Fall is coming. And that means football—playing, watching, cheering, and feeling exasperated about football. Jeremy Idjadi, M.D., a Board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at Proliance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, attends all Eastlake High School football games—sometimes in pouring rain—to be sure that the team is prepared to play safely and has the care they need if injuries occur. He is one of seven dedicated surgeons and sports medicine doctors from Proliance who give back to the community by donating over 50 hours each fall, for game coverage alone, to local high school football teams on the Eastside. The others include: Dr. Thomas Castle (Bellevue), Dr. Gregory Komenda (Eastside Catholic), Dr. Peter Mandt (Mercer Island), Dr. Dayne Mickelson (Redmond High School), Dr. Tyler Nathe (Mount Si, Bellevue) and Dr. Michael Sailer (Skyline).

They Have a History of Giving
Proliance doctors have donated their time at local high school football games for over 20 years, and recently, the program received an official name—“Friday Night Lights.” The doctors are enthusiastic about their role and enjoy being part of their high school’s “football family” along with coaches, trainers, players, and parents. “I’m very invested,” says Dr. Idjadi. ”I’m definitely an Eastlake Wolf!”

All Eyes on the Game
The time Dr. Idjadi and the others put in at games is potentially life saving. Studies have shown that 45–50 percent of high school football athletes will experience a concussion. What appears to be a minor head injury can turn out to be a major, long-lasting one. The team doctors from Proliance play an important role, in part by helping the schools adhere to state regulations, like the Leystedt Law, which states that an athlete suspected of having a head injury must be removed from competition, and evaluated by a medical professional before re-entering the game. They also look out for hyperthermia, hypothermia, injured knees, twisted ankles, and wrenched shoulders, all of which require immediate medical attention. The team doctors need to know if any of the players have past injuries and treatments, which goes into the equation of determining which players are cleared to enter each game. “To have a medical physician and surgeon [at games] gives me that piece of mind that no matter what happens, everything is going to be taken care of,” says Charlie Kinnune, head football coach at Mount Si High School. The coaching teams have the doctors’ respect as well. “The athletics staff at Eastlake are unbelievable people and managers of young men, says Dr Idjadi. “Coach Bartel’s half-time lectures to the team are very enlightening.”

During Eastlake’s games, Maria Garsi, the school’s certified athletic trainer, checks out minor injuries and consults with Dr. Idjadi when necessary. He in turn holds her judgment about the players in high regard. He attends to injuries on the field and determines if a player can return to play, needs to warm the bench for awhile, or needs immediate medical attention or a visit to the clinic the following day. Thanks to the generosity of Eastlake High School parents and the community, a defibrillator is on hand for the rare possibility of cardiac arrest. And for an extra layer of protection, an aid care or fire truck, complete with EMTs, is parked at every game.

A Focus on Safety and Injury Prevention
The Proliance doctors work with the coaching staffs and athletic trainers on education to help all the schools’ athletes avoid injury. They encourage players who have been injured previously to do some pre-season work with a physical therapist to increase their strength, and all players to work with the school trainers on injury prevention. Maria works with all of Eastlake High School’s students involved in sports, such as cheerleading, soccer, basketball, wrestling, and football. The coaches and athletic trainers from all six high schools can call their team doctor at any time, including during practice, regarding injuries, assessments, and ready-to-play evaluations.

Helping Injured Players Move on
Emotions run high at sports competitions, and most of us know of someone who continued to play with an injury because they saw that as a sign of personal strength and dedication to their teammates. But the wrong decision to continue playing can lead to devastating and lasting physical and emotional problems. At Eastlake, Dr. Idjadi never sees the coaching staff pressuring an injured player to continue playing. The coaches, Dr Idjadi, Maria, and the parents all put the players’ well-being above all else. The hardest part of being a sports medicine doctor and participating in the Friday Night Lights program is having the conversation with a player and his parents when his injury is too severe to return to the field, temporarily or permanently. An avid sportsman himself—Dr. Idjadi kayaks, canoes, bikes, hikes, backpacks, and snowboards—he really understands that being sidelined is terribly frustrating and disappointing. For many such teens, appropriate treatment and effort can return them to the field. He loves the kids at Eastlake, who he considers “great, nice, and intelligent.” It brings him great satisfaction when he sees them ready to get back in the game.