Starting this month, Summit Orthopedics will be sending collegiate-level athletic trainers and other medical support for varsity and junior-varsity sports in South Washington county high schools.
As part of a two-year deal with the district, Summit Orthopedics will provide a designated trainer and physician each to Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools. The trainers offer support for a number of varsity and junior-varsity sports including soccer, football, volleyball basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, hockey, baseball track and lacrosse.
Summit is also donating about $200,000 for athletic training and physical service, equipment, field rental and ice time at the Bielenberg complex for the 2016-17 school year and financial support for strength and speed programs at each of the high schools.
Player health and safety has become an increasing concern from parents, athletics organizations and public health officials for athletes at all levels in recent years, with an emphasis on head injuries and concussions in high school sports.
“High school athletes are getting bigger, faster and they’re completing at a much higher level,” Summit Orthopedics Physician Dr. Jack Skendzel said. “These trainers are there to take take injuries.”
The trainers are nationally certified and are able to provide medical assistance, supervision during game training and pre-game taping. They are also qualified to work at the collegiate-level and many of them hold postgraduate degrees.
With Summit Orthopedics’ anticipated move-in to the Bielenberg Sports Center this summer, athletes will have closer access to its resources.
As part of the agreement, Summit will also provide an orthopedic physicians to each of the high schools. These doctors will be able to give speedy treatment for injured athletes and during workouts and practices.
“We’re pleased to become an integral sports and athletic partner with South County Washington Schools,” said Summit Orthopedics CEO Adam Berry in a statement July 5. “To us at Summit, this partnership is a natural extension of our organization’s mission to be a champion for healthy, active lives at all age levels.”
Between August 2014 and June 2015, football accounted for the most concussions in Minnesota high schools with 261 reported cases, followed secondly by 57 concussions in women’s soccer, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Overall, the department reported 704 sports-related concussions in 39 public high schools surveyed statewide.
Though the results have been consistent in the three years since MDH began collecting information on high school concussions, public health officials are still concerned about the short- and long-term impacts.
“I have a feeling (that) for there to be a real change, there’s going to have to be a huge cultural change,” state epidemiologist Leslie Seymour said. “It’s going to take a long time, but the conversation has been started.”
To meet these concerns, a significant part of trainers’ certification requirements involves detecting concussions and other head injuries.
But with the competitiveness of sports, Skendzel said having third-party trainers may help them make objective decisions, and when a trainer suspects a player has a concussion, simply, “they don’t play,” he said.
Summit will also be providing voluntary and mandatory concussion evaluations for student athletes.
“I think it’s an important piece, and we’re there to be in the community and take care of our own,” Skendzel said.
Between July 19-21, Summit will offer free pre-season sports physicals Minnesota high schoolers at the Bielenberg Sports Center complex.
More information about the exams are available at summitortho.com/physicals.