5 Best Practices for Community Outreach in Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Practices

Orthopedic Sports Medicine

As sports medicine becomes increasingly popular, more orthopedic practices and hospitals are creating separate sports medicine programs to treat young athletes and adults with an active lifestyle. Sports medicine physicians and practices must have a significant presence within the community in order to remain competitive. Leading sports medicine physicians discuss five best practices for sports medicine community outreach.

1. Send athletic trainers to local high schools.
A representative onsite at the high schools can increase the practices visibility among the athletes. Athletic trainers should be available at high school practices two or three times a week in order to examine injuries as they occur or the trainers can advise athletes on treatment for recurring pain. The trainer acts as a liaison between the coaches and the physician. If the athletes are familiar and comfortable with the athletic trainer, they will be more likely to visit the trainer's practice for serious injury treatment.

"Having an athletic trainer at the schools gets the practice name and group out there," says David Geier Jr., MD, director of MUSC Sports Medicine in Charleston, S.C. "The trainer is the first person the parents come in contact with after the injury."

2. Stand on the sidelines.
When a sports medicine practice is affiliated with a high school athletic department or team, the practice should send a physician to stand on the sidelines at each game. Sideline physicians evaluate and treat game-day injuries for the athlete as well as advise the coaches as to whether an athlete should return to play after an injury. Standing on the sidelines also creates additional exposure for the physician because sporting events are attended by team parents and the greater community.

3. Attend team/parent meetings.
Most high school teams have preseason players and parents meetings in order to discuss team requirements, goals and schedules. Send a physician to both meetings as a contact point for parents and players so the athletes have practice contact information when injures occur. "Showing up at these meetings reassures the parents their kid will be looked at and not be forgotten," says Joshua A. Siegel, MD, director of sports medicine at Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics in Exeter, NH. Physicians can also arrange to give a short presentation about injury prevention and treatment at the meetings.

"When people see you give a talk, they don't need your services right away, but when the injury happens they will remember you," says Dr. Geier.

4. Host programs for coaches. In many communities, coaches for youth sports are often parent volunteers and school team coaches are teachers or administrators. While these coaches may mean well and are knowledgeable about the sport, they often are unfamiliar with the early signs of overuse or the best techniques in injury prevention. Sports medicine physicians can lead programs or seminars in order to impart this information to coaches at all levels. Programs should have specific topics, such as concussion awareness, proper use of plyometrics or early signs of overuse in pitchers.

"Each sport has its own risks and injuries," says Peter J. Millett, MD, M.sc., a partner at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. "In baseball, the star pitcher gets used more than they should because the team wants to win. A dancer might receive a stress fracture from practicing too much. If we can understand what causes the different types of injuries we can understand what has to be done in order to prevent the injuries."

5. Offer preseason physicals. If physicians can identify physical deformities or the potential for overuse injuries, they can create an individual workout plan for an athlete based on the athlete's condition. This includes providing advice for appropriate conditioning and exercise techniques for someone with flatfoot deformity, identifying the right sized equipment for each athlete and instructing left-handed pitchers about preserving their arm, as the natural deliver of many left-handed pitchers incurs increased stress on the rotator cuff. Many states require this type of preseason physical; an orthopedic or sports medicine practice can achieve an edge over other practices by offering a "free" preseason clinic day for young athletes. While the initial physical is free, the athletes establish a relationship with practice physicians for the future.

Additionally, many orthopedic and sports medicine practices hold "sports injury" clinics during the fall in order to accommodate young athletes playing games on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. These clinics usually include a physician and nurse as well as imaging staff in order to correctly diagnose and treat the athlete's injury. Having convenient hours for young athletes is important for every sports medicine practice.

Read other coverage on sports medicine practices:

- Treating Young Athletes: Q&A With Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Patrick Wupperman

- Trends in Sports Medicine: Q&A With AOSSM President Dr. Robert Stanton

- 4 Ways to Improve Profits at Sports Medicine Practices

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