Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Minimally Invasive Surgery Gives Triathlete Ability to Give Back Through iHope Foundation


Submitted by Orthopaedic Specialists

When Jeff Paul looks back at the past five years of competing in triathlons, he finds it hard to believe that a nagging Achilles heel injury almost put an end to his career as a professional athlete. He can still remember the pain in his heel like it was yesterday.

“In March 2010, I was putting in some serious 36-hour training weeks. Then, all of a sudden my heel started hurting,” said Jeff. “I couldn’t ride my bike without severe pain in my Achilles.”

This type of injury would be devastating for anyone, but especially for an athlete who routinely spends 20 hours a week running, biking, and swimming so he can compete in Ironman triathlons.

With a potentially career-ending injury looming over him and failed results from other orthopedic doctors, Jeff turned to Dr. Tuvi Mendel from Orthopaedic Specialists in Davenport.

Thanks to minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques managed by Dr. Mendel, Jeff has fully recovered and is once again at his peak performance level.

He has also been able to use his athletic career as a way to give back. Jeff, who teaches American history at Pleasant Valley Junior High School, is donating all his race winnings to the iHope Foundation, a nonprofit organization he created to support low income students.

About Paul’s Injury and Surgery
When Dr. Mendel first saw Jeff, his Achilles was chronically inflamed.

“When an injury like that becomes chronic, the body has a hard time fighting the inflammation and fixing it,” he said. “In Jeff’s case, the inflammation became so chronic it was both debilitating and damaging.”

After conventional treatments were explored, Dr. Mendel and Paul settled on an arthroscopic surgery on Jeff’s tendon, a minimally invasive procedure designed to repair the tendon without major surgery.

“The surgery prevented him from having an even bigger operation which would have meant a longer recovery time away from the sport he loves,” said Dr. Mendel. “Jeff’s tendon was in worse shape than we thought, and it was bleeding internally. However, I was able to clean it up and repair the damage so that his tendon could heal.”

About the Recovery
“When I woke up, my foot was in a cast,” said Jeff. “When I asked him why I had a cast, Dr. Mendel said ‘I don’t trust you will stay off it.’ I guess he really understood me!”

Going from a demanding training regimen to a cast was tough. But just six months after his procedure, Jeff was able to resume his professional Ironman triathlon career with the help of a dedicated physical therapy schedule.

Since his procedure five years ago Jeff estimates he has biked 40,000 miles and ran 7,500 miles. He has also competed in seven Ironman races. In 2014 alone, he won four races and placed 12th amongst a large professional field of international competition at an Ironman distance race in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was able to accomplish all of this without pain in his heel.

“I feel so blessed,” said Jeff. “Dr. Mendel performs these types of surgeries so often that I don’t think he realizes the positive impact he has on athletes. It means a lot to be able to go from not doing what you love to being completely healthy again.”

Dr. Mendel is also an active member of the Quad-City CrossFit community and prides himself on safely returning athletes back to the sports they love.

Giving Back: iHope Foundation
While racing is exciting for Jeff Paul, it pales in comparison to what he is able to do with his race winnings. Since the iHope Foundation was created in 2013, nine students have been awarded an iPad along with a $1,000 college scholarship promise (if they meet high school requirements).

“These are all great kids who work hard and turn in all their work in time. They’ve just had a lot of doors closed due to their financial situations,” said Jeff.

In 2015, Paul is once again donating all his race winnings to his foundation. He has two races this summer: “Challenge Atlantic City” in Atlantic City, New Jersey and “PPD Beach 2 Battleship” in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Paul has his own triathlon website, which you can visit and contribute to his iHope foundation at www.dreambigjp.net/.

To learn more about Orthopaedic Specialists or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mendel, call 563-344-9292 or visit OSQuadCities.com.

Photo credit: Ali Engin/www.aliengin.us

Dr. Tuvi Mendel sponsors Jeff Paul

Dr. Tuvi Mendel has been so impressed with Jeff Paul’s success and his dedication to helping local students that he recently became a platinum level sponsor of Paul and the iHope Foundation. As part of his sponsorship, Paul has agreed to conduct a “triathlon training day” for Dr. Mendel to help him prepare for his first triathlon in June 2015.

“I’m looking forward to working with Paul and learning from his experiences racing in triathlons,” said Dr. Mendel.

Check out Dr. Mendel’s “triathlon training day” with Jeff Paul later this month on the Orthopaedic Specialists facebook page at facebook.com/osquadcities