Words above the entrance of Christus – St. Mary new Sports Medicine Center read, “For Weekend Warriors, Friday Night Heroes and Everyday People.”
Concussion specialist Dr. Kimberly Pitts elaborated on the meaning behind the motto of the center, which celebrated its grand opening Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Christus – St. Mary Outpatient Center in Port Arthur.
“Christus came up with that, and it’s something that we believe across the board,” Pitts explained. “When you talk about the weekend warriors … you go out on the weekend and you play and you train in whatever sport you like, and you may get injured. There is a place for you to go. You can go and have rehab here locally. Kids who are playing football, volleyball, cheerleading … kids who have accidents playing some type of sport — that’s the Friday night guys. This is a place they can come for an evaluation if they get dinged on the head. Everyday people could be Maw Maw down the road who fell. Now there is a place to refer that loved one who had a small head injury.”
With the high school football season having recently started, the clinic will provide a place locally for athletes to get checked out following concussions. Before the clinic opened, athletes had to drive to Houston for testing, said Port Neches-Groves athletic trainer Ricardo Serna.
“This was an inconvenience for the athlete as well as the parent because it meant more class time missed as well as time off from work,” Serna said. “Now, with the clinic here locally, we can get an athlete in to the clinic, tested and have them back in class in a reasonable amount of time. We can even do it at the end of the day where no class time is missed and the parent does not miss any work.”
Pitts said the clinic uses ImPACT testing on concussion victims. ImPACT’s test is computerized and takes about 25 minutes to complete, the ImPACT website states. If a concussion is suspected, the baseline report will serve as a comparison to a repeat ImPACT test, which professionals can use to assess potential changes or damage caused by a concussion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Baseline tests are used to assess an athlete’s balance and brain function (including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solves problems), as well as for the presence of any concussion symptoms. Results from baseline tests (or pre-injury tests) can be used and compared to a similar exam conducted by a health care professional during the season if an athlete has a suspected concussion.”
“It’s very important for us to see these kids immediately,” Pitts said. “Pull them from play and get the initial evaluation because what people don’t realize is this test follows them. You now have a baseline starting in high school that follows you to the NCAA.”
But the center treats more than just concussion victims, reminds Dr. Jack Johnston, the center’s medical director and orthopedic surgeon. Johnson is also team physician for the Texas Strikers, Southeast Texas’ first indoor soccer team.
“The injuries that I typically see are knees and shoulders and elbows,” he said. “Whether I operate on them or I don’t, they all will need some sort of rehab. The Sports Medicine Center is designed to do sports specific training before we let the athlete get back on the field.”
Patients will benefit from state-of-the-art equipment, including the Korebalance system, a 3D interactive program that provides high tech balance assessment and training to improve agility reaction time and motor control, according to the Christus website.
Dr. Johnston explained his reasoning for approaching Christus to open the clinic.
“The need for local concussion treatment became clear to me,” Johnston said. “I saw that need because of all the kids going to Houston. I presented it to the St. Mary’s administration and they went with it.”
Johnston said he wanted a physician who knew the ins and outs of concussion treatment, and that is why he brought Dr. Pitts on board. Pitts received concussion education and ImPACT training at the University of Pittsburgh and was raised in an NFL family. Her father, Elijah Pitts, was a running back for the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi in Super Bowl I, and her brother Ron Pitts was a defensive back for the Buffalo Bills and Packers.
“I grew up in the NFL,” she said. “Being in the middle of it since I was young, I understand the risks, especially in football, that these men are putting themselves through every day. (Dr. Johnston) and I were on the exact same page as to how we wanted to treat head injury. You don’t have very long with brain injury, so you need to get the kid or adult in and get them tested as soon as possible.”
The Christus Sports Medicine Center is inside the Christus Outpatient Center – St. Mary at the intersection of Highway 73 and Ninth Avenue in Port Arthur. For more information, call (866) 683-3627.
Kevin King can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at kevin [at] theexaminer [dot] com.