High school sports teams bring stability, instill work ethic, and provide structure for male and female athletes alike. Not to mention hoards of screaming teenage fans.
They also account for the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
According to a 2006 survey by the Centers for Disease Control of nine major sports, “High school athletes account for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations annually.”
Unfortunately, some high schools cannot afford to have proper care on site. They lack trained professionals, training rooms, and proper equipment to deal with injuries that require more than band aids and an on-the-fly tape job.
On top of these injuries, some parents do not have the resources or time to take injured teens to medical appointments, causing the athletes to hide injuries in fear of being benched until cleared by a physician. This creates a bigger problem, as some untreated injuries can grow into serious medical conditions.
Catherine Logan, M12, came up with an idea to eliminate this problem in at least one high school. Tufts doctors and students have teamed up with Cathedral High School in Boston, to not only provide medical expertise when injuries occur, but to educate athletes, coaches, and parents alike about injuries, proper nutrition, and provide a sports physical night in the gym for athletes to come get a full check up free of charge.
Improved safety is the number one goal of this program. Pulling together resources and generous donations, the Tufts' medical students and Cathedral High’s athletic director were able to put together a small training room that included three training tables and proper supplies to deal with injuries.
The athletes are able to feel safer on the field knowing there is someone there if an injury occurs and not being afraid to come forward with an injury. Some express disbelief at how well the new Tufts staff were able to tape an ankle without it being too tight to run or unraveling mid game.
When asked if it was reassuring to look over at the sideline and see someone from Tufts' there, sophomore football player Sage Philippe gave a simple, direct answer, “Tsss, definitely.”
Along with what they hope to be an augural event of the sports physical night, Tufts has also opened a free walk-in clinic on Thursday afternoons at the school. Athletes can come in for medical attention to an injury, to get an ankle wrapped, or to have someone to talk to about personal sports questions and concerns.
While injury prevention and improved medical attention are at the forefront of this program, the new partnership between Tufts School of Medicine and Cathedral High School is so much more than medical care.
Cathedral High School student population is made up of 98 percent minority students, with 90 percent of students living at or below the poverty line. They are not use to having such resources at their fingertips.
This program provides the athletes with the individual attention that they need. When an injury occurs, not only may the coach not know how to deal with such an injury, they do not have the time, as they have 30 other kids to be coaching and looking after.
When a Tufts medical student or doctor is able to come in to the gym, or on to the field and address each athlete by name and ask how they are doing, it gives the athletes comfort and a piece of mind that someone is there to look out for them.
The staff travels on the bus with the teens to their games; they sit on the sidelines and cheer for them, and most importantly tend to any injury that happens promptly and with proper procedure. As three-sport athlete Nicole Webb puts it, “they really care.”