Clinic focuses on treating student-athletes’ ailments

Athletes can go to a dedicated facility for medical treatment of many ailments.

by Lora Pabst

Student-athletes get colds, earaches and ingrown toenails just like the general student population does, but they don’t have to stumble to Boynton Health Service in a cough-syrup haze.

They can go to an exclusive clinic in the Bierman athletics complex.

In July 2004, the athletics department contracted with the University of Minnesota Physicians to provide health care for student-athletes. Previous contracts were held with Boynton Health Service.

As part of this agreement, the physicians group set up an exam room in the athletic training area in Bierman, said Liz Eull, chief financial officer for athletics.

Moira Novak, director of athletics medicine, said student-athletes benefit because they can see an orthopedic physician or family medicine physician right at Bierman during designated morning or afternoon hours.

“One of the things that we think is a nice service to offer the student-athletes is a more efficient access to physician care,” she said. “We can avoid a lot of emergency room trips.”

Novak said it is important for trainers to maintain communication with physicians. Having the facility close to the athletic building allows physicians to work closely with the sports teams.

“We’re able to control most things about the care student-athletes get,” Novak said.

Lisa Eimer, a sophomore on the track and field team, uses the facility to ice sore spots every day after practice. If she had a cold or fever, she would see the physicians at Bierman.

“I’m here anyway,” she said.

Novak said student-athletes come into the facility for sports- and non-sports-related injuries or illnesses.

Eimer said, “A general student that gets strep throat can lounge around in bed for a couple of days; we don’t necessarily have that luxury.”

Eull said the athletics department did not have to pay for setting up the exam room or equipment. The only cost is physician time.

Initially, the athletics department was supposed to pay $112,000 for physician time, but health insurance helps cover the costs. Eull said she doesn’t know how much insurance will cover, however, she expects the University won’t have to pay more than half of the original estimate.

The arrangement doesn’t benefit only student-athletes. It also provides educational experience for the next generation of sports physicians.

Through a Hennepin County Medical Center fellowship the University is involved with, physicians interested in sports medicine can participate in a year-long program working with athletes, said Dr. Rob Johnson, director of the primary care sports medicine fellowship and University associate professor in family medicine and community health.

This year there are four doctors in the program. They will work with various high school and college athletics programs to gain experience. The Bierman complex is one of the locations for their training.

“They get an opportunity to work with high school athletes and college athletes,” Johnson said. “Each one has a different flavor. The broader the range of experience, the better it is for their training.”

Doctors in the fellowship program are also at the clinic during afternoon hours to treat injuries that occur during afternoon practices, Novak said.

Cole Konrad, a junior on the wrestling team, uses the facility for rehabilitation.

“When I messed up my back, I saw (the physicians),” he said.