At first glance, 23-year-old Ginamarie Russo wouldn't seem to have much in common with the professional fighters she writes about for a boxing website. The Hofstra University senior is an aspiring actress and has modeled designer clothes on NBC’s “Today show.”

But she's got a natural icebreaker: She shares the same hand surgeon as many of her sources.

"The fact that many of them have used or plan to use the same hand doctor can definitely open up the communication lines," she says. "We realize the importance of our hands and have experienced or anticipate experiencing limited mobility or pain."

At age 12, the native of Long Island, N.Y., developed chronic pain in her right wrist, which was initially passed off by doctors as tennis-related tendinitis. But pain and swelling persisted; hot and cold therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, were little help. A blood test eventually helped diagnose her juvenile arthritis. The condition now affects her knees, ankles, shoulders and wrists, but it's been particularly destructive to her right hand – the one she uses to write notes and articles.

"My hand would cramp up so bad when I wrote," she says. "I would write something and then not be able to move my hand. I used my Blackberry a lot. I'd jot down a one-word note and have to figure out what it meant later."

A Surgical Solution

That's why she sought out orthopaedic hand surgeon, Charles Melone, MD, director of the Division of Hand Surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He frequently repairs the damage that professional boxers, basketball players and baseball stars inflict on their hands, and he's especially well known among fighters because he helped boxing equipment manufacturer Everlast design some of its training gloves.

In November, Dr. Melone replaced four of the knuckles in Ginamarie's right hand with silicone implants and realigned her tendons. After the surgery, Ginamarie worked with a certified hand therapist for five months and now exercises her hand on her own.