Originally created 09/26/03

Road to recovery



The three sat underneath the TV in jean shorts and T-shirts, watching College Gameday on ESPN.

Just a trio of buddies hanging out and enjoying a college football preview show. Just like any other Saturday morning.

Except they weren't kicking back at home. No, they were in the waiting room of the Medical College of Georgia's Sports Medicine clinic.

And they weren't carefree and jovial. They were in pain.

Josey linebacker Sam Williams, offensive lineman Lawrence Marsh and linebacker Darryl Kirkland were eventually called into examination rooms where they could be evaluated by Dr. Verle Valentine.

College football was forgotten. Injuries became the top priority.

For Valentine and certified trainer Lisa Adkins, it was just another Saturday morning in the clinic, caring for prep football players who were injured the night before.

"During the week and especially on Friday nights, there's a good number of kids that get injured," Valentine said. "Part of our goal is to get those injuries evaluated quickly."

Players come in, undergo an X-ray or two and get treated for their injuries - mostly sprained fingers and ankles .

Williams is a big fan. After all, Saturday was the third time he's gone to the clinic.

"Usually, you have to make an appointment somewhere," Williams said just before he grimaced in pain as Valentine evaluated his hand for sprained ligaments. "Now, you can just come in the day after the game and get it seen. You don't have to wait two or three days."

Said Midland Valley fullback Maurice Dukes, who was seeking a second opinion about his sprained ankle: "You can just show up. Everybody gets hurt once in a while, and here, you can do something about it."

While MCG works with Laney, Josey, Richmond Academy and Midland Valley high schools during weekly practices and games - which consequently means most players the clinic treats attend those schools - it's not the only option for local athletes in need of care.

Dr. Jewell Duncan, who originated the Saturday clinic at MCG in the mid-'90s, is now at Sports Medicine Associates of Augusta. Dr. Leroy Fullerton of Orthopaedic Associates of Augusta and the sports medicine clinic at Doctors Hospital also see patients on Saturday mornings

"There are a lot of injuries that don't need acute treatment but that probably need to be addressed," said Duncan, who said players from as far away as Lincoln County, Washington County and Washington-Wilkes have attended his clinic. "We can get them treated and then get them playing faster. That's the purpose of this."

Fullerton - who services most Columbia County and west Augusta schools - feels the same way.

"The quicker you can see them, the quicker they can get on the field," said Fullerton, who provides his Saturday services for free. "That was the genesis for our clinic."

After restarting the MCG version last year with a group of colleagues, Valentine estimates the clinic averages four-to-six players a week, while Duncan says with a laugh, "We do pretty good."

And in a way, the clinics have begun to compete with one another.

"All of us are proud of what we do, and all of us think we do it well," Fullerton said. "All of life is a competition. If you're in this brand of medicine, you need to let people know that you're here."

Adkins, the trainer for Josey and Laney, takes it a step further. Since most parents from both schools have signed release forms, Adkins, at times, will transport players in need of a ride from their homes to the clinic and back again.

"I'd rather take a few minutes from my day than to have them make a doctor appointment when they don't have a ride," Adkins said. "I don't want them to stay in pain longer."

That's what Saturdays at MCG have become - getting rid of the pain and getting back on the field as quickly as possible.

So, Midland Valley's Dukes limps to the X-ray room to determine if his ankle is fractured (it's not, only sprained).

Williams waits for Valentine in an examination room and takes a quick cat-nap underneath a framed Denver Broncos jersey of his coach, Barney Chavous.

North Augusta sophomore tight end Justin Hydrick and his worried mother wait to see the prognosis of his swollen finger (he's chipped a piece of bone).

Meanwhile, Valentine and Adkins shuttle between rooms, looking at X-rays and explaining what they mean to the players.

Saturdays aren't meant for just watching college football and reliving Friday's memories anymore. They've become the first day of healing.

"We like to take care of athletes," Fullerton said. "We really feel that medicine has given us a lot. We just wanted to give something back."

Saturday Morning Clinics

Orthopaedic Associates of Augusta

811 13th Street

(706) 722-3401

8 a.m.-10 a.m.

Sports Medicine Associates of Augusta

3624 J Dewey Gray Circle

(706) 210-7529

9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Medical College of Georgia Sports Medicine Center

1120 15th Street

(706) 721-7529

9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Doctors Hospital Center for Sports Medicine

3651 Wheeler Road

(706) 651-2270

9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.