More than 7,500 high school athletes ran, jumped, tackled and threw a little safer this year, thanks to a new community education and outreach program run by USC’s Center for Athletic Medicine at University Hospital.
Called “Excellence in Athletics,” the $350,000-a-year program is designed to enhance student safety by providing extra training for coaches, medical coverage and health screenings for athletes, access to athletic trainers and around-the-clock medical care through the USC Care Medical Group.
Brian Chavarin, director of sports medicine, says that education of coaches and students is key because “the more educated people are, the less athletes will get injured.”
He says USC began the program in July 1997 after surveying local high school sports and finding “there was no consistency in terms of training, medical coverage or equipment that they provided for students. Our idea was to provide a safety net to reduce school’s liability and increase safety.”
To that end, Excellence in Athletics provides 16 local schools with an athletic trainer for 10 hours a week. The program also subsidizes medical insurance for students so that campuses that might otherwise be forced to cancel or curtail programs for budgetary reasons need to pay only $5 per student.
“The response has been tremendous. A lot of athletic directors and school district directors can’t believe we’re doing this. They always wonder, ‘What’s the catch?’ But there isn’t one. We have the knowledge and the skills they need and we want to provide that for them,” Chavarin says.
The effort is part of a larger community outreach program run by the Center for Athletic Medicine that includes seminars and informational booths at the Los Angeles Marathon and other athletic events on the subject of injury prevention and strengthening for athletes.
Prevention seminars include tips and video presentations for skiers that show them how to protect themselves. For example, skiers learn to fall sideways instead of backwards to avoid damaging ligaments in the knee.
The presentations also emphasize that good equipment and proper training are crucial to staying healthy on the slopes, says James Tibone, professor of orthopaedics.
Tibone said that the outreach program is designed to broaden community awareness of the three-year-old center, as well as help people stay fit.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that we have a center here. When they find out, they’re usually pretty surprised, because they often have a misconception that we only deal with patients from LAC+USC Medical Center,” Tibone says.
The center’s outreach programs therefore aims to insure that people don’t get injured in the first place, but also let people know where they can turn for the top quality care when they do suffer a sports injury, he says.