Sports Medicine Center Planned

December 1, 1996

Judith Zwolak

Greg Stewart already has a slogan for the medical center's new Institute of Sports Medicine: "We take care of the athlete in everyone." The sports medicine institute, planned to open in the spring of 1998 in the Reily Student Recreation Center on the uptown campus, will cater to "not just high school, college and professional athletes, but also the recreational athlete--the weekend warrior type," says Stewart, associate professor of orthopedics and co-director of the center with Michael Brunet, professor of orthopedics.

Eight years in the planning, the sports medicine center development was finalized with an agreement to fund its construction from Columbia/HCA, the national company that owns Tulane University Hospital and Clinic in partnership with the university. Design and construction cost estimates are approximately $2.8 million, Stewart says. "The understanding is that we'll pay their money back plus a return on investment," he says, adding that the center's staff expects to see between 7,500 and 10,000 patients per year.

The center will occupy and expand the area vacated by the medical center's uptown clinic, now located in Uptown Square. "We're excited about being on the uptown campus," Stewart says. "Here, we can tie in with the athletic department and its athletic experts such as strength coaches. We'll also work with the exercise science department, the engineering department and anyone else who wants to work with us. We really want to bring in educational and research aspects to the clinic."

According to Stewart, the 15,000-square-foot center won't look like the average medical clinic. In addition to examination rooms and an X-ray area, the center will feature a physical therapy area with a custom aquatic therapy pool and a human performance lab with motion analysis equipment. "One of the things that will set this clinic apart is our quarter-of-a-million-dollar human performance lab that can perform biomechanical evaluations," he says.

A golfer trying to correct a tendency to slice or a baseball pitcher with a sore elbow may use the lab to evaluate and correct their movements, Stewart says. In the lab, tiny balls placed on the athlete's joints reflect into a camera connected to a computer. The computer generates a three-dimensional image that allows clinicians to measure biomechanical elements. "You can see the benefit to pitchers, golfers, tennis players and all sorts of athletes," Stewart says.

Enhancing athletic performance will play an important part in the work of the center. "The center is not just an athletic trauma clinic, where athletes go when they get hurt," Stewart says. "We'll have a team of specialists--nutritionists, sports psychologists, trainers and therapists--that can address the whole health of athletes." Tulane orthopedists already have a large client base of area athletes at their downtown campus and satellite campus clinics.

"In addition to the 300 athletes at Tulane, we take care of a little more than half of the high schools in Orleans Parish," Stewart says. "We take care of all the schools in Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Charles Parish. Plus we have orthopedists on the North Shore and Slidell who take care of schools in that area--about 30 school altogether. We also take care of Dillard and Xavier and we have the Sugar Bowl and all Sugar Bowl-related activities."

The nearest comprehensive sports medicine centers are in Birmingham, Houston and San Antonio. Says Stewart: "We're hoping to become the true sports medicine center of excellence in the national Columbia/HCA system." Other goals of the center are to develop educational and internship programs for athletic, medical and allied health professionals, he says. Research projects, such as the orthopedics department's recent study of helmet use and neck injuries in high school football, will also play a part in the center. The uptown departments that will work with the center welcome their new neighbors.

"The clinic will offer great opportunities for our students," says Lance Green, director of the exercise science program, which is located in the Reily Center adjacent to the proposed clinic. An undergraduate program in University College, the exercise science program has 35 majors who study exercise physiology, biomechanics and sports psychology. "Our students will have the opportunity to use the clinic's lab, and our faculty and students will be able to work with them on research projects particularly related to performance enhancement," Green says. "We're also looking to develop graduate programs in areas such as exercise science, physical therapy and athletic training, and the new clinic could spark interest."

The exercise science program will also share its performance lab equipment--which measures physiological factors such as oxygen consumption and heart rate--with the new center. Sandy Barbour, athletic director, also looks forward to the new center.

"One benefit is that our student athletes will have access to one of the preeminent sports medicine facilities in the country," Barbour says. "The care they will get from the standpoint of treatment, prevention and biomechanical analysis will be state of the art." She also sees the clinic as an educational resource for the general student body. "This is a tremendous educational opportunity for any student on this campus interested in sports medicine," Barbour adds.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000