PSAL, Hospital for Special Surgery Champion Health of Brooklyn High School Football Players

Brooklyn Daily Eagle—September 12, 2011

What do football players at high schools in Brooklyn and the other boroughs have in common with the elite professionals of the New York Football Giants?

Public school athletes now have access to the same medical care, regardless of ability to pay, provided by the highly regarded Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, team doctors for the New York Football Giants and other professional sports teams.

The hospital has teamed up with PSAL, the Public Schools Athletic League, an organization that promotes student athletics in the public schools of New York City.

In August the hospital offered a pre-season health screening to ensure that PSAL athletes are fit to play and have no underlying medical problems before football season starts. Eighty-one students, including a contingent of young athletes who attend Tilden High School in Brooklyn, took advantage of the comprehensive medical exam.

Twenty doctors and other health professionals checked students’ heart, lungs and vision; tested their strength and flexibility; and even measured how far they could jump.

Doctors also checked the athletes for previous injuries, giving them advice on how to stay safe on the field and avoid future problems. Some students were prescribed exercises, others were advised on icing, taping and bracing to prevent further injury.

Once the season begins, hospital specialists will ensure that players receive the necessary care if they’re injured on the field — again, regardless of ability to pay. Doctors will be available to see students on Monday afternoons at a special clinic at the hospital. Program leaders say it’s a win-win situation.

“Meeting a critical need in the community, it gives Hospital for Special Surgery the chance to provide a valuable service,” said Dr. James Kinderknecht, a family practice physician specializing in sports medicine at the hospital and one of the program leaders.

Students lacking 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 physical therapist John Cavanaugh, clinical supervisor of the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the hospital.

"In addition to giving the students a complete physical, we check them for any core weaknesses and any deficits in strength and flexibility, so we can help them perform better on the field and enhance safety,” Mr. Cavanaugh said.

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