High school football teams playing under Friday night lights often do so under the watchful eyes of orthopedic physicians from North Kansas City Hospital. Attend a football game at one of 10 area high schools and chances are an orthopedic specialist is on the sidelines in case of injury. On any Friday evening, high school coverage can include Liberty and Liberty North, Park Hill and Park Hill South, St. Pius, Fort Osage, Blue Springs and Blue Springs South, Smithville and Richmond.
Many of the physicians who provide coverage also played high school and often college sports. They experienced their share of injuries, so they understand the importance of accurate medical advice. Statistics show 3.5 million children younger than age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Steven Smith, MD, played four sports and began helping local teams as a physician in 2000. “I am passionate about sports and love helping athletes,” says Dr. Smith, whose father was a coach and athletic director. Dr. Smith, with Northland Bone and Joint, is active at the high school level and in various sports at Park University.
James Reardon, MD, who practices with Dr. Smith, is a veteran of the gridiron and started walking the sidelines 20 years ago. He remembers covering four high school games in one Friday evening.
“I lined up all the team colors in my car, so I would be sure to wear the right colors to the right game,” he laughs. Prior to working with local athletes, he treated players with the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets.
Physicians such as Alan Cornett, DO, (pictured left in photo above) realize the effect they have on local athletes. “As trained medical staff, we benefit the player and provide a service to the school by helping determine if a player can take the field,” explains Dr. Cornett, with Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc.
Team trainers and physicians often collaborate on these important decisions. “The trainers are integral to what we do,” notes Michael Justice, DO, (pictured right in photo above) with Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc. “They are the eyes on the ground and keep us informed.”
John Bleazard, DO, with Northland Bone and Joint, agrees that trainers and doctors on the sidelines mean a quicker diagnosis. “Concussions are an example. If we can quickly recognize the severity, then we can help transition them into an assessment system or obtain further diagnostic modalities to ensure their safety prior to returning to practice and game play.”
Players at the college and professional levels also need the support of physicians and trainers to keep their bodies performing at maximum efficiency. Gregory Barnhill, DO, with Orthopedic Surgeons, Inc., is the team doctor for the Missouri Comets—the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) champion—and FC Kansas City, the women’s championship team. He started playing soccer in 1985 and comments that, unlike professional athletes, amateur athletes are poorly conditioned but highly motivated. “Well-conditioned, strong athletes don’t get hurt, so I encourage athletes at all levels to work on coordination, conditioning and agility,” says Dr. Barnhill.