Scoring with injury prevention

Injuries sustained on the high school sports field can often leave young athletes carrying around the after-effects for the rest of their lives.

The medical team behind a new program at USF, intended to spread knowledge of injury prevention to Hillsborough high school coaches, hopes to reduce the frequency of such injuries.

USF already has a sports clinic for student athletes. However, the staff is beginning to branch out to work with youth and recreational athletes in the surrounding area. At the forefront of the community outreach is Eric Coris, a physician who works at the sports clinic and will be teaching the program’s first sports-injury prevention class July 26.

“We’re expanding on things we’ve had,” Coris said. “The sports medicine clinic has been around for a few years, but we’re expanding it and adding people, making it more available to the community and more recreational athletes, as well as more collegiate athletes.”

While the primary focus of the training is injury prevention, the clinic will also offer advice on dealing with heart-related problems, the number-one cause of death in sport-related incidents. Coris said the clinic has conducted studies on automatic defibrillators.

“The preparedness course, paramedics, CPR and automatic defibrillators can mean the difference between life and death,” Coris said. “The most common injuries are sprains and strains of ligaments and we spend a lot of time on how to deal with those.”

The program, known as Prepare, is being offered by the Sports Medicine Institute, a collaboration between the Health Sciences Center and medical staff from the Athletics Department and the School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies.

Coris believes that this type of outreach will help to spread the word on how USF can help people who aren’t usually associated with the University. Coris said in addition to high schools he hopes to get involved with YMCAs, Parks and Recreational Services and even the Police Athletic League.

Vernon Korhn, director of Athletics for the Hillsborough County school district said he saw a presentation about Prepare at a 2005 NFL conference that deals with youth through high school football.

“We’ve had classes through Health Services: First Aid and CPR training,” Korhn said. “We believe the Prepare course is excellent. We’re thrilled that USF is offering it.”

With coaches primarily responding to injuries at team practices, Korhn believes it is an important class for them. The training the program will offer deals with preparation and prevention skills tailored specifically to sports.

Korhn said he is informing high school coaches of the class, but with the large number of coaches at each school, he is hoping that one or two coaches from each school will attend and pass on what they have learned to their colleagues. There will also be an Internet course that he hopes coaches will take advantage of.

“We’re trying to get all of our coaches to go,” Korhn said. “We have anywhere between 24-30 coaches in each of our high schools. It is going to be a communication issue.”

In addition to community outreach, the Sports Medicine Institute is conducting research into a number of sports-related health topics.

“A lot of the research we’re doing is to help Tampa, and on a larger scale, the nation,” Coris said. “We’re working on studying heat illness and we’re working with female athletes on bone changes and menstrual changes. We’re also working with female athletes to study eating disorders.”

As August approaches, the subject of heat illness carries more weight for all athletes. Coris believes that it is an important issue to cover, especially in Florida.

“(Heat illness is an issue) anywhere it’s hot, particularly with humidity,” Coris said. “It is hard for athletes in preseason August to get rid of heat they (produce) in exercise.”

Whether with outreach or research that leads to new ways to deal with problems, Coris believes that he is helping people by improving the way injuries are dealt with where they occur.

“Most importantly, (the coaches) get some peace of mind knowing that they’re ready if something does happen on the field,” Coris said. “Often in an emergency, the reaction time means the difference between life or death, or at least disability. Ideally, we’d get to the point where every coach would need to be certified in some kind of injury prevention program. A lot of that just depends on how we can reach people.”