Youth learn pro health from medics to the stars

Campus Magnet football players Justin Bazile (l.-r.), Darius Kennerly and Max Couloute took advantage of a free health screening. Photo by Brad Hess
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High school athletes from Queens learned that being a sports star is about more than having a rocket for an arm.

It also involves a healthy lifestyle.

More than 100 youngsters from different sports throughout the city got a taste of the big leagues last month when the Hospital for Special Surgery held extensive medical screenings at its facility, at 535 E. 70th St. in Manhattan. The athletes, from schools like Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, met with a team of doctors who usually work with professional teams, including the New York Giants of the NFL and the New York Mets of professional baseball.

The hospital teamed up with the Public School Athletic League with the aim of ensuring that student athletes in the city’s public schools are fit to play before the games begin.

“Meeting a critical need in the community, it gives Hospital for Special Surgery the chance to provide a valuable service,” said Dr. James Kinderknecht, a sports medicine physician and medical director of the PSAL Football Clinic at the hospital. “It’s a win-win situation.”

More than 20 sports medicine doctors and physical therapists participated in the health screening, as they took the students’ medical history; performed a thorough physical exam, checking their hearts, lungs and vision; tested strength and flexibility; assessed their posture and balance; and even measured how far they could jump.

Doctors also checked the young athletes for previous injuries, giving them advice on how to stay safe on the field and avoid future problems. Some students were prescribed exercises, while others were advised on icing, taping and bracing to prevent further injury.

“In addition to giving the students a complete physical, we check them for any core weaknesses and any deficits in strength and flexibility so we can help them perform better on the field and enhance safety,” John Cavanaugh clinical supervisor of the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Jerry Epstein, the PSAL football supervisor, said that while most students said it was exciting to know they were being screened at the same hospital as some of their favorite professional athletes, others needed the screening for practical reasons because they do not have health insurance.

“Some students would not go out for athletics because they don’t have health insurance and could not afford the required pre-season physical,” said Epstein. “The medical screening at Special Surgery is the best thing I’ve been associated with. I don’t think the students would get an exam this thorough anywhere else. And it gives the kids of the city the opportunity to have the same doctors who provide care for the New York Giants and the Mets.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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