Summer prep for Friday Night injury clinic at UMMC means quick care in fall
The sound of helmets and pads after school in a sweltering stew of August heat can only mean one thing – it’s high school football time in central Mississippi.
It’s also preseason for the rapid-response team of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care specialists at UMMC’s Friday Night injury Clinic, who help keep area high school football players healthy and hydrated in preparation for the season.
“UMMC sports medicine has athletic trainers on site at the local high schools and have worked with the kids all summer,” said Dr. Derrick Burgess, assistant professor in Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation. “They’re treating injured athletes and are there for preseason practices to watch for heat exhaustion. They get to know the athletes well during this time. It allows us to treat them better if and when they are injured.”
For more than 15 years, UMMC has offered the Friday night clinic for high school football players during and after games when injuries happen. All ranges of injuries, from sprained knees to potentially dangerous impacts to the head and neck, can be addressed in minutes instead of days. Players can be X-rayed and, if needed, receive bracing at the appropriate UMMC facility, including University Physicians Pavilion, where players are checked in, and, when appropriate, the Emergency Department.
“The most important thing this clinic gives to athletes and parents is immediate access to care,” Burgess said. “If a player is injured in the second or third quarter, then they’re seeing us in an hour’s time. We’re able to make a diagnosis within hours of the injury and get treatment started, no matter the scope of the injury, and get them back to playing as soon as possible.”
UMMC staffs football games for six metro Jackson schools with certified athletic trainers. During the football season, the clinic operates from 9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but if possible, parents and athletic trainers are asked to call ahead at 601-815-4721. Players from outside metro Jackson can also call ahead about arriving by 11:30 and staff will wait for them.
The sports medicine team also works with athletic trainers at the high schools to ensure protocols are followed so injured players can return to the field quickly but safely, depending on the specific injury. Those specialists meet during the summer months to have, in essence, a continuing education session to prepare for when the games count in the standings and injuries become likely.
“We talk about heat-related illnesses and recognizing possible cervical spine injuries and concussions,” said Jeff Martinez, supervisor or UMMC Sports Medicine. “Then, as practices start up just before the season, three athletic trainers stand in on teams’ morning and afternoon workouts.”
Clinic staff must keep a watch on heat-related issues as the season begins even when the sun goes down, as temperatures often stay in the 80s past dusk.
“We will see signs of heat-related items like cramping of muscles, most often,” Martinez said. “We have a cold tub available, in case of it. We know if an athlete’s temperature is running 105 degrees on the field, the best treatment isn’t to quickly put them into the ambulance, but to be placed in a cold-water immersion tub. It prevents organ failure and even death. We also know to treat possible spine injuries that might show mild symptoms at first. We’re there a few hours beforehand to do protective padding, taping and bracing so we can better treat them on the field.”
The ultimate winner from the prompt attention the clinic provides for student-athletes on the gridiron is the community itself, including parents and coaches.
“Parents are more aware of sports injuries now,” Martinez said. “The sooner you’re able to start treating it, the better. Even with ankle sprains, a sports PT can go over basic at-home exercises to deal with them. MRIs can be scheduled by the next Tuesday.”
All the preparation during the summer months from clinicians means high school football fans can cheer a bit louder for their teams once jamborees and district games begin.
“Athletes want to return to the field as soon as possible after injuries, and the coaches want them back, too,” Burgess said. “So, with us starting treatment immediately, everyone benefits.”