2023 Top Doctor: Nina Patel-Hinkle, D.O.

Editorial StaffMarch 1, 2023
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Sports Medicine

Med School/Year Graduated: Midwestern University, 2003

Years in Practice: 16

Do sports injuries constitute the majority of your case work? What’s the most common injury? 

Yes, I primarily treat sports injuries and orthopedic ailments in patients of all ages. Many of my patients’ injuries occurred through sports or activities, while other injuries occurred over a long period of time or from overuse. The most common injuries I see are chronic tendon injuries and age-related degenerative changes in joints. 

Some sports medicine docs come up through orthopedics or physical medicine. Others, like yourself, through family medicine. How does the care differ? 

While the approach may differ from specialty to specialty, the goal is consistent and focuses on restoring function to the injured area and returning patients to their previous level of activity.   

What kind of therapeutic tools do you have at your disposal? 

I frequently perform a nonsurgical procedure called Tenex, which uses ultrasonic frequencies to break up and remove damaged tissue on the tendon, leaving the healthy tissue behind. I also utilize an ultrasound machine that helps me deliver cortisone and local anesthetics directly into joint spaces or tendon sheaths while avoiding surrounding tissue. 

Do you also set broken bones?

Although I treat many fractures in my practice, I do not routinely set broken bones in the clinic, as this is normally done in the emergency room or in the operating room by a surgeon.

According to National Safety Council data, sports injury rates have declined 30 percent since 2017. Is this necessarily a positive thing? Are people less active since the pandemic?

Declining sports injury rates are likely the result of the pandemic and the hesitancy of people of going to the emergency room for minor injuries. I do not feel people are less active, but they likely replaced team sports and going to crowded gyms with outdoor activities like walking or biking.  

You were a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. Do you bring any elements of military life to your practice?

Serving my country as a medical officer was a great experience! Leadership, integrity, determination and organizational skills are just a few of the elements I routinely incorporate into my daily practice.

Have you ever had a sports injury yourself? How did it impact your care philosophy and approach to your practice?

Yes, I had a chronic hip tendon injury from running, which required physical therapy and home exercises. Experiencing the physical and psychological effects long recoveries can have made me more compassionate, and I now spend additional time explaining realistic recovery times and expected outcomes to my patients.

What are you watching on Netflix these days?

I do not watch much television, but I recently finished watching the series Never Have I Ever.
I am now looking forward to watching the latest season of The Crown.