May 23, 2017
There are two Jabari Greers.
There’s the Saints cornerback and Super Bowl champion, a celebrity and football star. And there’s the former athlete, a husband and father navigating his own healthcare – and his future after football.
“The person that people think they know – the football player – isn’t around anymore. He’s gone,” Greer said. “But when you’re in public, everyone reminds you of the player that was. When you’re in a public healthcare setting, it’s very hard to keep up that ‘warrior’ persona and still be honest with your doctor about what you’re going through. You have to be transparent if you’re going to start healing.”
That’s why the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine has created the new Professional Athlete Care Team, or PACT, and its dedicated clinic at Tulane Medical Center. PACT uses a unique care model specifically designed to meet the needs of former professional athletes. A partnership between the Tulane University School of Medicine and Tulane Health System, its focus is supporting athletes’ health and safety both on and off the field, said Dr. Greg Stewart, Tulane’s chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation and the PACT medical director.
“Professional athletes have a different relationship with healthcare than most of us,” said Dr. Stewart, who also provides direction for the medical aspects of the National Football League Player Care Foundation’s Healthy Body and Mind screening program. “Obviously, their bodies undergo stresses unique to their sports and positions, and we at Tulane have the experience and caregivers to ensure optimum care for those needs.
“But it’s not just the high level of healthcare we provide. From high school to college to the pros, these athletes typically experience ‘concierge’ service – and it can be difficult when they retire and that goes away. So we’ve built a program that picks up where they left off and gives these athletes the level of care – and service – they’re used to.”
One of the keys to the program is the use of certified athletic trainers in the role of care navigators, said Eric Beverly, PACT’s director of operations.
“Professional athletes trust athletic trainers,” said Beverly, himself a 10-year NFL veteran who played for the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons before his retirement in 2007. “We’ve spent time together in locker rooms and on the field. The trainers know the athlete’s psyche and know what questions to ask, what needs to anticipate. That’s important in connecting athletes to the right services and in helping communication between patients and physicians.”
Also important is the athletes’ ability to maintain their anonymity when accessing care. That’s why Tulane Medical Center invested $1.1 million in its PACT clinic, a new space – designed to look like a professional fieldhouse – where former athletes can “be their true selves,” Greer said.
“You have to feel safe enough to disclose what you’re really going through,” he said. “When you can be yourself – not the guy under the helmet – your transparency and vulnerability becomes a strength in helping you get better and stay healthy.”
The 5,000-square-foot clinic includes exam rooms, meeting space, rehabilitation equipment and new, state-of-the-art digital x-ray equipment.
“Former players aren’t the only patients who travel to Tulane Medical Center to seek care – patients from all over the world regularly seek out Tulane’s world-renown experts from everything from transplant surgery to cardiovascular health,” said Dr. William Lunn, Tulane Health System’s president and CEO. “That level of expertise, coupled with the amenities available in New Orleans – itself a proud NFL city – makes this the perfect place to expand this partnership and develop a truly unique service for former players and athletes.”
The Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine has a long history of working with college and professional athletes, notably the NFL. In addition to serving as the official healthcare provider of Tulane University athletics, Tulane is one of just four medical facilities in the United States chosen by the NFL Players Association to provide care for former players through an organization called The Trust. The Trust provides a benefit for former NFL players to visit Tulane for a three-day, comprehensive physical, neurological and behavioral evaluation.
“The Tulane team has been a tremendous partner in helping us provide a continuity of care to former players,” said Bahati VanPelt, executive director of The Trust. “Privacy, transparency and trust are so important to effectively manage one’s healthcare, and former players get all those things – as well as expert care – at Tulane. This new center will only enhance the care and service former players receive at Tulane.”
Tulane caregivers also travel the country providing mobile health screenings to former players through the NFL Player Care Foundation’s Healthy Mind and Body screening program. The NFL Player Care Foundation hosts screenings across the country in NFL cities and at regional events that attract large numbers of former players, such as Pro Football Hall of Fame Week and the NFL Players Association and NFL alumni annual meetings. The screenings are offered as part of the NFL Player Care Foundation’s research programs, which help to advance public awareness and scientific understanding of health issues that affect former NFL players. Tulane doctors screen more than 500 players a year through the program.
“Player safety is always our top priority, on or off the field,” said Belinda Lerner, executive director for the NFL Player Care Foundation and the NFL’s vice president of alumni affairs and former player programs. “We know Tulane shares that priority, and we’ve seen it demonstrated throughout our relationship – in research partnerships, in screening programs and in investments like the Professional Athlete Care Team.”