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Robert MacDowell

"I did my homework. I chose Dr. Sprague because of his previous work in Boston."

Bob MacDowell, who has paddled competitively at the professional level for more than 20 years, won the National Canoe Championship in 1996, participated in the International Dragon Boat competition in China twice, and has twice won the Josh Billings RunAground with his son, Shane. But it wasn't years navigating a canoe that wore out his shoulder.

"Paddling is such a low impact sport," he said. "If the technique is correct, it shouldn't tear you apart." Instead, a lifetime of carpentry projects eventually took their toll on his shoulder. The final straw was building his home. Bob ended up with a torn rotator cuff and a detached bicep tendon - with more canoe races still in the horizon.

He made an appointment with Mark Sprague, MD, one of the surgeons at Berkshire Orthopaedics Associates. "I did my homework," Bob said. "I chose Dr. Sprague because of his work in Boston."

Now Division Chief of Orthopaedics at Berkshire Medical Center and board-certified as an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Sprague is fellowship-trained in sports medicine and formerly provided sideline medical expertise to the Boston Celtics and athletic teams at Tufts, Harvard, and Northeastern universities. 

"He made me feel completely comfortable with his plans for my surgery," Bob said, saying that after the operation, Dr. Sprague shared with him images of the procedure taken during surgery so that Bob could have a better idea of what took place.

"I wanted to recover quickly and I did," he continued. "I'm not your typical patient in that I live an extremely active lifestyle. I did all of the right things and I pushed myself to get the most positive outcome. But the first step was the right surgeon, and he did a great job."

Surgery took place in December of 2007, and Bob was back in the canoe by March. "I didn't expect I'd be paddling again that quickly, but I'm very happy it turned out that way. I had some races I needed to get ready for."

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