Sports Medicine vital for athletes

Garrick Hodge/MDN
Sports physicals are required before practicing or playing any North Dakota high school athletics. Sports medicine personnel play a large role for area athletes.

Garrick Hodge/MDN Sports physicals are required before practicing or playing any North Dakota high school athletics. Sports medicine personnel play a large role for area athletes.

Watch any televised sporting event today and you’ll likely see many slow-motion replays of athletes colliding with each other, particularly if the contact is head-to-head. A common phrase in competitive athletics today is “concussion protocol.” It wasn’t always that way.

Robyn Gust, an 18-year veteran of Sport’s Medicine and manager of Trinity Health’s Sports Medicine Department, recalls when analyzing concussions was much different than what it is today.

“Concussions have gone a whole different realm than what it was 18 years ago,” said Gust. “We used to allow them to return the same day if symptoms went away. Obviously, we know now that wasn’t the right thing to do. Now we gradually return them to activities. We’re a lot more comprehensive with return.”

Never before has sports medicine provided such a vital role for athletes, not just for concussions but for preparation and, when necessary, injury rehabilitation. Coaches and athletes have come to rely on sports medicine personnel at workouts and on the sidelines.

“We’ve seen some drastic changes in my time here,” said Gust. “We’re providing more availability and more sports coverage, which is fantastic obviously.”

Trinity Sports Medicine has an increased presence at local schools compared to a few, short years ago. Today members of Gust’s staff can be found at Minot High School from noon to 6 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Minot State University. They have a daily presence at Minot High’s Central Campus, too. In the past they usually we’re available for only an hour a day at those schools.

“We provide significantly more service now,” explained Gust. “At Minot State University we have two office areas, one of which is shared with education staff. We do a lot of rehab there. We provide a lot more comprehensive care than we used to.”

The North Dakota High School Activities Association requires that all athletes undergo an annual physical examination before participating in any sports. The physicals must be done by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant under the supervision of a physician.

Sports Medicine professionals sometimes concentrate on preparing athletes for competition. Programs can be sport specific, such as one at Our Redeemer’s school to properly prepare volleyball athletes so they can compete in their best physical condition. Exercises are specifically designed to prepare athletes for body movements required in volleyball.

Working out correctly, proper stretching, diet and overall health issues all fall under the umbrella of sports medicine.

“We have good conversation with athletes,” said Gust. “We want to know what’s going on with the injury or illness.”

When an injury is determined to be more than just a sports medicine issue, athletes are referred to physicians for further evaluation and possible treatment. It is all part of keeping athletes on the court or on the field as much as safe practice permits.

“In the summer we focuses on injury prevention with a program we offer,” said Gust.

The program is FASTER, which stands for flexibility, agility, strength together equal ready. The program runs two to three days per week through various schools. One of the key components is a rigorous training regimen that lasts about 75 minutes per session. It is off-season preparation that can pay big dividends for competitive athletes.

“We work them hard and get a lot accomplished and then they go on about their day,” explained Gust.

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