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USA Health performs free sports physicals for hundreds of Mobile County high school students

Sports medicine and family medicine physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, pediatricians, cardiologists, and other providers screened students at the daylong event at the Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

Published Jun 12th, 2024

By Carol McPhail

More than 600 Mobile County public high school athletes and band members visited the University of South Alabama on Friday, June 7, for free physicals, ECGs, and CPR training offered by providers from USA Health, the region’s only academic health system.

USA Health sports medicine and family medicine physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, pediatricians, cardiologists, and other providers met groups of students from Mobile County public high schools at the USA Mitchell Center during the daylong event. They checked the students’ blood pressure, vision, heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat. They evaluated posture, joints, strength and flexibility, and discussed any medical needs or concerns.

Yellow school buses began rolling into the Mitchell Center parking lot at 8 a.m., bringing groups of students along with coaches and other staff. South Alabama mascot South Paw was on hand for the event.

“The students are required to have a sports physical to participate in athletics, and that includes band and ROTC. So, we’ve set up this day where all of the athletes can come through and get their physicals done,” said Peter Rippey, M.D., CAQSM, a sports medicine physician at USA Health and assistant professor of family medicine at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine. “This year, we’re also offering ECG screening and teaching hands-only CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator.”

An ECG, also known as an EKG, is a quick test that records the heart’s electrical activity to screen for health conditions that increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The test was performed in curtained areas, and cardiologists were on hand to read the results and schedule follow-up appointments when needed.

By the end of the day, physicians and community volunteers, including those with the group Heart For Athletes, had provided 408 ECG screenings, with three students identified as needing to follow up with a cardiologist.

At the event, Gul Dadlani, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and chair of pediatrics at USA Health, addressed a group of students who were paired with manikins for CPR instruction. “You have four minutes to save their life,” he told them. “If someone goes down, you’re going to just act.”

In the case of sudden cardiac arrest, CPR must be initiated within the first four minutes to avoid the risk of brain injury and/or death, Dadlani said. “What we want to teach our community and all of our athletes is hands-only CPR so that if someone goes down, you start compressions,” he said. “We want to keep oxygenated blood going up to the brain and keep that person alive.”

USA Health is the official provider of sports medicine for 11 high schools in the Mobile County Public School System.

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