Get to know Peter DeLuca, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon

RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group and Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC) continually attract accomplished physicians from around the country that are at the top of their fields, and Peter DeLuca, M.D., is the latest provider to join the team. Dr. Deluca, a fellowship-trained sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon, has dedicated his career to treating athletes of all ages, including elite athletes in professional sports, and specializes in minimally-invasive surgery and treatment of the shoulder and knee.

Here, Dr. DeLuca shares more about his background, why he wanted to return to his New Jersey roots and why he’s thrilled to join the Combined Medical Group of RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Health and the orthopedics team at CBMC.

What are some common conditions that you treat in young and professional athletes?

As a sports medicine physician, I’m trained in problems with the knee and shoulder, and my practice exclusively treats those abnormalities. Surgically, I perform advanced arthroscopic procedures such as ACL reconstructions (the tissue that connects the thighbone to the shinbone at the knee), shoulder labral repair, cartilage replacements, meniscus repairs and rotator cuff repairs.

What do you hope to bring to your patients at CBMC?

Very few physicians have taken care of two pro teams (I was the team physician for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Eagles), so I’m happy to bring everything I’ve learned from that experience to the CBMC community. The biggest contribution is my general experience in sports medicine. I’ve devoted my career to treating athletes of all ages from youth sports, high school, college and at the professional level.

You’re trained in arthroscopic surgery. What is it and what are its benefits?

Arthroscopic surgery, as compared to open surgery, is a minimally- invasive surgery technique that requires a few little incisions around the joint rather than one larger one. This technique is shown to decrease complications post-op. All of these procedures are done outpatient, but the healing and recovery time—or the time when the patient can return to their sport—is typically the same as with open surgery. ACL repair takes about 9-12 months and shoulder labral repairs about 4-6 months, for example.

Is it possible for athletes to avoid shoulder or knee injuries?

A lot of people assume an ACL tear is a contact injury, but 90 percent of them are just freak injuries. It’s a move that athletes have made thousands of times, but this one time it was just wrong because there was excessive stress on the ACL. Rotator cuff tears are moreso caused by wear and tear of the joint. But I’ve always stressed with my patients that even just 15 minutes of warm-up exercises a few times a week before practice would lower the instances of ACL tears. These exercise work on strength and something we call neuromuscular control.

What is one of the first things you hope to do at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center?

At CBMC, I’d like to focus my practice on younger patients, and go out and tell high school coaches and trainers about these exercises [that can potentially prevent injuries]. Most of the time, athletes are coming to me too late—they already tore their ACL or rotator cuff.

How do you hope to work with other specialists within the RWJBarnabas Health system?

In my field, it’s not just the sports doctors [who help these patients]—we have to work closely with therapists, athletic trainers, sports nutritionists and sports psychologists, and I’m excited to work with this multi-disciplinary team. We also have non-operative sports medicine physicians who play an integral part in treating athletes. We’re going to work more closely with them, as they can offer PRP (platelet-rich plasma injections), stem cell injections and the like.

Why did you want to make the move from Philadelphia to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and New Jersey in general?

I grew up in Jersey City, so I’m familiar with northern New Jersey and I worked here before I went down to Philadelphia. I wanted to be closer to home too—my parents are getting older. But it’s a great opportunity to come to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and become co-chief of sports medicine and help build the program. We don’t want to just diagnose and prevent injuries— it’s important to also have an experienced surgeon who can perform these advanced arthroscopic procedures.

What about the Medical Center attracted you the most?

Truthfully, I came here because of the vision of Frank A. Liporace, M.D., chairman of the Department of Orthopedics at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. He wants to build a center of excellence that people in the northeast come to, and I’m excited about that. There’s opportunity here, there are resources here that Barnabas can provide to really make us a top-notch orthopedics and sports medicine department. We’re going to bring on even more great people.

Learn more about the orthopedics department at CBMC.