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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : sports : sports May 26, 2016

5/14/2013 1:11:00 PM
VVMC expanding HELPS, informing parents
Bringing in student-athletes from three high schools, offering speakers to educate parents, hopes to expand to prevention of injuries in future
A Mingus Union athlete participates in part of VVMCs HELPS program in 2012. The HELPS program is a comprehensive physical for student-athletes and administrators hope to expand it to prevention in the coming years. Photo courtesy of Starla Collins/VVMC
A Mingus Union athlete participates in part of VVMCs HELPS program in 2012. The HELPS program is a comprehensive physical for student-athletes and administrators hope to expand it to prevention in the coming years. Photo courtesy of Starla Collins/VVMC

Travis Guy
Sports Reporter

Physicals. A time honored tradition of student-athletes going to the doctors, having a limited array of tests done to get the okay for playing a sport.

While most physicals are to check that the student is healthy enough to play a sport, the Verde Valley Medical Center (VVMC) is taking it one step further, with its' HELPS (Healthy sports Enhancement through Learning, Prevention and Scholarships) program, bussing in student-athletes from Camp Verde, Mingus Union and Sedona Red Rock High Schools to perform a comprehensive physical and do some preventative checks as well.

"What we are trying to do is create a program that will help enhance and prevent injures throughout the Verde Valley," said director of the EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine Experts Paul Prefontaine. "We don't know where it's going to go, but this is the beginning, we're starting with the physicals. What we really [want] to do is get to the prevention area, the education stuff."

HELPS is entering its' second year and officials expect many more than the 200 students it helped last year and hope to eventually expand the program to include junior high students and clubs around Cottonwood and Camp Verde.

Not only are doctors and other employees from the VVMC lending their time, but also other members of the community; cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and many more, are lending their time to assist the VVMC and the students.

"One of the things we're trying to do with the foundation ... we said, 'we'll pay for the busses, we'll pay for the drivers,' because we want the kids to get the physicals," Prefontaine said. "Almost every doctor, we've got probably have 10 family doctors, we've got four orthopedic surgeons; they're all doing it in their free time. That's what the community is all about."

Some of the tests that will be offered are concussion screenings, cardiac checks (including EKG's if necessary), pulmonary and functional tests. The functional tests include testing athlete's shoulders and ACL's to check the wear-and-tear of students that use those joints more than others, like throwers and tennis players.

"We can potentially see some issues with the ACL's and give them exercise's to help them prevent that," Prefontaine said. "We can work with the coaches to help them focus on that, [give them] drills to help them prevent these problems."

Another test the VVMC is trying to do for everyone is the Impact screening. The test is a concussion test that will give the medical officials a baseline of where kids brain functions are, and if the student-athletes do get head trauma, they can retake the test to see the damage.

"[After the test] you have a baseline of where they are, so if they do get an issue or if something happens on the field, you can retest them to see where they should be compared to where they were," Prefontaine said. "Concussions are a big thing right now."

The main focus of the venture is the students, and making sure they are healthy, but the hospital is bringing in two speakers as well. They will have an area outside for parents to learn about proper nutrition, and a neurologist speaking about head trauma.

"The parents don't have to be here for the screenings ... but for those that want to be here to hear the presentations or need to be here, we have something for the parents as well," said Starla Collins. "Last year, we gave them a bottle of water and they had to roam, and stuff. We're going to have some educational tables in there."

Prefontaine has a vision for HELPS, expanding the program to hold summer camps that educate, offer scholarships for people that may not be able to afford the services and expand the program beyond high school into club sports around the Verde Valley.

"We're hoping that someone, somewhere will say, 'you know what, I believe in this program,' and give money to the HELPS program, and that will provide the funding for those people that can't pay," Collins said.

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