When young athletes come together, as they will for the Maccabi Games to be hosted by the Kaiserman JCC from Aug. 14 to 19, it is no surprise that they have trained hard, achieved goals and come to their events well prepared.
Another reality of the games -- which will bring some 1,000 teenagers from across the country and the world, with some 250 from this region -- is that training and competing are not risk-free. Injuries and illness can afflict even well-trained athletes.
Just as the athletes need to be ready for the unexpected, so do those who monitor their health. Hence, the partnership between Kaiserman and the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, sponsor of Team Philadelphia at the games. The need for medical support becomes all the more important as competition -- and the typical Philadelphia summer weather -- heats up.
Enter Dr. Carl Chudnofsky, Einstein's chair of emergency medicine and co-chair of the games' medical committee. "We have great medical coverage," he reports of the center's dedicated ambulances reserved "only for athletes, parents and coaches," as well as "physician-response vehicles manned 24/7 by emergency physicians."
EMT personnel will be standing by at all the venues, which will also be stocked with first-aid supplies.
Adds Beth Segal, Maccabi Games director, "Dr. Chudnofsky and our medical committee are working to ensure we have a fun and safe week of competition. We have been promoting Einstein's athlete safety tips to our athletes via e-mail so they can take measures to avoid injury, heat exhaustion and other maladies that come along with summer sports competitions."
Co-chairing the medical committee with Chudnofsky is Paul Borine, who has a background in emergency-response management and training.
As well-prepared as Chudnofsky and his committee are to protect the health of athletes, it is important that the competitors and their families understand the risks that any intense, hot-weather competition can present, he said.
Chudnofsky reels off key risks, including sprains, strains, contusions, abrasions, more serious head and neck problems, organ damage, lacerated liver and ruptured spleen.
He also cites the potential for heat-related illness that can afflict both athletes and spectators in outdoor events. Chudnofsky advises athletes and spectators to use sunblock of SPF 30 or higher.
Chudnofsky urges parents to "make sure kids have the right equipment," especially a "good pair of well-fitting shoes." Furthermore, he said, "head and eye protection are very important."
As both parent and doctor, Chudnofsky advises fellow parents to "make sports available to kids, but keep it unpressured. Let kids choose what level of participation they want."