One of Us

Dr. Stephanie Pearce


Dr. Stephanie Pearce recently joined the staff at Nemours Children’s Health, Jacksonville, where she is director of sports medicine. She is one of an elite pool of dual fellowship-trained adult and pediatric sports medicine surgeons in the country and one of the only female dual-trained orthopedic sports surgeons in the region. She is also one of the team doctors for the U.S. ski and snowboard team.

Tell me a little about your background.

I was born and raised in Gainesville. I went to the University of South Florida; I was recruited to play on the soccer team there. I ended up transferring back home to UF to get my degree in nutritional sciences.

At that point, I was not cleared medically to play with the soccer team, but was able to continue with the leader staff; that gave me an interest in sports medicine.

I went to University of South Alabama for medical school and for orthopedic surgery residency.

I went from there to my pediatric orthopedic surgery fellowship at Children’s Hospital Colorado, then an adult sports fellowship in Vail, Colorado.

After that, I went to practice in Virginia Beach. Then got the call to come be the sports medicine director at Nemours.

How did you select this particular career path?

I always had orthopedic surgery in mind, even since I was younger. And I think breaking bones and learning how they remodel was always fascinating. Also, knowing how to get our bodies back to where we can compete at high levels was always a big interest of mine.

I went into medical school knowing I wanted to do pediatric sports orthopedic.

In my residency training, I realized that going not only into a single fellowship but dual fellowship for both pediatric sports and adult sports was going to be the best way for me to bring the highest quality and most appropriate care to patients.

That’s what I did, and I’m so very glad, because it opened up a lot of doors and a lot of pathways, not just for treatment, but also for program building.

How is treating children different than treating adults?

It’s a very different pathology group, pediatrics, teenagers and young adults compared to the middle-age, the older adult population. They’re growing. Their joints have to be able to last those many more decades. I work as a large cartilage preservationist and restore cartilage and joints, and so with that preservation comes a lot more technique.

Additionally, their growth plates are open many times, so making sure that we do the right procedures for the joint that won’t cause growth deformities is really important.

What do you like best about what you do?

Clearance day is probably the best. Clearance day is when we have gone through the journey of a patient coming in, we’ve gone through the prehab, we’ve gone through the surgery, we’ve gone through the rehab and recovery period, we’ve worked with all of our team members on everything and we finally get to a point where getting back to all the activities, no restrictions, every passion that that athlete wants to get back to.

How do you know when they are ready to return to their activity?

It is certainly a multifaceted process.

There are certain time points that we know. Certain surgeries take different times, bones heal at different rates than soft tissues, which heal different from grafts and reconstruction. Making sure that things have integrated back to where they need to be.

Then there’s the physical stamina, endurance and strength. So all the work that they’re doing in physical therapy, making sure: can they get into athletic positions in a safe way? That not only allows them to use their new surgically treated joints, but also to prevent them from re-injuring it or creating a new injury.

Then, there’s the mental component. Making sure they are ready, mentally, for that as well. That comes with a lot of coaching with the physical therapist.

The multidisciplinary team — I have an athletic trainer, I have my PA, I have our medical staff, but it goes much further than that. We lean on our physical therapists in the community quite strongly, as well as their school athletic trainers.

We’ve also started growing our sports dietetic team. All of these athletes have unique fuel needs, not only being a growing athlete but also recovering from surgery. Then, recovering through their rehab.

It’s similar to dealing with high-level athletes who have in-season and out-of-season needs. This is a third type of season. It’s a rebuilding season.

Do you work with athletes to prevent injuries?

What’s better than treating an injury is preventing it.

I’ve done a couple of podcasts and outreach, talking about prevention. Prevention tends to be a little bit harder to sell. Parents are OK with prevention. Kids, especially teenagers, don’t feel that they are susceptible as often.

But performance is really something that can get people’s attention. If we have appropriate performance, we can have appropriate prevention.

Making sure we have good landing form, good landing mechanics. Running form is really important. Making sure we’re doing the appropriate stretches.

Tell me about your work with the U.S. ski and snowboard team.

I’m one of the team doctors. I work mostly with the snowboard and freeski teams, but work with all of them peripherally.

It’s been a lot of fun, really getting in with the athletes and kind of understanding what they are going through on competition day versus leading up to the Olympic years.


How do you like to spend your free time?

I love spending time with my family. Got two kiddoes and a wonderful husband. We spend a lot of time at the beach.