Gwinnett Medical Center’s (GMC) Sports Medicine Program works to gets you back in the game. As the largest network of sports medicine providers in Georgia, GMC provides some of the most comprehensive services onsite for local recreational and sports organizations including prevention, recognition, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of injuries. The program is guided by a team of GMC’s affiliated orthopedic surgeons who are sports medicine experts, having trained at some of the country’s finest sports medicine programs. They provide medical coverage for high school, college and professional teams. The program’s staff is comprised of certified athletic trainers, physical and occupational therapists.
Assisting everyone from adolescents to senior citizens, the program’s mission supports the promise of easily accessible sports medicine care. Their goal is to not only help injured athletes return to their activities safely, but to reduce the risk of injuries in the future. “GMC is committed to being a leader in sports medicine services in the Atlanta area. Serving more than three million athletes to date, we strive to provide the whole continuum of care for all our athletes,” says Tim Simmons, manager of the sports medicine program.
The GMC Sports Medicine Program supports 50 certified athletic trainers who administer immediate, onsite medical care and develop comprehensive plans based on the nature of the injury. “All of our athletic trainers are nationally board certified with minimum of a master’s degree and work 100 percent onsite,” says Simmons. The trainers provide coverage for 16 local high schools, the Gwinnett Gladiators, the Georgia Force, the Atlanta Fire United, the BB&T Atlanta Open, Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett’s recreational sports leagues. The trainers have covered more than 28,000 athletic events since 2007.
During the warmer months, many popular sports are ramping up to begin their seasons. The GMC Sports Medicine team provides continuous care for injuries sustained during play. The following includes information, tips and prevention recommendations on the two most common injuries: concussions and heat illness.
GMC’s Sports Medicine Program has a vision to improve the level of support for athletes suffering concussions. For the past four years, the sports medicine team has provided Gwinnett and North Fulton high schools with a new tool to manage head injuries. This tool is the ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) program.
“Gwinnett Medical Center is the first hospital system in Georgia to provide all of the high schools in an entire county with the ImPACT Program. We currently have about 20,000 athletes in the program and it’s provided at no cost to the athletes,” says Simmons.
The program encompasses a 20-minute, pre-season baseline test that athletes take on a computer to measures neurocognitive function, such as brain processing, speed, memory and visual motor skills. ImPACT assesses crucial functions of the brain known to be affected by concussions, thus it correlates with quantifiable patterns post injury. These changes can be evaluated over time allowing for accurate awareness of the injury’s severity as well as assisting with proper medical care throughout the athlete’s recovery.
“The key to concussions is making sure they’re properly managed with professional medical attention in the beginning. This offers better outcomes and less cumulative types of injuries.” Simmons continues, “It could be potentially dangerous if athletes return to their activities immediately.”
In order to prevent concussions during practice or games, the athletes must apply the right techniques for the sport that is played. Using the correct equipment, including pads, helmets and mouthpieces, and making sure each fits properly are also vital. All these conditions could reduce or prevent concussions.
Heat Illness Prevention
Heat illness is inherent to physical activity and its incidence increases when high temperature surge and humidity rises, much like in Georgia’s warmer months. Athletes who begin training in the late summer such as football, soccer and cross-country are at higher risk for heat injury because of when their season occurs.
“To avoid heat illness, its imperative you stay hydrated, stay well conditioned and recognize the early signs and symptoms that may cause potential injury,”
Preparing athletes for activity in heat can be a formidable challenge but with an outlined game plan, the challenge is reduced while proactively addressing the need. The effective plan should include a preseason activity screening for all athletes, a specific emergency action plan, an acclimatization plan including conditioning, an onsite cool zone away from direct sunlight, weight monitoring and environmental risk evaluation.
Additional basic tips to remember include wearing light color/weight practice gear and clothes, maintaining a healthy diet and sleep schedule, monitoring practice length in warm weather and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency. “It’s vital for the athlete to be healthy so they’re ready to start the season, decreasing the likelihood of injury.”
How Parents Can Help
Parents should be advocates for their athlete’s health, helping them stay safe during sporting activities. The parents can be the athlete’s voice when they become injured and need to seek further medical attention. It’s also recommended parents seek education on how to keep their athletes safe. GMC’s Sports Medicine Program provides local educational opportunities for recreational and youth leagues as well as for coaches and parents to increase awareness of sports related injuries.
For more information on Gwinnett Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Program, visit gwinnettsportsmed.com.