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Sports Medics Put Injured Weekend Warriors Back in the Race

October 13, 1985|PAUL McLEOD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The determination on their faces concealed the pain they must have felt. In the rehabilitation room at the Southern California Center for Sports Medicine, about a dozen patients struggled to recondition shattered limbs and shorn ligaments rendered immobile by injury, disease or decay.

These were injured weekend warriors, those who have pursued sport for health or just the love of a game. They had sought treatment for a variety of ailments, but their ultimate goal was clear: to again be physically active.

And, although the Southern California Center for Sports Medicine has treated members of U.S. Olympic teams and some professional athletes, the bulk of its clientele are members of the recreational set. With a growing number of sports medicine clinics available across an increasingly health-conscious America, the Long Beach center's founders say they hope to build their reputation with a program that prevents injuries as well as helps them heal.

60 New Cases a Week

The clinic's staff of 34 doctors, nurses and therapists sees about 60 new injury cases a week. It also provides medical staff for six Long Beach/Southeast high school football programs. Staff doctors often serve as consultants to other athletic institutions in the area, including Cal State Long Beach.

In addition, the center is more than halfway toward its goal of raising $5.5 million for its Wellness and Fitness Center featuring an indoor track, three basketball and two volleyball courts, a pavilion with seating for 2,000 spectators and shower facilities. A joint venture with Memorial Medical Center, the proposed site for the Wellness Center is near the southeast corner of Willow Street and Atlantic Avenue, adjacent to the sports medicine center.

The sports medicine center was built on land leased from the Memorial Medical Center and works closely with the hospital in coordinating patient referrals.

The weekend athlete who spends $100 on tennis shoes and $200 for a tennis racquet in addition to a monthly fee for a club membership often is easily able to pay for medical care. But a wellness center working closely with a sports medicine clinic would do more than that, say its founders--it would be able to prevent injuries and be especially useful for young athletes.

14 Centers in L.A. Area

"We try to serve the needs of the greater Long Beach area as we see them," said Dr. Douglas Jackson, an orthopedic surgeon. He joined with colleague and co-owner Dr. Curtis W. Spencer III in creating the privately operated sports medicine clinic.

In his tiny office tucked inside the 12,000-square-foot-structure, Jackson, wearing surgical greens and a white lab coat, explained that the clinic's design is in keeping with his goals for the sports medicine profession.

"Long Beach is a community hotbed of developing athletic talent," Jackson said. "We have become much more sophisticated in athletics. That's not to say that there weren't great athletes 20 years ago, but today there is a lot of pressure on the kid that wants to be a national champion."

An internationally known pioneer in the field of sports medicine, Jackson is most noted for new techniques in knee surgery. He has lectured on, as well as published, several articles about sports medicine and has co-authored "The Young Athlete's Health Handbook," as a sports medicine guide "to parents, players, coaches and teachers."

Often Misunderstood

In his book and during an interview, Jackson expressed concern that the term sports medicine is often misunderstood or confusing to both patient and many physicians.

"The field of sports medicine is ill-defined," he said. "It's a huge, encompassing field." That misconception, he said, was a driving force for him in creating his own sports medicine center.

Jackson developed an interest in athletic medicine in 1971 as an army physician at West Point. He entered private practice in 1973 and became director of the Memorial Medical Center's Sports Medicine Clinic, a loosely bound organization of physicians at the hospital that still exists today.

But as he continued in the field, Jackson discovered that "the more and more I got into it, the more and more there was a demand for my own facility and personnel."

Spencer specializes in problems related to the spine, particularly in older patients. With the technical help of a handful of associates, they opened the center in February, 1984.

A goal of the clinic is to return patients to their normal athletic routine as soon as possible.

In the case of 7-4 center Mark Eaton of the Utah Jazz, Jackson performed surgery to repair knee ligaments he tore in a playoff game last spring. Eaton, the 1985 National Basketball Assn.'s Defensive Player of the Year, began practicing this fall after a recovery program that included workouts designed for him at the Long Beach facility.

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