St. John's Hospital AthletiCare
April 08, 2014
St. John’s AthletiCare is celebrating
15 years of encouraging healthy competition, offering the
most comprehensive sports medicine and therapy program to individuals of
all ages in central Illinois.
By Sara Browning
It’s more than just sports medicine. For over a decade, St. John’s
Hospital’s AthletiCare program has been providing individuals with
sports training, physical and occupational therapy, fitness and
performance enhancement, injury prevention education, and rehabilitation
services all under the same roof. AthletiCare distinguishes itself from
traditional sports medicine programs, providing inpatient and
outpatient services for athletes as well as active individuals.
“It’s great for people to have the option of going to professionals who
specialize in sports medicine,” says Dr. Diane Hillard-Sembell, a
Springfield orthopedic knee and sports medicine specialist who serves as
medical director and is one of the founding physicians of AthletiCare.
“Most of the professionals who work in the AthletiCare program have been
athletes themselves. We work closely with family physicians. We
emphasize what our patients can do as athletes, rather than what they
cannot do, and we stress the importance of returning our patients to
normal function as quickly and as safely as possible.”
With a mission to enhance the health and safety of the community,
AthletiCare strives to keep individuals active and enjoying themselves
while taking proper precautions against sports-related injuries.
AthletiCare works in cooperation with the mission and values of St.
John’s Hospital, providing the inspired care and visionary medicine in
which people can believe.
Past and Present
Opening in January 1998 at 2305 West Monroe in Springfield,
AthletiCare’s first clinic staffed two orthopedic surgeons, one athletic
trainer, and three physical therapists. In 2001 AthletiCare moved to
its current location at 3631 South Sixth Street. The new location added a
warm water pool, physician clinics, and a large, open gym area. In
2012, AthletiCare added a second location at 1603 West Washington
Today, AthletiCare offers two locations for physician clinics with two
orthopedic surgeons, two primary care physicians, and two podiatrists.
With the partnership of St. John’s TherapyCare, there are 26 physical
therapists, two occupational therapists, and eight certified athletic
trainers. Together, AthletiCare and TherapyCare provide services at
several locations in the central Illinois community conveniently located
for patients in Chatham, Rochester, Virden, Decatur, and Litchfield.
The Best and Brightest
AthletiCare’s medical staff features the best and brightest sports
medicine experts in Central Illinois. AthletiCare is the area’s most
comprehensive sports medicine clinic with three physicians having
completed sports medicine fellowships as well as being board-certified.
Dr. Hillard-Sembell is board-certified in both orthopedic surgery and
sports medicine and specializes in knee surgery and sports medicine. She
is a former collegiate athlete and a member of the NIU Sports Hall of
Dr. Brett Western joined AthletiCare in 2002 and serves as a primary
care sports medicine physician who oversees the Runner’s Clinic. Also a
part of the AthletiCare team is Dr. Rishi Sharma, a primary care sports
medicine physician who specializes in muscles and joint injuries and
musculoskeletal ultrasound. Dr. Sharma joined AthletiCare in 2009.
Podiatrists Drs. Therese Laughlin and John Fleischli joined AthletiCare
in 2012 with special interests in sports medicine. Dr. Christopher
Wottowa joined the AthletiCare team the same year as an upper extremity
specialist. The physicians work closely with community physicians,
coaches, and families for a cohesive team approach.
Embracing the Community
AthletiCare began extending it’s services in 1999 when the sports
program acquired Acceleration, a nationally acclaimed franchise focused
on sports enhancement and training individually tailored to an athlete’s
“Our Acceleration program is made up of 18 training sessions and a pre-
and post- evaluation,” Dr. Hillard-Sembell explains. “Athletes are
tested to determine speed, agility, and vertical jump and instructed on
proper running mechanics, linear and lateral speed, agility, quickness,
lower body strength, and power development. Athletes train three times
per week for 60 to 90 minutes.
In addition to Acceleration, AthletiCare also began featuring
Sportsmetrics Techniques and Training in 1999. Sportsmetrics provides
athletes with a foundation for building sport-specific skills and injury
prevention via a six-week program.
