LAWRENCE — Kansas Athletics is launching a new model of student-athlete care believed to be the first of its kind among major collegiate athletics programs.
Kansas Athletics is collaborating with The University of Kansas Health System and LMH Health to launch Kansas Team Health, a new model of care that makes the resources of The University of Kansas Health System and LMH Health available to provide the best care possible for KU student-athletes, and clearly establishes the responsibility of care with medical professionals while minimizing potential conflicts of interest between coaches and sports medicine staff.
This new model transitions approximately 40 sports medicine staff – including physicians, athletic trainers, nutritionists, wellness coordinators and, most notably, strength and conditioning coaches – from Kansas Athletics to The University of Kansas Health System. As a result, staff members now fully report to medical professionals, rather than through a physician employed by the department and reporting to Kansas Athletics administrators. This is now a true medical oversight and health care compliance model.
While there are some collegiate sports care and training models across the country involving physicians and trainers, the Kansas Team Health model is believed to be the first among major universities to incorporate strength and conditioning coaches — a category of practitioners that has received increased attention across college sports in recent years.
“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our highest priority,” said Kansas Athletics Director Jeff Long. “Additionally, we want our medical staff to have access to the resources they need to provide KU student-athletes the best medical care possible. This partnership strengthens our ability to achieve our highest priorities.”
The new model is the result of purposeful efforts by KU and Kansas Athletics to provide the highest level of care to student-athletes. This change positions Kansas as a national leader in addressing concerns and challenges across college athletics related to athletics department reporting structures and medical care. The three partner organizations first began exploring this model at the direction of KU Chancellor Douglas A. Girod, himself a surgeon. Since then, research and best practices provided by Dr. Brian Hainline, chief medical officer, NCAA Sport Science Institute, and widely publicized sports medicine challenges across the country confirmed for Girod and Long the need to create a better model of student-athlete care.
“The norm in college athletics has been for sports medicine practitioners to report to athletics department administrators,” Girod said. “At KU, our student-athletes have received outstanding care, and we have not had issues related to supervision and adherence to best practices. That said, we knew we had a special opportunity to be innovative and get ahead of the curve. As a result, I believe we can tell all current and future student-athletes that they’re getting the best care and training in the country at the University of Kansas.”
The University of Kansas Health System is no stranger to collaborating with major athletics programs. In recent years, they’ve developed partnerships with the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas Speedway and a number of Kansas City high school athletics programs.
“At The University of Kansas Health System, our success is driven by putting the patient at the center of every decision we make. Kansas Team Health is putting the student-athlete at the center of the structure we are putting together and future decisions we will make,” said Bob Page, president and CEO of The University of Kansas Health System. “By coming together with the University of Kansas and LMH Health, we are excited to create a first-of-its-kind model in college sports and student-athlete care.”
LMH Health is optimally positioned to serve Jayhawk athletes as part of Kansas Team Health given its outstanding sports medicine clinicians, convenient location in Lawrence and longstanding relationship with KU.
LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said, “Like the student-athletes, we live, work and play in this community, and our relationship with Kansas Athletics spans years of celebrating triumphs, caring for injuries and assisting in recovery. We recognize student-athletes perform best when they are their healthiest, so we care for the whole student-athlete with a comprehensive range of services and immediate access to sports medicine specialists. Our team and The University of Kansas Health System share the highest standards for performance, quality and safety, and we are passionate about delivering excellence in sports medicine and overall health for Kansas Athletics.”