The Duke University Hospital has started Friday night clinics for high school football players who are injured on Friday nights and need immediate assistance.
Dr. Tracy Ray, an orthopedist at the hospital, and Alanna Baker, staff physical therapist and athletic trainer, are spearheading the new clinics for nine high schools in the greater Durham area. The clinics began in mid-August and so far are averaging two or three athletes per week.
“It used to be that there was only one place where Durham high school athletes could go on Friday nights at the completion of a game, and that was the emergency room,” Ray said.
The emergency room is often crowded and these injuries frequently need immediate attention, but were not the level of attention that the emergency room gives, Ray said.
Ray said the goal of starting the Friday night clinics was two-fold: to de-clutter the emergency room and to provide VIP-type service to high school athletes.
The clinic—staffed each Friday night with a different person from the hospital trained as a physical therapist and athletic trainer—has seen mostly fractures, strains and sprains so far, said Baker.
“Time is important with orthopedic injuries,” said Chris Kennedy, senior deputy director of athletics.
Baker said that the clinic focuses on high school football players because of the high-contact nature of the sport. Whereas athletes with injuries from other sports might be able to see a doctor the next day, football injuries often need to be dealt with right away.
“Mostly these are injuries that need X-rays and may later need an MRI, so we can get the ball rolling on that,” Baker said.
To come to the Friday night clinic, athletes must be football players from one of the nine high schools or somehow affiliated with the football team—Ray said the clinic is willing to work with cheerleaders and band-members.
“We’re not a walk-in clinic, and we’re not for the community at large,” Ray said.
Though the clinic is not there to serve the Duke athletics community, it can do so if need be, Ray said.
Duke student athletes have had a Friday night clinic available for years.
“The [new] program is great because it extends the availability of treatment that Duke kids already had to the high school kids with whom our orthopedists already work,” Kennedy said.
Such a clinic has existed on Saturdays for the athletes from these nine ‘outreach’ high schools for the past ten years, said Dr. Dean Taylor, professor of surgery in the Division of Orthopedic Surgery.
The difference is that athletes no longer have to wait until Saturday and can come in directly after their Friday night games and see orthopedists and physical therapists.
Baker said that the clinics have seen participation from all of the schools and seem well-received by both athletes and parents.
The hospital’s orthopedic fellows are also benefitting from the clinics because they have a place to practice working with athletes, said Taylor.
Coaches are becoming aware that they can get a quick answer about the likelihood of surgery versus needing rehabilitation versus being able to play right away, said Ray.
Although Ray and Baker have no plans to extend the Friday night clinic to the winter and spring athletic seasons, they expect the clinic will grow in popularity until it ends at the time of football playoffs, which is the first week in November.
“I think we’ll see steady increase throughout the season, and then next year we’ll crank it up,” Ray said.