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UW Health Sports Medicine Offers Free Physicals to Uninsured Athletes

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A quarterback can't lead his team from the sidelines. A soccer team is nearly defenseless if their goalie is sitting in the stands. And dozens of high school athletes may not be allowed to step onto the field and play on their teams because they haven't had their required physical.

Each year, 85,000 high school students participate in interscholastic athletics in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules state that an athlete needs a physical to be eligible — but many families do not have health insurance or income to pay for that physical. In Dane County, it's estimated that two to five percent of the high school athletes have no health insurance.

To help these student-athletes get into uniform and back in the huddle, the Dane County Sports Medicine Council teams up with the UW Health Sports Medicine Center, the UW Department of Physical Therapy, and MEDIC students from UW School of Medicine and Public Health to offer a free athletic-physical clinic each August. UW Health physicians, athletic trainers, residents, medical students and Spanish interpreters provide athletic physicals and immunizations.

"This is a nice opportunity to take care of a large group of student athletes who have no health insurance or very limited financial resources," says Joe Greene, supervisor of athletic training services at the UW Health Sports Medicine Center. "Getting these physicals done in a timely manner helps keep these young people participating and active at what they like to do."

The staff at UW Health Sports Medicine Center has been working with the Madison Metropolitan School District and other entities to offer free athletic physicals for several years. Each year, more than 40 student-athletes in the Madison area attend the clinic.

"This is a great collaborative effort between the hospital staff, medical students and the schools," Greene says, "and the families and athletes are always very appreciative."