Will Philly Become the “Core Capital” of the Sports Medicine World?

The man who has treated the midsections of athletic royalty launches the Vincera Institute at the Navy Yard.

No sports fan began 2013 having a better time than Bill Meyers. On January 5th, he watched the Packers whip the Vikings in an NFL wild-card game from the icy Lambeau Field sidelines. Two days later, the Columbia-trained surgeon witnessed—also from field-level—Alabama’s BCS title-game demolition of Notre Dame. Jealous? You should be.

When you’re the nation’s foremost authority on core muscle injuries and their repair, you get big-time access. Meyers has operated on about 15,000 athletes, from the most accomplished to the least competitive, all of whom suffered core and hip trauma that impacted their ability to perform. Among those patients: Angels slugger Josh Hamilton, NBA All-Star forward Grant Hill, Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay, and such locals as Donovan McNabb, Danny Briere and Brent Celek. Torn abductors? He’s in. Problems with the pelvis? Call him.

This spring, Meyers’ influence will expand even more with the opening at the Navy Yard of the Vincera Institute. The facility will bring together some of the nation’s foremost physicians, therapists and trainers to further medicine’s knowledge of the core and explore its relationship to the rest of the body—while also treating everyone from elite athletes to weekend 5Kers.

“The goal is to maximize the performance of any individual interested in keeping himself or herself in the best of shape,” says Meyers. “Performance is intimately related to the core, and people who are interested in getting into better shape need to pay attention to it.”

The core extends from the chest to the thighs and includes most of the body’s key organ systems, along with a labyrinth of bone, cartilage, muscle and other tissue so elaborate that many physicians won’t touch it. Meyers, who at 63 has maintained the long, athletic frame that served him well as a soccer goalie and baseball player during his undergrad years at Harvard, is a pioneer in the field, dating to his work at Duke University in the 1980s. He envisions Vincera (Latin for “will conquer”) as a nexus for research and clinical work on an athlete’s power plant. If it also eliminates the use of the misnomer “sports hernia” to describe core injures, all the better.

Meyers has recruited some considerable talent to Vincera, including Bryan Kelly and Struan Coleman, hip experts based at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. (This winter, Kelly worked on Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose ravaged hip led him to play like a Little Leaguer last October.) Flyers strength coach Jim McCrossin, his wife, Robyn, and Jim Brennan will be running a rehab component aimed at building more than just the “beach muscles.” “You see someone with six-pack abs, but that doesn’t mean he has a strong core,” McCrossin says.

Vincera will feature an indoor golf center devoted to building strength for the links, as well as yoga and Pilates workouts. And when the big names come to town, they can stay at a new Marriott property being built in the Navy Yard. “The fun of this is that people will be able to come and have access to all the different diagnostic and treatment capabilities to maximize their performance,” Meyers says. “It will all be right there.” Big-game tickets not included.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.