Innovative approach speeds recovery, minimizes downtime
CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio, July 18, 2012 - When professional athletes get hurt, athletic trainers initiate aggressive therapies to accelerate recovery and minimize time on the bench. Now, Lake Health is applying the same sports medicine methodology to the evaluation and treatment of injured workers to help them return to the workplace more quickly, with minimal days lost due to injury.
"By providing injured workers with the same high level of medical care and rehabilitation typically available only to professional athletes, we can help promote more rapid healing and expedite a return to functional work status," explained John Smith, a certified athletic trainer and the director of Sports Medicine at Lake Health.
Restoring injured employees' health and productivity is not only the right thing to do, it also has financial advantages. Timely return to work benefits employers by reducing the effects of lost productivity and wages and workers' compensation costs.
At the Lake Health Sports Medicine Bureau of Worker's Compensation Therapy Clinic located inside the Tyler Boulevard Urgent Care Center in Mentor, Smith leads the team of certified athletic trainers (ATCs) who collaborate with physicians to evaluate and treat fractures, sprains and strains resulting from accidents, repetitive motion and overuse. With expertise in anatomy and physiology, the team takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation-focusing on progressive treatments, ergonomics and strength and conditioning practices that enable injured workers to return to activity sooner with less risk of re-injury.
"Using ATCs as the catalyst and gatekeeper for injured worker rehabilitation further elevates the quality of care we provide to our patients and results in superior outcomes," explained Brian Juriga, D.O., co-medical director of Sports Medicine at Lake Health.
For Concord firefighter Luigi Ianiro, Lake Health's innovative approach was crucial to his recovery from a debilitating ankle injury that occurred last June while exiting a house fire. The misstep left him with a fracture and a severe sprain requiring six months of rigorous rehabilitation. A veteran firefighter, this was Ianiro's first serious accident. And being away from his job and the outdoor activities he loved took an emotional toll.
Throughout Ianiro's rehabilitation, Lake Health ATC Deb Walko addressed the psychological aspects of his recovery and provided positive reinforcement.
"When the accident first happened, I never imagined that my recovery would take so long. At times it was very frustrating and depressing, but Deb kept me motivated and focused on achieving one goal at a time," Ianiro said.
An avid cyclist, Ianiro's first major goal was riding in the Pedal to the Point for Multiple Sclerosis last August. Walko keyed in on exercises that mimicked pedaling as well as increasing strength to the surrounding soft tissue and improving range of motion that enabled Ianiro to complete the one-day, 100-mile ride.
Over those next few months, Ianiro continued rehab twice a week to regain balance and strength and re-train neuromuscular control. Once he reached his full potential for recovery, Walko focused on reconditioning designed specifically for the physical demands of firefighting.
"Firefighting is an extremely dangerous and complex profession that requires high levels of strength and endurance. Reconditioning involves strenuous cardiovascular and strength training-lifting heavy objects and climbing ladders-while dressed in full equipment," Walko explained.
During this phase, Walko also focused on proper body mechanics and provided Ianiro with advanced education on injury prevention. Today, a year since his accident, Ianiro continues to follow the customized stretching and strengthening routine Walko developed for him to maintain optimal performance and reduce the risk of re-injury.
"Physically, I'm back to where I need to be to perform my job effectively and participate in all of the outdoor activities I enjoy. I'm grateful to Deb for her knowledge and expertise that enabled me to make a full recovery," Ianiro said.
About Lake Health
For ten consecutive years NorthCoast 99 has named Lake Health one of the 99 Best Places to work in Northeast Ohio. Dedicated to redefining health care in Northeast Ohio, Lake Health provides patient- and family-centered care that promotes a lifetime of health and wellness. Lake Health delivers progressive, compassionate health care through 16 state-of-the-art facilities staffed by more than 500 physicians and 2,700 health care professionals. To learn more, visit www.lakehealth.org or follow @LakeHealth on Twitter.