Queens (N.Y.) Courier—September 2, 2011
What do football players in city high schools have in common with the elite professionals of the New York Football Giants? The 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 Giants and other professional sports teams.
The hospital has teamed up with the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL), an organization that promotes student athletics in the public schools of the 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 from various high schools 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.
For some students, the free screening means the difference between playing the sport and sitting on the sidelines.
"Some students would not go out for athletics because they don't have health insurance and could not afford the required pre-season physical,” said Jerry Epstein, assistant commissioner of PSAL Football and a Rockaway resident. "I don't think the students would get an exam this thorough anywhere else. And it gives the kids of New York City the opportunity to have the same doctors who provide care for the New York Giants and the Mets.”
Jasminder Garcha, who attends Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, found out about the screening and traveled to the Manhattan hospital to take advantage of it, although his sport is fencing.
“The doctors gave me handouts of exercises to do so I can improve on my weak areas,” he said. “Now I definitely know what I need to work on.”
Hospital officials say the partnership with PSAL is a win/win situation.
“Meeting a critical need in the community, it gives the hospital the chance to provide a valuable service,” said Dr. James Kinderknecht, a sports medicine specialist 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, PT, ATC, SCS, 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 deficits in strength and flexibility, so we can help them perform better on the field and enhance safety,” Cavanaugh said.
This article appeared on queenscourier.com.