The following is a press release sent out by the Hospital for Special Surgery and the PSAL:
More than 100 high school football players, many from Brooklyn, got a taste of the big leagues when they took advantage of a free pre-season health screening at the official hospital for the New York Football Giants. The comprehensive medical exam and fitness tests at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan were similar to the NFL “combine” in which prospective players are evaluated by the hospital’s team doctors. The screening was offered to students in the Public Schools Athletic League, or PSAL, regardless of ability to pay.
Medical clearance is mandatory for all New York City high school students wishing to play a sport, and 119 students from 22 schools braved the rain on August 3 to attend the free screening. Many arrived via the subway with their coaches or parents, and most of the teen athletes left with wide smiles on their faces when they were given the green light to play football.
More than 20 sports medicine specialists, primary care physicians, athletic trainers and other health professionals from Special Surgery recorded the students’ medical history; checked their heart, lungs and vision; tested strength and flexibility; assessed their posture and balance; even measured how far they could jump.
Numerous students came from Brooklyn schools, including Lafayette, South Shore, Abraham Lincoln, Midwood, Brooklyn Tech and Canarsie High School. Ubeaka McKinney, assistant head coach at South Shore High School, brought 15 students to the screening and was impressed by how thorough it was. “It’s not someone just taking their blood pressure and saying they’re ready to go,” he said. “It teaches the students where they’re at health-wise. It’s important for them to know where they stand. We’ll definitely come back next year.”
Doctors also checked the young athletes for previous injuries, giving them advice on how to stay safe on the field and avoid future problems. A common concern for a number of students was tight hamstring muscles, and students were prescribed stretching
exercises. One teenager with lower back pain was sent for an x-ray and MRI. Another student was found to have high blood pressure, and his coach said he would call his mother as soon as they left the hospital to let her know.
“The screening gives Hospital for Special Surgery the chance to provide a service to the community,” said Dr. James Kinderknecht, a primary care sports medicine physician and medical director of the PSAL Football Clinic at the hospital. “We’re not here to replace the students’ primary care physicians, we’re here to work in concert with them. The idea of participation in sports is awesome. We want to make it safe.”
If students lack health insurance, they 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 John Cavanaugh, PT, ATC, SCS, clinical supervisor, Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the hospital and program leader.
“In addition to giving the students a complete physical, we check them for any core weaknesses and any deficits in strength and flexibility to help ensure the players have a safe and productive football season,” Mr. Cavanaugh said.
Some students said it was “cool” that they were being screened at the same hospital that provides care for elite professional athletes.
For others, the free screening may have meant the difference between playing the sport or 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, supervisor, PSAL Football. “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. 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 other teams.”
Once football season starts, Hospital for Special Surgery will provide game-day medical coverage to selected teams. The hospital will also provide access to follow-up care for all PSAL football teams at a weekly Monday clinic if a student is injured at a game. For more information on the PSAL Football Clinic and to see a video about the NFL and PSAL combines, visit: www.hss.edu/psal.asp.