Meet Summit County’s “medical quarterback”
Athletic Trainer Rachel Freeman is the full-time youth sports outreach coordinator at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery
For the Summit Daily
Editors Note: This sponsored content is brought to you by Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery
From her presence on the sidelines at practices and games to answering calls directly from parents, Rachel Freeman has become a recognizable face to anyone involved in youth sports in Summit County.
The term “medical quarterback” is used a lot to describe Freeman’s work at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery. She’s been working to streamline care for school-aged athletes in the county so that when injuries occur, these kids can get back to their beloved sports as quickly and safely as possible.
Freeman is an ImPACT Trained Athletic Trainer, which is a special distinction in her field that means she’s skilled in assessing and interpreting concussions, and formulating return-to-play plans. Concussions are one of the most common injuries in youth sports, and properly assessing and treating them is critical due to the severity of symptoms that can occur when a second concussion happens before the first has healed.
“This is called second-impact syndrome, which can have a fatal consequence,” Freeman said.
Overdiagnosis vs. appropriate treatment
For more information, contact Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-296-4811.
“If they see me at practice, I’ll also try to be at their appointment. I’ll work with the doctors and support them along the way,” she said of all youth sports injury patients. “These kids are out there because they love it and they want to be there, and they have so much pride putting on their uniforms and wearing their team colors — who wouldn’t want to support these kids?”
Freeman studied the increase of concussions among youth athletes in graduate school and how overdiagnosis and overlegislation could lead to some unintended consequences. For example, if a student athlete knows a concussion diagnosis is going to prevent him or her from returning to their sport for a longer period of time, they might be more motivated to lie about the severity of their symptoms.
“We want to make sure we’re treating these injuries appropriately in order to keep kids safe,” Freeman said. “If they’re not really concussed and it’s more likely a simple headache, they could feel better quickly. Once you call it a concussion, they’re required to do a five-phase return-to-play progression.”
Concussions are common and very serious, which is why Freeman and the entire team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery offer continuity of care for all patients to not only ensure proper diagnosis, but also the best treatment.
“I’m not in the business of keeping you out, I’m in the business of keeping you safe,” she said.
Freeman’s medical quarterbacking includes her direct line of contact with patients, parents, physicians and physical therapists, so she knows the play-by-play for each case.
Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery youth sports outreach
Rachel Freeman, MA, ATC, OTC, is the “medical quarterback” who can coordinate care for your athlete, making sure they get in quickly and with the correct specialist in the Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery office (knees, shoulders, wrists, feet, etc.). She is also the best resource in Summit County for concussion care. With the help and support of Drs. Gnirke and Braxton, Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery is on the forefront of return to play and return to learn procedures.
The only way for a youth athlete to prevent a concussion is to stop being a youth athlete and do nothing. Freeman said that’s not an option for these kids, so the next best thing is to provide great care, both on the prevention and treatment side.
Since concussions aren’t preventable, Vail-Summit Orthopaedics offers baseline concussion testing for student athletes. At the beginning of a sports season, students can take this test while healthy so providers can develop specialized treatment for concussions if and when they happen. This is just one step in the entire spectrum of care offered by the sports injury specialists at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics.
“From injury to clearance, we’re here for them,” she said.
As for preventing other types of athletic injuries, Freeman recommends that student athletes play multiple sports. Multi-sport athletes also tend to succeed more at the collegiate level, which includes more scholarship offers.
“Coaches are looking for well-rounded athletes,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to try something new and experiment with new activities. If you keep your athletic resume diverse, it can help with overuse and overtraining injuries, too.”
Overuse injuries are the most common injuries seen in local youth athletes. Many kids are out there playing the same sport throughout the entire year, using the same muscles and motions over and over again. By changing things up and trying new sports, athletes can strengthen new muscles and train their bodies to move differently, she said.
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