Sunday, February 3, 2008

Broken System

Industry is a perfect controlled study that demonstrates the lunacy in our healthcare system today. Management wants to put the burden of health insurance on the workforce, while the workforce will scream eternally to keep costs on the backs of management. A modern day Hatfields and McCoys.

I've watched over the years, and have never understood why neither side will ever question the healthcare system by asking "Why do you cost so much?". It seems like an appropriate question. "Why have costs escalated so high? When might it stop? And, simply, how can they be lowered?"

This week in Sports Illustrated, this very topic jumps off the pages in Gary Smith's article Bitter Battle For The Old Guard, about Gene Upshaw, the 25 year Executive Director of the Player's Association. The flavor of this article is how retired NFL players are ignored, broken down and no one (The NFL Player's Association) cares.

The article reads, "Creeping along the sideline on a walker, bent at a 45-degree angle, was the alltime great Oilers running back Earl Campbell. Confused by foggy memory, neck locking up from damaged vertebrae, advancing on an artificial left hip was Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys safety Mel Renfro........How had it come to this?........For three decades, from Pop Warner to retirement, they'd been groomed to spit at the pain, which was ever-increasing as the colliding bodies grew larger and faster, and they'd soldiered on in silence for years after they'd faded away. But then came the day when the consequence of all those head-ons, all that pounding on all that green pavement called astro-turf, demanded its reckoning. The mornings when they awoke and realized they could barely get up......or didn't even want to. The multiple knee and hip replacements, each one carving a year of recovery time out of their lives; the depression, vertigo, Alzheimer's and thoughts of suicide, which some doctors linked to the multiple concussions they'd suffered; the spiraling medical costs and the realization that neither their pension nor their disability plan--if they even qualified for it--could possibly keep pace, had combined to overwhelm them."

Wow. The end result of a broken system. This article wants to highlight the lack of concern the Player's Association has for it's retirees, while I only care to discuss a spoke out of that wheel, the physical condition of retired football players. Their futures have a backdrop of physical disability, pain and limitations, not the type of retirement anyone would aspire to have. The costs are overwhelming; emotional, physical, financial, relationships, employment, etc.

What is the solution? When does it begin? Success in any endeavor requires management. All athletes today, by default, learn the rules in taking care of themselves. Stretch, warm-up, lift weights and hope you don't break down. If you get hurt, well, we're not sure. Do you have a primary? Will they see you today? Or will it be the P.A.? Will they give you meds, a script for phyiscal therapy, a stint of chiropractic? No one really knows. There is no plan other than, we hope you don't get hurt. Maybe just take time off until the pain goes away.

The reason for such inefficiency and ignorance is that our injuries (Earl Campbell bent at a 45-degree angle, Mel Renfro's neck locking up from damaged vertebrae) are biomechanical injuries, yet we MUST deal with medical model healthcare providers. They don't do biomechanics. They don't know biomechanics. Even professional sports teams. And if the pros don't get it, what is the shot that our high school athletes or everyday athletes are going to get it.

Success at maintaining a healthy physical structure also requires management. It starts with a biomechanical exam and detection of the imbalances and faults. Correct those, now maintain these corrections throughout your lifetime. It's not about shots of cortisone, a short stint of physical therapy, surgeries after the injuries occur, early retirement due to broken down parts or retirements that leave you totally disabled.

The current system is broken, and the public must demand change! The answers are available, but don't call your primary and expect them to know. They, too, are victims of the problem. And certainly not the solution. We need biomechanics in our sports world to hope to help the middle and high school athletes of today not end up as a feature story in Sports Illustrated 40 years from now.

The famed comedian Lenny Bruce screamed at the judge as he was being dragged out of the courtroom, "Your honor, somebody needs to tell you when you're screwing up".


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