Champions for Young Athletes
Feb 01, 2019
Clarence L. Shields Jr., MD
Co-founder and Medical Director, TeamHEAL
Co-founder and Executive Director, TeamHEAL
Clarence Shields Jr., MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, gained a firsthand view of how athletic trainers prevent injuries and boost performance when he served as team doctor for the Los Angeles Rams for more than two decades. In 1995, he and his wife, Barbara, began building TeamHEAL (Helping Enrich Athletes’ Lives). Cedars-Sinai supports the program, while the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) partners with TeamHEAL in supervising the athletic trainers at participating schools. Here, the couple talk about the program’s history, benefits and future.
Why did you create TeamHEAL, and who does it help?
BS: The program serves students at Westchester, Banning, Crenshaw, Dorsey and Carson high schools. Each school has a full-time, certified athletic trainer and a fully equipped rehabilitation center. The trainers teach the kids how to avoid getting hurt, help them recover from common injuries such as sprains and strains, and provide information about careers in healthcare. We also provide free preseason physicals that include orthopaedic exams, eye and dental exams, cardiac checkups and concussion tests.
We wanted to give underserved student athletes the kind of support professional athletes receive while helping young people develop life skills. … As I tell the kids, it’s important to do the right thing even when nobody’s looking.”
Clarence L. Shields Jr., MD
How does TeamHEAL influence students’ opportunities?
CS: Most of our students come from low-income families, and, with Medi-Cal, it can take months to get to the right specialist to treat a sports injury. Students can miss out on athletic scholarships if they can’t keep playing. We help students get affordable medical care from orthopaedic specialists without delay to reduce the risk that an injury will interfere with their ability to reach their potential as athletes or to pursue their dreams for the future.
BS: Our athletic trainers are real mentors to these students, every day. Some of our graduates have gone on to play pro football and basketball, and a number of students have become athletic trainers, physical therapists and teachers.
Does one athlete’s story in particular capture the impact of TeamHEAL?
BS: One track star at Westchester High sprained her ankle so badly she wasn’t able to run. The trainer at her school rehabilitated her, and she went on to take first place in the city in the 100- and 200-meter runs. She received a TeamHEAL scholarship and a full ride at Cal State Fullerton. She transferred to USC and recently graduated. She plans to go into the health field.
How does the partnership with Cedars-Sinai make a difference?
CS: With Cedars-Sinai’s support, we hope to eventually reach more schools. Cedars-Sinai doctors help provide comprehensive preseason physicals for about 500 students at Kerlan-Jobe in Culver City every spring. And Cedars-Sinai’s partnership with LAUSD is also a great resource that strengthens our athletic training program.
TeamHEAL has helped nearly 50,000 students since 1995.
$113,000 in college scholarships has been awarded to 57 student athletes since 2008.
75% of students who participate in TeamHEAL go on to college.