Council of America “Top Doctors”
- Profiled in Marquis Who’s Who in Medicine
- Profiled in Sports Illustrated
- Appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America
- Chief Medical Editor for Orthopedics Today
- Published 54 medical book chapters and 65 medical articles
- Holds four U.S. patents on Functional Count’R-Force Sports Braces
PREVIOUS TEAM PHYSICIAN
- Marymount University
- O’Connell High School
AREAS OF TREATMENT
- Foot and Ankle
- Sports Medicine
- General Orthopaedics
- Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation