The New NYIT Center for Sports Medicine

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Dr. Zwibel assists a patient. photo credit: Martin Seck

Dr. Zwibel assists a patient at the new NYIT Center for Sports Medicine. Photo credit: Martin Seck

New York Institute of Technology’s community of students got a big competitive boost with the newly inaugurated Center for Sports Medicine.

Detecting the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s capabilities and seeking to promote a culture of wellness, the center is a personalized treatment and training facility. Located at the Riland Academic Health Care Center at NYIT’s Old Westbury campus, it provides specialist physicians and machinery for optimal athlete training and recovery, but it also boasts of a state-of-the-art concussion diagnosis and treatment center.

The Center for Sports Medicine was created with medical students, student-athletes, and the community in mind. Feeling the need for more focused services to NYIT athletes and looking to expand medical students’ hands-on learning, it now is a facility where concussion baseline testing and management is a priority and where student-athletes can heighten performance.

Dr. Hallie Zwibel is NYIT’s director for the Center for Sports Medicine and a NYIT-COM alum. He has spearheaded the university’s concussion program as well as outreach efforts to the general public and student-athletes.

“Last year there were 3.8 million concussions alone in the United States according to the CDC,” said Dr. Zwibel about the seriousness of the matter. “It’s a problem especially in younger people, about half of all high school football players are responsible for the total number of sports-related concussions that occur each year.” With a focus on prevention of injury and illness rather than treatment of symptoms, Dr. Zwibel and his team are achieving this goal one patient at a time.

A concussion is caused by a sudden, direct blow or bump to the head that jolts the brain, causing it to hit the wall of the skull, resulting in injury. Traumatic brain injuries can cause bruising of the brain, damage to the blood vessels and injury to the nerves. In extreme cases, chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE can occur, which is the result of cumulative damage to the brain. Symptoms of a concussion include confusion or feeling dazed, clumsiness, slurred speech, nausea or vomiting, headaches, balance problems or dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and noise, sluggishness, ringing in the ears, behavior or personality changes, concentration difficulties, depression and memory loss. Dr. Zwibel’s research is looking to strengthen the NCAA’s return-to-play protocol at NYIT, making it more rigorous due to recent findings in the field.

Patients are cared for by a team of psychologists, physical therapists, neurologists, occupational therapists and the newest technology in concussion diagnosis and treatment. Services are open to the public and the center takes most insurance. For concussion diagnosis, patients go through a full neurological exam to find sensory and muscle problems, changes in reflexes, balance and vision and assess cognitive abilities like memory, reaction time and processing speed to see what exactly is wrong uniquely with the patient.

Entrance to the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine in the Riland building at Old Westbury

Entrance to the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine in the Riland building at Old Westbury. Photo credit: Maylan Studart

This year the center started a partnership with NYIT’s Women’s Tennis team, four-time winner of the East Coast Conference Championship. The goal of the pilot program is to optimize performance of the winning team by working on athletic training utilizing the center’s state-of-the-art performance measuring machines.

Dean Kamvakis is the head athletic trainer who oversees all sports at NYIT. He told The Campus Slate that the Women’s Tennis team has gone through testing at the center and is excited about the new partnership.

“When you can look at numbers and make recommendations and then address deficits, let’s say it’s just strength, or maybe it’s a cardiovascular thing, you can make changes in the positive sense that are going to impact the team and put us in the position to perform at a higher level,” said Kamvakis.

Kamvakis believes Dr. Zwibel has the enthusiasm and capacity to make the program successful and wants to see its expansion to other teams. He said the center has the capabilities to translate test results into meaningful data where athletes can address their deficits. This could mean an athlete’s stamina will improve, for example he or she may last longer on a shift in Lacrosse or play more minutes in Basketball, giving the NYIT Bears a competitive advantage.

Alexia Rossetti is NYIT’s Women’s Tennis star player and was named ECC Player of the Year in 2015. She went through testing at the Center for Sports Medicine, like the functional movement screening, resting metabolic rate and lean body fat test, a measurement of muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs. “It is great when an athlete can truck improvements and set targeted goals. For the lean body fat test for example, our goal is to keep up the lean body mass throughout the season, because if we lose it, the risk of injuries increases. So yes, I believe every single test helped me become a better athlete and a healthier person,” said Rossetti. She also said they were quizzed on concussion education as part of the program.

Hockey legend New York Islanders’ Bob Nystrom utilizes the services of the Center for Sports Medicine and is a big supporter the expansion of its concussion treatment services into the community. He trained and received concussion testing in the facility, visited NYCOM’s Adele Smithers Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Center, and learned how to improve training techniques and performance.

Joanne Donoghue, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at NYCOM and the person who introduced Nystrom to NYIT’s Center for Sports Medicine. Nystrom remembers training with Donoghue and completing an Ironman competition together. Today he assists the center in community outreach efforts. He and his former teammates, Pat LaFontaine, Clark Gillies and Steve Webb headlined this year’s NYIT Sports Concussion Seminar, aimed at promoting concussion education and awareness to the public. The seminar had over 130 attendees, with many packing the room and standing to listen to the players’ experiences with concussions.

“We are really trying to appeal to parents with their youngsters to get some sort of baseline that they can compare to if they do have an injury or if they do have a concussion and I’ve gone through testing here at the school,” said Nystrom. “What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to convince more of the alumni to come in and do testing just from a mental standpoint, cognitive, things like that.”

The Dean of the School of Health Professions Patricia Chute is concerned with the trauma that comes with head injuries and notes they can occur in a car accident, as well as from sports. “Being able to offer patients some kind of possibility to come back to their level of functioning as well as to provide the student with the opportunity to be on the forefront of some of those kinds of things, that’s what you do as a Dean,” said Chute.

With the new Center for Sports Medicine up and running, Dr. Zwibel is now focused on promoting a wellness culture by expanding public education and the services of the center. They currently offer fitness testing for individuals seeking better health and plan to hold more wellness seminars. The center will soon welcome two physicians board certified in sports medicine and another physical therapist with sports medicine training.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Duane Bailey will be assessing with the Women’s Tennis team how the pilot program worked at the end of the semester. In their end-of-year interview, players will evaluate if they liked the program, and if it helped them with injury prevention and recovery.

“It’s a good partnership for us, it’s a great advantage that most other institutions don’t have,” said Bailey.

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