Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital Partners with Fort Bend ISD to Provide Sports Medicine Services for Student-Athletes

Timothy Sitter, M.D., Tristan Gray and June Tomlin, LAT.

Timothy Sitter, M.D., Tristan Gray and June Tomlin, LAT.

Tristan Gray, star shortstop for the Elkins Knights varsity baseball team, was preparing for his all-important senior season when he dislocated his knee cap in a preseason practice. Fortunately for Gray, Elkins athletic trainer June Tomlin was at practice that day. She responded immediately, and once Gray was stabilized, she called team physician Dr. Timothy Sitter on his cell phone and alerted him.

When the Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital orthopedist examined Gray, he determined that the injury was not season-ending but would require physical therapy. Dr. Sitter outlined an extensive physical therapy program, and twice a day at school, Tomlin worked with Gray on the appropriate conditioning and strengthening exercises. When the season started, Gray was back in peak condition, and he proved it by being named co-MVP of District 23-5A and signing a national letter of intent to play baseball at Rice University.

Gray was fortunate to have an experienced, licensed athletic trainer onsite at the time of his injury, one with a direct connection to one of the area’s leading sports medicine specialists. Now, thanks to a unique partnership between Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD), that comprehensive approach to athletic injuries will now be possible across the district.

The groundbreaking five-year agreement calls for Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital to provide 11 assistant athletic trainers – one for each FBISD high school – to assist the current head athletic trainers in providing sports medicine services and on-site coverage at practices and games.

“This unique partnership will deliver a direct benefit to our student-athletes in a cost effective manner,” said Dr. Charles Dupre, FBISD Superintendent of Schools.  “Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is a leader in sports medicine, and our outstanding student-athletes will receive excellent care because of their knowledge and expertise.”

The new assistant athletic trainers have been hired and are scheduled to begin orientation in July.  They will spend two weeks in training at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine before reporting to their individual campuses prior to the start of summer athletics.

“The safety of our student-athletes is always a top priority,” said FBISD Athletic Director Philip O’Neal.  “Adding an additional athletic trainer at each campus gives us the ability to cover more games and practices with skilled sports medicine staff and provide better service to our students.”

O’Neal said he believes the additional staff will enable FBISD to provide athletic trainer coverage at some middle school events, as well as offer additional injury prevention and treatment services to students across the spectrum of sports that are offered at FBISD high schools – including specialized rehabilitation following an injury, as Gray received.

“It’s not uncommon for schools to have a boys game and girls game under way at the same time at two different venues, especially in sports such as basketball, soccer and baseball/softball,” O’Neal said.  “Now we can cover all our teams appropriately and provide the safest possible environment for our student-athletes.”

Under the agreement, Houston Methodist Sugar Land will also continue to provide ambulance coverage at all FBISD varsity football games, provide a lightning detection system to alert coaches when outdoor conditions are dangerous and offer expedited admissions and appointments for FBISD athletes who require hospitalization or further examination by specialists at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

In addition, physicians from Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine will continue to provide sideline coverage at every FBISD home varsity football game as they have done for the past 15 years. Physicians will also continue to travel with FBISD football teams to playoff games across the state of Texas.

“This comprehensive approach to sports medicine can make a tremendous difference for these student-athletes,” said Dr. Sitter, who serves as team physician for four FBISD schools and is chief medical officer of the Houston Dynamo. “No one expects to get hurt playing a sport in high school, but unfortunately it does happen. Having experienced, skilled athletic trainers on site, working in concert with sports medicine physicians, can help minimize the impact of injuries and enable young athletes to heal promptly and properly.”

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital CEO Chris Siebenaler praised the district’s focus on the safety and health of its student-athletes. “This is a unique agreement that will extend the ability of FBISD to provide much-needed services to its student-athletes and ensure they are receiving the best possible care when needed,” he said.  “We are proud to be FBISD’s health care partner and proud to be associated with the district’s athletic program.”

FBISD athletic trainers are responsible for a broad range of activities related to athlete health and safety, and all are trained in using defibrillators in the event of a cardiac emergency, as well as other first aid and sports medicine skills. To stay up-to-date on the latest trends and learnings, the district’s athletic training staff will attend continuing education classes and an annual two-day sports medicine conference at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

The partnership between Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and FBISD is unmatched in its scope, said Bill Wissen, outreach athletic training manager for Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “This is a broad, inclusive partnership that can serve as a model for how school districts and health providers can work together for the benefit of the community,” he said.  “It’s an opportunity for us to give back to Fort Bend and help the local high school teams stay safe, healthy and competitive.”

Visit houstonmethodist.org/sugarland for more information.