“This nationally acclaimed research-based knee and ACL injury
prevention program developed at the Cincinnati Research and Education
Foundation has helped AthletiCare train hundreds of athletes to improve
their jumping and landing skills and minimize the risk of injury,” says
Dr. Hillard-Sembell. “Tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL),
one of two ligaments that connects the femur to the tibia, is a common
sports injury occurring more often in females than males. Sportsmetrics
is the first training program scientifically proven to decrease knee
injuries in athletes.”
Sportsmetrics combines a dynamic warm-up, plyometrics, high-intensity
strength training, and flexibility training. During the dynamic warm-up,
athletes perform functional based activities that use sport-specific
motions. AthletiCare utilizes plyometrics to correct jumping techniques
and to develop muscle control and strength. Strength training develops
core strength and improves overall muscular efficiency while flexibility
training teaches athletes stretching exercises to decrease injury and
Making an ImPACT
ImPACT, one of the most significant services AthletiCare provides, is
designed to measure the effects of sports-related concussions. A
concussion is a direct or indirect blow to the head that affects brain
function. ImPACT also helps answer some of the difficult questions
surrounding this type of head injury, including when an athlete should
return to play and how to avoid the consequences of returning to
athletics too soon.
According to Drs. Western and Sharma: “Using ImPACT along with a
physical exam, a doctor can evaluate an athlete’s recovery following a
concussion. ImPACT is a 20-minute neurophysiological research-based
computer test that measures an athlete’s symptoms and provides reliable
baseline test information regarding a player’s memory, processing speed,
and reaction time measured to 1/100th of a second.”
In order to schedule a post-concussion test, call AthletiCare at
217-744-7529 (PLAY) for an appointment. For more information regarding
concussions, visit the ImPACT program website at www.impacttest.com.
In addition to ImPACT, AthletiCare’s Runners’ Clinic, initiated in
2003, recognizes the importance of running in the local community as
healthy exercise as well as a competitive sport. Runner’s Clinic uses
digital video software to analyze runners’ performance and create a
personalized treatment program to help runners experience a full
recovery. The Runners’ Clinic is staffed by a sports medicine physician,
a physical therapist, and an athletic trainer who specialize in running
mechanics evaluation. They can provide injury diagnosis, treatment and
prevention, performance enhancement, advice on training and nutrition,
shoe recommendation, and orthotic fitting.
“Runner’s Clinic is designed for high level runners who have sustained
chronic injuries,” explains Dr. Hillard-Sembell. “Motion analysis
software and high-speed video analyze a runner’s form and motion while
he or she runs on a treadmill. This software allows us to determine if
there is a structural or functional reason causing the runner’s
For beginning athletes ages 9 and above, AthletiCare’s Try the Tri is a
fun, challenging triathlon that is celebrating its 11th year on May 4,
2014. Funds raised will benefit Team AthletiCare, created to support
physical education and fitness programs in local schools. Participants
in Try the Tri will swim 150-yards in an indoor pool at FitClub South;
bike 5 miles on flat, open road; and run 1.2 miles through the Southern
View Park on a smooth, flat course. AthletiCare staff work with beginner
athletes and provide training programs to help condition and prepare
them for the course.
In addition to sports training and fitness enhancement programs,
AthletiCare provides school outreach services. Eight full-time and
several part-time athletic trainers offer injury prevention programs,
game coverage and athletic and community education to local high schools
and colleges. Athletic trainers are also on staff during health and
fitness venues and athletic events in the community. Pete Stoll, LAT,
EMT-B, one of AthletiCare’s founders, facilitates athletic training
services. Keri Snyder, MS, ATC, PES, serves as facilitator of programs
St. John’s AthletiCare provides educational programming opportunities
for high school and college students interested in health-related
professions. Students have the unique ability to observe healthcare
professionals across multiple settings throughout the year. In addition
to student observations, AthletiCare offers a competitive summer
internship for sophomore and junior college students who are interested
in obtaining a wealth of knowledge across the sports medicine spectrum.
“We are proud to be a valuable community asset,” says Dr.
Hillard-Sembell. “It’s great to see our athletes make a comeback after
an injury, participate in life sports, and be successful.”
For more information on St. John’s AthletiCare and TherapyCare program, call 217-744-7529 (PLAY) or visit AthletiCare.com.
St. John’s Hospital’s AthletiCare and TherapyCare programs provide
services in Springfield, Chatham, Rochester, Virden, Decatur, and
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