Weight Loss Gets Dad Back in the Game Without Knee Surgery

Glenn Benjamin
Glenn Benjamin has lost nearly 50 pounds and can now keep up with his daughter on the soccer field.

At 6’2” and 291 pounds, self-described “big guy” Glenn Benjamin has already had three arthroscopic knee surgeries and multiple lubricant shots, courtesy of his old college and high school football injuries. Yet he still had constant pain, trouble using the stairs and other difficulties, and still faced the prospect of even more operations.

To address Glenn’s symptoms, Kevin McMahon, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, started cortisone treatments in April 2015. But he also recommended that Glenn lose 20 pounds to reduce strain on his knees and, hopefully, prevent the need for a total knee replacement.

The latter is especially important since most joint replacements typically last 20 years. Glenn is only 35. “As a school athlete, I often had to gain or lose weight and you just did it,” he says. “But this time, I couldn’t do it on my own.” So, at Dr. McMahon’s suggestion, Glenn met with Spencer Nadolsky, DO, a family practice physician at MedStar Montgomery who specializes in weight loss. “Losing weight is difficult,” admits Dr. Nadolsky, whose patients are mostly referrals from orthopaedic surgeons, sleep experts, bariatric surgeons and other specialists. “I’ve learned that if you can’t help someone right away — if patients don’t see a difference — they often give up.” And that’s a big problem.

Even a small weight loss can help a wide variety of conditions, ranging from issues such as heart disease, pre-diabetes, diabetes and high blood pressure to osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, acid reflux and stress incontinence. To make sure a patient will see progress and stick with the routine, Dr. Nadolsky uses evidencebased strategies to devise a comprehensive, customized program. Each individualized plan considers body mass index (BMI), overall health, current conditions, lifestyle and prior history with weight loss. Medications are also reviewed, since some, particularly those for diabetes or depression, can contribute to weight gain.

Glenn Benjamin
Glenn Benjamin and daughter Kelsey

Most recommendations include a combination of meal plans — essential to success since diet is the major determinant of weight loss — along with exercise routines. Initially, some medication to help control the region of the brain associated with hunger may be prescribed. Referral for bariatric surgery is another option. Regular office visits provide support to each patient, including tweaking individual plans to boost progress — particularly vital during the first few months. Patients are also prepared to succeed once they’re on their own.

“It’s important to me that patients will come to enjoy their new lifestyle and want to follow it forever,” Dr. Nadolsky says. His approach worked wonders for Glenn. “From the start, Dr. Nadolsky focused on developing a program designed with my unique conditions and situation in mind,” Glenn says. “He laid out all the medical options — including pros and cons. I opted for his very healthy meal plan and went straight to the grocery store.”

It wasn’t easy, but Glenn lost 51 pounds within six months, far exceeding his initial goal. Free from knee pain, he has even run two 5K races, much to the delight of supportive wife Kim, a runner herself. Daughters Kelsey, 8, and Madison, 5, are also in on the act, eating new vegetables, just like their trimmed-down dad. With further knee surgery now pushed to the back burner, Glenn is looking forward to something much more meaningful, and fun.

“Thanks to my weight loss, when my girls start playing sports, I can play along instead of sitting on the sidelines,” Glenn says. “I am so glad I found the right team of doctors.”