For those who work in sports medicine at Crawford County Sports Medicine-Meadville Medical Center (MMC), it’s all about student-athletes.
MMC has been dedicated to sports medicine in local high schools for over 20 years.
Recently, the hospital and Allegheny College announced a significant expansion of the health system’s sports medicine program, as it will now provide athletic training services to the college. The partnership began a few weeks ago with the start of practices for the fall sports season.
MMC Sports Medicine at Allegheny College will be led by Christopher Rial, team physician, and Michael D. Carr, director of sports medicine, and staffed with a team of athletic trainers.
“The success of our program for over 20 years and the commitment to excellence of all staff during that time has brought about the partnership with Allegheny, and we have resources in place to continue this commitment and be a presence in and for our community and Allegheny,” Carr said.
Allegheny has approximately 500 student-athletes competing in 23 collegiate sports.
Bill Ross, athletic director at the college, said they were excited to start the relationship.
“The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our number one priority,” he said. “With the resources and expertise offered by MMC Sports Medicine, we have strengthened this commitment. I want to thank everyone at MMC Sports Medicine for working with us to provide our student-athletes with a top-notch experience.
MMC began providing outreach sports training services to local high schools in the 1998-99 school year, quickly becoming one of the region’s leaders in sports medicine, under the leadership of Vincent Paczkoskie Jr. and Carr. Paczkoskie is a board-certified, fellowship-trained sports and upper limb physician at Orthopedic Associates of Meadville (OAM). He joined the sports medicine program in 2000.
Paczkoskie and Carr get a little nostalgic when they talk about the history of their collaboration in the sports medicine program.
The 1998-1999 school year was the first year that MMC had its sports medicine program in schools.
The hospital contacted Carr in the summer of 1997 after an injury had occurred at one of the secondary schools during a Christmas tournament the previous year. He wanted to provide a place to treat injured athletes, Carr said.
Carr developed the sports medicine program from the summer of 1997 through the fall of 1998, and MMC launched it in the schools.
Paczkoskie joined the program in 2000. He is medical director of sports medicine for MMC and OAM.
“It’s a program to be able to provide care for area athletes from grade seven through college, so they don’t have to travel to other places to get peak care,” said he declared.
The sports medicine program provided local resources to local athletes and their families.
“The premise was to be able to provide injured athletes and their families with a sport-focused assessment,” Carr said.
MMC Sports Medicine began with six schools participating in the basement of the Liberty Street facility, then progressed to the Grove Street facility, then to Vernon Square. The program soon outgrew this site and moved to Vernon Place. MMC Sports Medicine now serves 10 high schools in seven school districts, as well as Allegheny College.
“We created what we felt was a seamless approach to all aspects of injury and recovery,” Carr said.
This seamless approach includes injury recognition, assessment, management, rehabilitation and reconditioning. Once the student-athlete has completed the reconditioning and recovery portion, they return to the athletic trainers to resume play.
Carr said the goal of the MMC Sports Medicine program is “to have a positive impact on the athlete’s life beyond just the playing field.”
Paczkoskie said athletic trainers and athletic first aiders provide excellent care.
“We also provide care through general surgery and obstetrics/gynecology to female athletes when needed,” he said. “We have resources in place for any type of injury that does occur.”
Other resources for student-athletes include orthopedics, neurology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, close collaboration with the family doctor, and the Vernon Rehabilitation Center which offers swimming pools and an anti-gravity treadmill.
“It’s wonderful that the doctors here care enough about the kids to open early. We just have to make a phone call to get them in,” Paczkoskie said.
Carr said they brought the same consistent, high-quality care and approach to student-athletes at Allegheny College.
“Based on the success and reputation of the program, we have attracted athletes from northwestern Pennsylvania and surrounding areas to come for treatment,” he said.
Also, the program has an addition to its staff. Dr. James Nemunaitus, a fellow-trained sports medicine physician, joined the OAM in mid-August.
“We’ve created the opportunity to see more kids quickly and to have more qualified and trained orthopedic doctors here to be able to deliver the level of excellence that we’ve developed,” Carr said.
Allegheny often uses MMC for orthopedic care.
“We brought them the whole approach of using athletic trainers there as well,” Carr said.
Nine athletic trainers have approximately 75 years of experience on the high school side and 40 years on the college side.
Sports coaches who were in Allegheny before the partnership were retained.
The oldest sports coach is Bry O’Brien. She has been employed by MMC for 17 years and is the athletic trainer at Conneaut Area Senior High.
O’Brien thinks the partnership between MMC and Allegheny is a good move.
“It’s something that brings the community together,” she says. “There was a little disconnect between the college and the community. It’s a good way to bring these two entities together.