(From Statesboro Magazine, May/June 2019 Issue)
Written by Jenny Starling Foss
Photography by Frank Fortune
There’s a trophy case right inside the patient entry way at Optim Healthcare’s Orthopedics and Therapy Center on Highway 67 South. Prominently displayed in it is a Georgia Southern football from the 100th game Erk Russell coached: GSC vs James Madison, November 9, 1989. The score was Eagles 36, Dukes 21. There’s also a basketball, soccer ball, baseball – all commemorative of special games in the history of sports at the University. On the top shelf is a special trophy presented to Optim as an MVP Partner with Georgia Southern Sports Properties. The award was presented to team doctors Dr. John Hodges, Dr. Don Aaron and Dr. Delan Gaines.
Dr. Gaines joined the Optim team in 2010, after working with Dr. Hodges at East Georgia Orthopaedics from 2008 – 2010. Dr. Hodges was already working with Georgia Southern Athletics on providing care for student athletes at the time.
“Dr. Hodges helped me become associated with the team,” said Dr. Gaines.
Dr. Gaines really enjoys the diversity and challenges that working with athletes presents.
“I enjoy that athletes are always trying hard to better themselves,” said Dr. Gaines. “They are always trying to maximize their body’s performance. I like being a part of helping the injured players return to normal health as quickly as possible. It’s just fun to combine sports with medicine.”
Dr. Gaines grew up in Bowden, Georgia, near Carrollton, population around 1,800. He excelled in school, gaining an undergraduate degree in Psychology in 1997 from Furman University, and a Doctor of Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia in 2001. He completed an Orthopaedic residency at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2007, and a Sports Fellowship at Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas in Greenville in 2008. He moved from Greenville to Statesboro and he has been practicing here for the past 12 years.
He chose medicine because, “I was always fascinated with how the body works. I especially enjoy orthopedics because I get to make hands-on diagnoses, plus I get to fix problems with my hands,” said Dr. Gaines. “Sometimes we can fix a dislocated joint just by manipulating the patient. There’s immediate satisfaction in that. It’s not invasive, there are no prescriptions and no surgery required. To be able to fix something with your hands is very rewarding.”
Specializing in sports medicine has become a passion of Dr. Gaines’ especially when he can give a hopeful outcome to a player. He specializes in treatment of the shoulder.
“I love being on the sidelines to help anytime a player gets injured,” said Dr. Gaines. “I also enjoy traveling with the teams and the camaraderie that we experience on the road with the coaches and trainers.”
Dr. Gaines, along with other Optim specialists, provides care for not only football, but also basketball, soccer, golf, volleyball – basically everything except baseball, which Dr. Don Aaron covers.
“I go to the training room at Georgia Southern every Monday morning before visiting the office and on some Fridays,” Dr. Gaines said. “I evaluate the players and see if they need further testing or treatment.”
This summer he will be helping to administer physical examinations for all the incoming athletes to make sure they are healthy enough to compete. Dr. Gaines works closely with the athletic trainers at the University, who are already working with the players, and are there when the doctors arrive.
In addition to providing orthopedic care to the Eagles, Dr. Gaines, along with the other doctors at Optim, provides care for area high schools as well.
“Occasionally when a player is warming up, he can experience a dislocated shoulder,” Dr. Gaines said. “Just to be there to put a joint back and have the player to be able to continue to play is rewarding. It is always sad when a player has a serious injury, and needs more intensive treatment or surgery. If they have to miss a season, that’s a tough conversation.”
Dr. Gaines hopes to be able to continue to provide support to area teams for as long as he’s practicing.
“I really enjoy being a part of the community,” he said. “I grew up in a very small town. I think this community is unique in the way the people are so caring, and so many work to make Statesboro a better place for everyone.”
Dr. Gaines and his wife, Brandy, give back by supporting important causes like the United Way. Brandy serves on the board of directors. The couple are parents to sons, 7-year-old Jackson, and 4-year-old William.
You don’t find this quality of life in every town,” said Dr. Gaines. “The quality of life is great and I think the University brings so much to the town that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”