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Welcome to the Big Leagues

Milwaukee Brewers rookie’s sparkling Major League debut enabled by treatment at Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Baseball field

Sal Frelick was destined to play Major League baseball. Starring at Lexington High School (Mass.) and achieving all-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors at Boston College resulted in him being a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021. His meteoric rise to the big leagues was threatened when he sustained a serious left thumb injury while playing in the minor leagues at Nashville earlier this season.

That’s when Frelick and his agent, John Courtright, sought the nation’s most experienced hand surgeon in the care of professional athletes, Thomas Graham, MD, Physician in Chief for Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. Throughout his career, Dr. Graham has cared for over 2,500 professional athletes and has served as a team physician in all major sports. Since his arrival in April 2023, more than 60 professional athletes have chosen Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute to keep them “in the game,” establishing it as the premier destination for care of the professional athlete’s hand and wrist.

Career-saving surgery

Dr. Graham performed reconstructive surgery on Frelick’s left thumb, and experienced physical therapists and athletic trainers from Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute and the Brewers collaborated with Frelick to return him to play at the highest level in just seven weeks.

This exceptional care and dedication on Frelick’s part provided a storybook ending. He debuted for the Brewers on July 22 when he hit safely in his first three at-bats and saved multiple runs with a series of acrobatic defensive plays. His sensational first game was punctuated when he drove in the winning run against the Atlanta Braves with a sacrifice fly.

“Dr. Graham and the entire Orthopedic Institute took exceptional care of me,” Frelick says. “From the diagnosis to the procedure to the follow-up, I could not have asked for anything more. I was able to return to play at the highest level in many ways due to the concern and care delivered in Lehigh Valley.”          

“I couldn’t be more humbled that elite athletes like Sal Frelick continue to choose our program at their time of greatest need, when their livelihood is endangered,” Dr. Graham says. “It is particularly gratifying that we have learned so much from the unique ‘laboratory’ of treating professional athletes that we have translated into our everyday practice of hand surgery, so all of our patients benefit from the same level of care that the pro athletes receive.”

World-class care close to home

Dr. Graham leads one of the country’s top orthopedic programs comprised of more than 1,000 caregivers and 200 clinicians.  Surgeons at Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute performed over 24,000 procedures last year, including twice as many sports medicine procedures and three times as many joint replacements compared to other regional health systems. Their quality and expertise earned them a coveted place among the most elite orthopedic programs in the nation as determined by U.S. News & World Report, making orthopedics at Lehigh Valley Hospital the region’s only nationally ranked program.

“World-class treatment for all orthopedic injuries and disorders is available right here in our community,” Dr. Graham says. “My 30 years in professional sports have taught me what it takes to become a championship organization. I came to Lehigh Valley Health Network because it exhibits those characteristics — we’re dedicated to combining knowledge and experience with collaboration and compassion.”

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

The region’s leader in joint, spine and orthopedic care gets you moving again.

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