Need to bring back a top player or performer? That’s when Mikko Kirjavainen’s work begins.
The Finnish national soccer team nicknamed ‘Huuhkajat’ (which is the Finnish word for Eagle Owls) sensationally qualified for UEFA EURO 2020 final tournament. Physical health and fitness of the players is the responsibility of Mikko Kirjavainen, a leading orthopedic surgeon at Mehiläinen Sports Hospital Helsinki focusing on knee, foot and ankle injuries.
The doctor has been helping athletes and artists for 20 years performing around 400 surgeries each year. Among his patients, you can find players from top football clubs, the Finnish National Ballet and the Finnish snowboard team.
Two days of surgeries, up to 10 surgeries per week and the remaining hours allocated to patient work (many of them being treated conservatively without a surgery). This is a typical working week of Dr. Kirjavainen.
He consults around 3,000 patients a year ever since 2001 when he started his career at Helsinki University Hospital focusing mainly on injuries. Throughout his career, Dr. Kirjavainen treated thousands of patients who were sometimes quite far from sports.
Yet, sports medicine seemed a natural way for the doctor as sports has always been close to his heart. In his youth, he practiced karate and alpine skiing. His daughter loves dancing and tennis while his son is successful in tennis and football.
Nowadays, even though none of the family is a competitive athlete anymore, sports spirit helps to have more empathy for the problems of each athlete thus achieving the best result. According to Kirjavainen, “working with athletes is rewarding and inspiring because they eagerly contribute to the treatment and are always looking for the best possible result.”
Trusted by Huuhkajat
Dr. Kirjavainen started his long-term cooperation with ‘Huuhkajat’ team’s doctor Heikki Kinnunen back in the days when he worked in the Helsinki University Hospital. Over the years, they got to know each other well. Since Dr. Kinnunen himself focuses on spinal surgery, he invited Dr. Kirjavainen to treat knee, foot and ankle injuries.
Over the past 10 years, Mikko Kirjavainen has worked with several football clubs. In any case, the importance of good understanding in the doctor team that includes a physiotherapist in addition to orthopedic surgeons and sports doctors cannot be underestimated.
Mehiläinen Sports Hospital has developed a special protocol for athletes that is usually followed in the treatment of top players. If an injury cannot be treated conservatively, doctors start to prepare for a surgery. Such preparation is extremely important for athletes of this level as it helps to achieve the best result both in treatment and in subsequent recovery.
Football (soccer) is one the of the most injury prone sports. Falls often result in acute injuries while excessive loads can lead to repeated microtrauma which often ends for example in a meniscus rupture.
This is exactly what happened to the captain of the Finnish national football team ‘Huuhkajat’ Tim Sparv who was diagnosed with such an injury on the MRI before EURO 2020. It was not possible to use a conservative treatment and a surgery was required. A month after the aftertreatment, the captain returned to the game to take part in the European Championship.
According to Dr. Kirjavainen, it is very important to immediately understand what type of injury the doctor is dealing with. In the event of lateral medial collateral ligament rupture, it is necessary to relieve the pain and fix the knee until the situation stabilizes.
Depending on the extent of the injury, complete recovery can take anywhere from a few days to 4-8 weeks without knee surgery. On the other hand, anterior cruciate ligament tear, especially with big meniscal tear, are often treated operatively with good postoperative rehabilitation in teamwork with dedicated physiotherapist.
Starting each day with a smile
For the last 6 years, Dr. Kirjavainen has been working with the Finnish snowboard team. In this sport, injuries are typically attributable to jumping and excessive stress on the knee and are treated both operatively and conservatively under close supervision of a sports specialist.
The Finnish National Ballet (that the doctor also cares for) is based in a building only a few hundred meters away from the Mehiläinen Sports Hospital in Helsinki, which strengthens professional contacts and makes collaboration easier. No wonder Mikko Kirjavainen is a member of the board of the Finnish National Dance Association.
As the doctor says, the main problems he has faced in the treatment of ballet dancers were acute sprains and dislocations around foot and ankle, usually after bad landings from jumps, in addition to stress injuries. The doctor’s understanding of the nature of dance certainly helps him in his work.’
Dr. Kirjavainen starts his day with a smile. He does not need any special rituals to recover after a hard day. Yet, he makes sure he gets enough sleep, eats healthy, and keeps fit thanks to karate, swimming, diving in summer and skiing in winter. In his everyday life, Dr. Kirjavainen is inspired by his family that encourages him to move forward.
Read more about Dr. Mikko Kirjavainen and his professional history here.