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PSAL Football Players Getting Professional Care

Staten Island Advance—October 5, 2011

For Dr. Mark Sherman, family has always been a big part of his life.

Whether it is his biological family or his ‘family’ of doctors or what he considers his ‘family’ of patients, they have all been dear to his heart.

Another group who he has brought into his inner circle of ‘family’ are high-school athletes.

“My dad (Dr. Benjamin Sherman) always taught me to give back and he was involved in the Lafayette High School of Brooklyn football program for decades as their team doctor .... and was at virtually every game,” the Todt Hill resident said.

Dr. Sherman originally was involved in giving back working with his boss at the time, Dr. John Marshall at Hospital for Special Surgery. The New York Giants football team and the U.S. Ski Team physician would work free clinics for athletes and staff football games for the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL).

But now it is back ... bigger and better than ever, thanks to the PSAL and Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan, and through the efforts of physicians like Dr. Sherman, one of the leaders of the program.

The hospital, at which Dr. Sherman has been a clinical associate in sports medicine since 1980, offered a pre-season health screening to all the PSAL athletes in the city in August to ensure they were fit to play and had no underlying medical problems before football season starts.

“This service was modeled off what they do at the NFL Combines and it is extremely important because you can catch something early,” said Dr. Sherman.

Eighty-one students 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.

“A lot of kids’ parents run to doctors and have them sign a form. At Hospital for Special Surgery, we take a thorough medical history, we perform a complete physical exam, we test strength and flexibility,” said Dr. Sherman. “If we are able to pick up one child with a heart murmur, with hypertension or with cancer, we could potentially save a life.”

Now that the season has begun, hospital specialists will ensure that players receive the necessary care if they’re injured as well.

Doctors will be available to see students on Monday afternoons (2-5 p.m) at a special clinic at the hospital free of charge. HSS doctors are also covering games at six high schools, including Tottenville and Curtis (the junior varsity teams at both schools, too) on Staten Island. 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.

“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,” said physical therapist John Cavanaugh, clinical supervisor of the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the hospital.

“The medical screening at Special Surgery is the best thing I’ve been associated with. I don’t think the students would get an exam this thorough anywhere else,” said Jerry Epstein, assistant commissioner of PSAL Football. “It gives the kids the opportunity to have the same doctors who provide care for the New York Giants and the Mets.”

The clinic does not turn anyone away. “We hope no one gets injured, but if they do, it’s a seamless system for them to get an appointment and get evaluated. We communicate with their coaches so they know what’s going on,” Dr. Kinderknecht adds.

If a PSAL football player requires surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), for example, the hospital’s orthopedic surgeons perform the operation with no out-of-pocket expense to the student. When students have limited insurance coverage, the hospital and medical staff end up donating much of their time.

The hospital is looking to expand the program so it is offered year-round for all sports. It is hoping for donations to cover the cost of some of the services and items the hospital must purchase, such as braces.

This story originally appeared at silive.com. 


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