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Hospital for Special Surgery combine provides Brooklyn high school athletes with NFL style treatment

September 9, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
PSAL athletes that attend the HSS combine are screened by sports medicine specialists who check their heart, lungs and vision. They also test their strength and flexibility, determine their body fat percentage and perform a balance/concussion management test.
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Injuries and sports go hand in hand. A single injury can ruin a play, a game, a season and even a career. So it’s important that athletes are educated on injuries, treated properly when they occur and monitored as they recover.

Luckily, the Public School Athletic League’s (PSAL) student-athletes in Brooklyn and New York City had the opportunity to undergo preseason health and fitness screenings at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s (HSS) combine it offered on Aug. 9.

“What we try to do (at the combine) is a performance test to help identify any deficits that may enhance performance and, more importantly, prevent injuries,” said John Cavanaugh, a certified athletic trainer at HSS, who organizes the screenings each year. “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.”

The combine is run just like the one HSS does for the NFL where they screen every player prior to the draft. More than 150 high school football players from 27 different schools around the city participated in the combine on Aug. 9 including kids from Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton, New Utrecht, Boys and Girls, Sheepshead Bay, Tilden, Automotive and Victory Collegiate.

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“We try to do what we do for the NFL which is to provide an excellent level of care for these PSAL students,” said Scott Rodeo, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at the HSS. “It’s a great program. It’s the right thing to do. It’s great for our physicians here, it’s great for the kids, the schools and it’s a lot of fun. We hope to continue to do it and to grow and expand.”

Since injuries are such a huge part of sports, the PSAL takes them very seriously and requires that kids get medical clearance prior to playing and ensures that every team has a doctor on the sidelines during games.

The HSS, which is the official hospital for the New York Giants and other NFL teams, tries to avoid serious tragedies by examining underlying health problems at the combine that can go undetected and monitors old injuries to make sure they completely heal, according to James Kinderknecht, a primary care sports medicine physician at HSS.

“We’re screening those individuals for safe participation in sports so we have different stations,” Kinderknecht said. “One is vital signs, blood pressure, height, weight, and vision. Then we have a medical station which is heart and lungs. We believe we are meeting a need in the community, and it gives Hospital for Special Surgery the chance to provide a valuable service.”

Unfortunately, a lot of Brooklyn’s student-athletes come from families that don’t have adequate medical insurance which is why HSS tries to ensure that they don’t fall through the cracks. The combine, as well as care throughout the season, is provided free of charge.

To ensure everyone is properly cared for, HSS sends hospital physicians and certified athletic trainers to provide coverage at seven schools. Specialists are provided for anyone that gets hurt on the field and the hospital’s PSAL Football Clinic is open on Mondays during the season to see injured players.

“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,” Kinderknecht said. “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.”

The combine is an annual event that schools can participate in. Any players injured on game days are directed to call the clinic immediately afterward at 646-797-8340. They can’t take walk-ins, but if players that call the hotline by 10:00 a.m. on Monday can be seen.

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