August 1st can only mean that football is right around the corner. NFL football teams have already started their respective training camps. Soon college and high school training camps will be in full swing as well, preparing their squads for the regular season that starts in September. Coaching staffs will be evaluating new and returning players and implementing new offensive and defensive schemes, all while developing a team chemistry that will hopefully lead their teams to a successful season.
Training camp is a hectic time for everyone involved with a football team, especially the team’s medical staff. Team medical staffs are engaged with pre-season medical screening in an effort to identify existing medical and musculoskeletal conditions which could preclude a player from participating. Should a condition such as high blood pressure or a weakness of a particular muscle be detected, steps can be taken to remedy the condition, such as medication or a rehabilitation program respectfully. Individual neurocognitive and balance testing data are collected for each player to establish a baseline for future comparison, should a head injury (concussion) be sustained during the season. Medical staffs are also occupied with rehabilitating players recovering from injuries or surgeries sustained during the off-season. Staffs implement rigorous return to play testing to objectively document that the parameters of strength, power, flexibility and balance (to name a few) have been fully rehabilitated before allowing the player to return to practice.
August is typically a hot and humid month in the Northeast. Common aliments sustained by players are heat exhaustion and cramping. Medical staffs are very much occupied in insuring that players are well hydrated and eating the right foods to readily meet the demands of practicing in the heat while wearing full pads. Staffs are also keen in looking out for the signs of heat illness during training sessions and making the necessary interventions should symptoms arise.
Injuries are unfortunately part of football. Medical staffs are on hand to assess injuries as they occur on the field. Immediate proper management can make all the difference in starting the rehabilitation process to safely return an injured player to competition.
Communication between the medical and coaching staffs is paramount for keeping a team healthy during the pre-season. With daily medical updates, coaching staffs will know what to expect out of each player as they prepare each individual and the team as a whole for the season that lies ahead.
John Cavanaugh, PT, MEd, ATC, SCS, is the Clinical Supervisor at the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. He has served as the Team Physical Therapist at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY for the past 29 years. John is the coordinator of the HSS PSAL (Public Schools Athletic League) Outreach Program.