Taking the Hospital to the Track

Rock Chalk Park

Sports medicine professionals from The University of Kansas Health System cared for nearly 10,000 athletes at the 2017 USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships. The world’s largest competition for young track and field athletes.

A team of more than 50 volunteer specialists from the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at The University of Kansas Health System, including physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists, was trackside each day from Monday, July 24, through Sunday, July 30, at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas – the home of the University of Kansas track and field team.

"Our goal is to set the gold standard," said Vincent H. Key, MD, medical director of the event. "For the first time, an organization is basically setting up a hospital at this event."

The event was an economic boon to northeastern Kansas. "Last year's event in Houston contributed an estimated $21 million to that community," said Bob Sanner, head of the local planning committee and executive director of the Lawrence Sports Commission. "The participation of Dr. Key and the resources of The University of Kansas Health System definitely helped us attract the competition. We’re really grateful to the health system for their commitment."

In addition to the typical challenges of caring for so many elite athletes, these competitors ranged in age from 8 to 18. "Both physiologically and emotionally, it's very different to treat an 8-year-old than an 18-year-old," said Dr. Key. "With four athletic children of my own, I know the importance of treating the individual, not just the injury."

As a former Junior Olympian, college athlete and the father of four Junior Olympians, Dr. Key had a unique perspective. "I'm always at the track so I understand what can happen," he said. "I have a special passion for treating young athletes."

Dr. Key also had a passion to bring the Junior Olympics to the Midwest and to direct the event's medical care. "This has been a longtime dream of mine – to really set a new standard of healthcare for the competition," he said. "And the fact that I’m doing it with my colleagues at The University of Kansas Health System makes it even more amazing. I can’t thank the medical team enough."

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