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A Full Return to Peak Performance

 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 Street.

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 Fame.

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 sport.

“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 soreness.

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 injuries.”

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.

Influencing Education
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 and development.

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 Litchfield.
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 St. John's Hospital AthletiCare| April 08, 2014
Categories:  Feature

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