It's a parent's worst nightmare, and it happens out of the blue. While playing a sport, often football, a teen athlete collapses on the field and doesn't make it.
Every year, such cases are reported around the country. Sometimes the tragedy is the result of an injury. But it can also be due to an underlying health problem that went undetected before the game or a previous injury that did not completely heal, according to James Kinderknecht, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan.
The risks inherent in playing football and increased attention to the dangers of concussions have made medical clearance mandatory for all New York City high school students wishing to play the sport.
On Saturday, August 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., students in the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) will have the opportunity to receive a FREE comprehensive health screening at HSS, the official hospital for the New York Football Giants. The testing will take place at the HSS Sports Rehabilitation & Performance Center, 525 East 71st Street in Manhattan.
The extensive pre-season physical exam and performance fitness tests will be provided regardless of ability to pay at the highly-regarded hospital, which in addition to the Giants, oversees care for the New York Mets, New York Knicks, the Red Bulls and other pro teams. Last year students from 22 schools took advantage of the event.
Sports medicine specialists, primary care physicians, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers and other health professionals will record the students' medical history; check their heart, lungs and vision; test their strength and flexibility; determine body fat percentage; perform balance/concussion management testing; assess their posture; and test lower extremity power via the broad jump.
Doctors will check the young athletes for previous injuries, making sure no one returns to the game too soon. Staff will also provide advice on how to stay safe on the field and avoid future problems.
During past screenings, some students were disappointed to learn they could not receive medical clearance. One student with lower back pain was sent for an x-ray and MRI. Another student with high blood pressure was advised to see his family doctor.
"We believe we are meeting a need in the community, and it gives Hospital for Special Surgery the chance to provide a valuable service," said Dr. Kinderknecht.
Students lacking good health insurance can fall through the cracks of a fragmented health care system. Special Surgery wants to make sure, at least in the case of the young athletes, that this doesn't happen, according to John Cavanaugh, PT, ATC, SCS, clinical supervisor, Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.
"In addition to giving the students a complete physical, we assess their core muscle strength as well as their lower extremity strength, power and flexibility, information that can lead to injury prevention and performance enhancement. We also check them for deficits in strength and flexibility so we can help them perform better on the field and enhance safety," Mr. Cavanaugh said.
Once the season begins, hospital physicians and certified athletic trainers will provide medical coverage for the games at several schools. And specialists will ensure that players receive the necessary care if they're injured on the field -- again, regardless of ability to pay. Doctors and staff will be available to see students at a Monday clinic for PSAL football players at the hospital.
"We are committed to making sure these high school athletes have access to medical care, so they don't have to worry about 'who do I see, and how do I get in,' because the clinic is accessible," Dr. Kinderknecht explained. "It's not always easy to get in to see a doctor when you get hurt. The more cumbersome the process, the more likely it is a student will fall through the cracks. The goal is to make it as easy as possible, removing any financial barriers that may be there, as well."
Hospital for Special Surgery