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From training camps to two-a-day practices and conditioning drills, high school athletes spend countless hours preparing for the big moments – the touchdown, the winning serve, the game-changing steal. Parents, coaches and school administrators know that these big moments depend on the many little moments spent taking care of these young competitors every day. In Johnson County, Kansas, the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission school districts recently teamed with the Sports Medicine & Performance Center at The University of Kansas Hospital to keep players healthier on and off the field.

Partners in care
These partnerships are part of an innovative program that closely links area high schools with the hospital’s sports medicine program. The hospital has similar partnerships with the De Soto School District, Lansing School District and St. James Academy.

Partner schools have access to a wide range of healthcare services for students and student athletes. A unique feature of the program, the hospital provides a full-time, licensed athletic trainer at each of the 14 schools in partnering districts.

“The wellbeing of our students and student athletes is a top priority,” said Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson, PhD. “The comprehensive resources provided through this partnership will play a vital role in ensuring students are safe and healthy.”

Building a roster of healthy athletes
Through the partnership, athletic trainers collaborate with school nurses and coaches and attend many practices and games. They take care of injuries and counsel students about healthy lifestyles, injury prevention and even sports medicine research and careers.

“These athletic trainers are an important link between the care provider and the student athlete,” said Doug Wiesner, sports medicine program director. “They have the background and expertise to evaluate and treat basic injuries, but they are also immersed in the daily activities of these athletes and really have an understanding of their habits and fitness levels.”

If an athlete is injured, the trainers can set up an appointment with a specialist at the Sports Medicine & Performance Center within 48 hours. Here, patients have access to a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic surgeons, pediatricians and family practice physicians, sports medicine physicians and an array of specialists. They also have easy access to diagnostic imaging, nonsurgical and surgical care, concussion evaluation and management, rehabilitation and follow-up care.

“Our goal is to catch problems early, treat them and make sure athletes are ready to return to the game,” said David Smith, MD, primary care specialist with the center. “We also make sure they have a good understanding of how to play safely without losing their competitive edge.”

Through the partnership, parents and coaches can rest assured that their student athletes are taking the right steps to play at their best, noted Lane Green, athletic director for Blue Valley Schools.

“This partnership plays an essential role in helping us provide our students with safe, education-based athletic and activities programs,” Green said. “With students participating in more than 20 sports activities, it is imperative that we have certified athletic trainers who can provide cutting-edge, comprehensive care for all types of injuries.”

Sharpening the competitive edge
Student athletes can learn more about what it means to be healthy competitors, thanks to the partnership, noted Bruce Toby, MD, orthopedic surgery chair and medical director of the Sports Medicine & Performance Center.

“Our athletic trainers and physicians emphasize complete fitness – not just rehabilitation from a specific sports injury,” he said. “We want to see these young people develop excellent health habits that they will follow for the rest of their lives.”

Promoting good habits extends to parents and coaches. The sports medicine team presents educational programming on the latest sports medicine topics for athletes, parents and school professionals.

Expert care for athletes
Young athletes also benefit from expertise when it comes to treatments and therapies. As an academic medical center, The University of Kansas Hospital offers specialists with experience treating some of the most complex injuries and illnesses.  And as the official healthcare provider for professional teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals, this experience is proven at the highest levels of competition.

“We’ve created a network of physicians and other care providers who are experts in athletic healthcare,” said Charles Rozanski, executive director of sports medicine. “These partnerships bring this expertise to young athletes in our community.”

New clinic offers sports performance therapy
Athletes now have access to a network of physical therapy resources to help them safely return to play after an injury. A sports performance therapy clinic, powered by D1 Sports Training and the Sports Medicine & Performance Center at The University of Kansas Hospital, is now open at KU MedWest in Shawnee, Kansas.

The clinic offers specialized physical therapy and training to athletes recovering from surgery or other invasive procedures.

“After an injury, it takes time to recover to the point where you are ready to play at a competitive level again,” said Martin Dolphino, DPT, director of the D1 clinic. “Sports performance therapy bridges the gap between the end of traditional physical therapy and an athlete’s return to serious play.”

Nationwide, around 35 D1 clinics serve competitive athletes, offering training, therapy and expert coaching in state-of-the-art clinic settings. By teaming with D1, the hospital is able to incorporate elements of the D1 training program, including programs and other professional-level resources used in D1 clinics across the nation.

The leading-edge clinic features a modern physical therapy gym, vestibular and occupational therapy resources, a comfortable waiting area and convenient parking and patient access.

Support sports medicine
To make a contribution to support the Sports Medicine & Performance Center, call Hospital Fund Development at 913-588-2800.

For more sports medicine articles and information on the Sports Medicine & Performance Center at the University of Kansas Hospital, go to or follow @KUSportsMed1 on twitter.