Olympics-level doc joins DHR Health-Brownsville

Sports medicine and general orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Romanelli stands in his office with a signed soccer ball and framed jersey from the 2008 Olympic champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer team. (Courtesy: DHR Brownsville)
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Dr. Daniel Romanelli, a sports medicine and general orthopedic surgeon who has worked at the highest levels of competitive sports and who can perform cutting-edge procedures like Tommy John surgery, has joined DHR Health Brownsville Hospital.

Romanelli was a traveling physician with the 2008 Olympic champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer team and again with the 2015 team. His experience as a sports doctor spans 23 years, first at Division I New Mexico State University, then as a traveling physician with both men’s and women’s U.S. national soccer teams.

“I have over 23 years of experience at a very high level. For 16 years I took care of Division I New Mexico State, their basketball team, baseball team, women’s volleyball. We helped out with football because that’s a beast you kind of take care of by yourself. New Mexico State is known for athletics and its baseball, basketball and volleyball teams are always top 50 programs in the country,” Romanelli said in an interview earlier this week at DHR-Brownsville.

Romanelli is a second opinion consultant with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley athletics, mostly with the baseball team, caring for athletes in Edinburg and seeing them here, he said.

A native Spanish speaker, Romanelli is originally from Argentina and came to the United States as a young child. He practiced in McAllen for three years before relocating to Brownsville this past November.

“And in regards to soccer from 2002 to 2015, for 13 years I traveled with both the men’s and women’s soccer teams, starting out with the U-17s, the U-20s, the under 23s and on the women’s side the full team, so various places around the world I’ve traveled with different teams,” he said.

“The teams that were notable were 2008 I went to the under 20s World Cup with the USA women’s team. At that time the stars were Alex Morgan, Sidney LaRue. They won the World Cup that year I was with Coach Diccio and Coach Stone and so we went down to Chile and they had a great tournament,” he said.

In 2010 Romanelli was in Germany with the under-21 team.

Sports medicine and general orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Romanelli reminisces of his experience as the traveling physician for the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams. (Courtesy: DHR Brownsville)

“They came up short, but that was with Coach Jill Ellis. The stars again were Sidney LaRue, Alex Morgan and then in 2015 it was with the full U.S. national team and at that camp it was with all the big stars that you read about and saw on the TV, which is Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Tobin Keith, Kelly O’Hara, Heather O’Reily the list goes on and on with the U.S. national team, and Hope Solo was the goalkeeper, so it was spent traveling with them in Mexico covering their games as a traveling doc,” Romanelli said.

“My personal background is I’m from Argentina originally. I came here at a very young age. I speak Spanish. I played soccer growing up from very small up until my 20s and so I understand the game, I follow the game, I watch it regularly on the weekends I have my favorite teams I like to root for,” he said.

“So I guess what I bring here that hasn’t been here is an expertise in sports medicine that is equivalent to some of the procedures, the new cutting edge procedures that you would see in the big towns, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston,” he said.

“I bring that type of repertoire, in regards to reconstructing knees. ACL reconstructions are with the most current techniques, which are independent tunnels and using quadricep autograft … more technical things, but it is worth noting because it’s bringing the more current types of procedures to the Valley that are being offered in big cities, so really there shouldn’t have to be a lot of kids having to leave now to go to San Antonio or Austin or Houston or Dallas to be taken care of because they can come here,” Romanelli said.

“The majority of things I can handle and if I can’t handle it I’ll be the first one to tell them, and I will find them the right doctor for their particular problem. For instance, I’m very good friends with some of the doctors that take care of the universities in and around Texas so I can make calls to other sports specialists and get people in and into their office as a referral if it’s something I don’t do,” he said.

Sports medicine and general orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Romanelli poses in his office with a green soccer ball and framed mementos during his time as the traveling physician for the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams. (Courtesy: DHR Brownsville)

“One thing I do here that I don’t think anybody does here in the Valley is Tommy John surgery, so when a pitcher or a baseball player hurts their elbow and tears their ulnar collateral ligament I can repair it for them and reconstruct it using tissue from another part of their body to reconstruct the ligament, and that’s something I’ve offered since I arrived here, which I don’t think anybody else in the Valley is doing,” he said.

Romanelli also surgically reconstructs knees, offering a procedure called MACI.

“So if you’re playing soccer and if you get an injury and you injure a piece of cartilage off your knee and it’s down to bone and it’s a good size, then I can go in, first arthroscopicly go in and assess the lesion and if it’s a certain size, then I can actually take a biopsy of your bone cartilage, send it off to the lab, they can grow it on a pig skin or a cow skin with your cells and re-implant it back into your knee, and basically what that does is it restores the cartilage defect and that’s something I’ve been doing since 2000,” Romanelli said.

“So there’s a lot of things that if you do get injured playing baseball, football, soccer, whatever sport you have, I would love to see that particular athlete and assess them and If I can help them I certainly will and if I can’t I’ll get em to the right doc so they can get better and ultimately can get back to sports. I think that’s what I bring plus the 23 years of experience at a very high level of sport, and the other thing is I’ve been covering junior high and high school athletics for 25 years now between here and Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct misspellings.