Tulane Health System’s Professional Athlete Care Team (PACT) clinic recently marked its first anniversary of serving current and former professional athletes. Since opening its doors last May, the clinic has served 121 patients during 1,420 appointments, plus hosted several screenings both locally and in cities with NFL franchises around the country.
Dr. Gregory Stewart, Tulane’s chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation, heads up the PACT clinic and oversees a staff that has increased from three to 14 in its short existence. With a screening team casting a nationwide net, PACT has partnered with the NFL and its players’ association to attract former NFL players for a unique system of comprehensive, post-career care.
“The NFL and NFL Players Association are excited to know there is a place with this level of commitment to their former players,” Dr. Stewart said. “That’s what we wanted to show: we understand their needs and our commitment to taking care of them, both in the short- and long-term.”
PACT offers care in more than 10 different specialties, including neurology, orthopedics, cardiology, urology, vision, hearing, ear, nose and throat, physical therapy, dietary consultation and speech-language.
Dr. Stewart and his team had been treating former NFL players for years, but the dedicated rooms and offices on the fourth floor of Tulane Medical Center has provided them with a physical location for their specialized care and privacy.
“Our program was known but since opening the clinic here, the players have a home, a centralized place they can call their own where someone cares about them,” PACT director of operations Eric Beverly said.
Dr. Stewart said privacy has been one of the most attractive aspects of the program, providing players with a secure environment and each one with a designated care manager to walk them through the myriad of doctors and appointments and provide follow-up communication. Players receive first-class care whether they are the minimum two-year veterans or Hall of Famers, he said.
The word is beginning to get out. PACT is booked through August and has some appointments scheduled into October with referrals increasing. Lead athletic trainer Will Keller said PACT is already beginning to outgrow its surroundings.
>“We’re busting at the seams, taking over space down the hall,” Keller said. “These are good problems to have.”
Beverly, an NFL veteran who went through the program, said PACT’s mission is to continue getting the word out to the 15,000 former NFL players who can benefit from it. There are hopes for additional clinics, a brain bank to study brain tissue, expansion to include other pro sports athletes and an education curriculum called the Center for Sport to take it beyond medicine and into community engagement.
“The trust in PACT has ramped up, and the word is spreading,” he said. “The national recognition is growing.”