SPORTS MEDICINE AT ITS BEST: Athletic Trainers, Surgeons partner with Tri-Valley High Schools

A group of Certified Athletic Trainers and surgeons has teamed up with Tri-Valley high schools to assure athletes have the same level of quality medical care, both preventive and surgical, as that provided to professional athletes.

In a special arrangement with Amador, Foothill and Dublin high schools, Tri-Valley Orthopedic Specialists of Pleasanton (TVO) provides each school with a Certified Athletic Trainer, health care professionals who work with athletes and coaches in all sports to focus on preventing injury and providing the first level of care when injuries take place, whether in practice or during regulation play.  Each school also has a TVO Team Physician who works in tandem with the Certified Athletic Trainer to tend to any injuries that take place during Varsity Football games.  When injuries occur, TVO provides sports medicine services designed to return the athlete to sports as quickly and safely as possible.

“This ‘rapid care’ approach is sports medicine at its best,” declares Kambiz Behzadi, M.D., a TVO surgeon who tends to athletes’ knee and shoulder injuries.  “We don’t want the athlete to be out for the season; we want them to return to their sport safely and quickly, whether it is through physical therapy alone, or surgery and rehabilitation.”

The athletic trainers work in collaboration with Athletic Directors and Coaches to prepare the athletes for playing sports.  They are in their training room each day to provide preventive taping, facilitating rehabilitation programs, evaluating injuries, and practice or game coverage.

“We are committed to the care of the student athletes as the primary link between our TVO surgeons and the athlete,” says Diana Hasenpflug, the Certified Athletic Trainer at Amador High School.  “It’s all about the athletes.  The best thing is seeing how hard they work; no one is more committed than the student athlete.”

In her role focusing on prevention and care, Hasenpflug understands her job is to prevent injuries; however, when injuries occur the “full circle of care” is provided by the Certified Athletic Trainer and the TVO surgeons.  As the Certified Athletic Trainer, she is first on the scene when injuries occur to provide an evaluation, injury assessment, an initial assessment, and a form of treatment.  Using varsity football as an example, if the injury is severe enough and the athlete needs to visit an Emergency Room, a follow-up is provided by TVO surgeons.

If surgery is required, TVO surgeons perform the required treatment to return the athlete to full participation in his or her sport.

“I love working with energetic people, and these athletes are certainly that,” says Elicia Jacobs, the Certified Athletic Trainer at Foothill High School.  “I get re-energized by them.”

“We love her, she’s awesome,” says John Mannion, Athletic Director and co-head Football Coach at Foothill High School.  “She’s a professional and a great asset to our athletic program.  All the coaches are trained in First Aid and CPR, but her training is light years beyond what we know, what we can do.  This is reassuring to us.  She works well with all of the athletes and they look up to her.  Elicia has great rapport with the kids.”

“As coach, there are so many things to take care of,” Mannion continues.  “With Elicia, we don’t need to worry about tapings, treatments and other things.  She’s right there.  If there’s a problem on the tennis court, we call Elicia on her cell phone and she’s there in minutes.  If there’s a sprain in practice, she can take the student to the locker room and call the parents.  With her there, you know great care will be provided.”

Amy Lopez is the Certified Athletic Trainer at Dublin High School, where Athletic Director Shawn McHugh notes that safety is Job One.  “With her presence on campus and at home events, it frees up our coaches to really coach.  We have the confidence and trust that our athletes are being treated and they are safe in case of a major injury.  The students really trust her knowledge and expertise.  Amy brings a sense of safety to our program, which is appreciated both by coaches and by parents.”

Notes McHugh, “This program is largely a community service from TVO, as the cost does not come close to the benefits realized.”

All three trainers point to Lacrosse as a high risk sport, which they call “football with sticks.”  A case in point took place on April 21 at Dublin High School when an athlete broke his tibia and fibula on his right leg and wound up in the emergency room, followed by admission to the hospital.  Surgery was imminent.

Ray Champlin, the Varsity Lacrosse coach said, “What a great trainer we have in Amy Lopez.  Her calm demeanor and total command of the situation was impressive.  No only was she reassuring to the athlete, she engaged the student trainers by explaining how she was treating the injury.  It would have been easy to remove any and all distractions and focus on the patient, but Amy’s exceptional leadership, skill and knowledge were truly impressive.  We can’t thank her enough.”

There is an internal reward to being a Certified Athletic Trainer, working with high school athletes.  “We hear ‘thank you,’ not just from the athletes, but also from their parents and the coaches,” says Diana Hasenpflug.  “We’re a critical member of the team.  We spend more time with the athletes than our own families. They are a part of our everyday life as we are of their everyday life.”

Sports medicine needs people who really understand what sports medicine is, says Mari Cyphers, TVO’s chief operating officer.  “TVO is a real sports medicine program with the full continuum of care – from prevention to diagnosis to surgery and rehabilitation.  We’re committed to the athlete and to the community.  We get instantaneous feedback from the parents.  Our goal is healthy kids.”

“TVO physicians and surgeons are committed to science and to the developing science of sports medicine,” says Dr. Behzadi, a sports medicine fellow who specializes in minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgery.  “Treatments change and we must keep up with new and evolutionary surgery, such as the Double Bundle ACL, which is what Tiger Woods received for his knee.  I perform that surgery at TVO.”

“We treat the high school athlete as we would any professional athlete,” Dr. Behzadi states.  “We provide rapid diagnosis and a cascade of care that is dedicated to treating injuries and returning athletes to their sports as quickly and safely as we can.  Our Mission is quality care.  And as TVO Certified Athletic Trainers and surgeons, we’re proud of our partnership with Tri-Valley high school sports.  We look forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come.”

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