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School system weighs options on athletic trainers
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Competition among two local sports medicine providers may be a good thing, since the Effingham County School System will be the winner.

The Effingham County Board of Education heard proposals Wednesday from Effingham Health System and OptimOrthopedics to provide sports medicine services to the school district.

Effingham Health System currently provides athletic trainers and sports medicine to the school district, at a cost of $40,000. However, neither proposal the school board heard Wednesday includes such a fee.

"Both have offered to provide services without any cost to the school district," said Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

In their proposal, Effingham Health System officials pointed to their comprehensive sports medicine program and their close ties to the Effingham community. Effingham Healthoffered to provide one full-time athletic trainer at Effingham County High School and one at South Effingham High School, and trainers "as needed" at the three middle schools.

Effingham Health Services offered the school district a package worth nearly $215,000, including trainers’ salaries and benefits, trainers’ supplies, free sports physicals, physician coverage and sponsorships of the high school athletic programs.

"We believe it’s a partnership you have counted on in the past and can continue to count on in the future," said Tammy Mims, Effingham Health System chief operating officer.

OptimOrthopedics owner Dr. David Palmer said he provided physicals for Effingham County athletes for more than a dozen years before the school district opted to have them done exclusively through Effingham Health System for the current school year.

"I have supported Effingham County schools since I’ve been here. I was actually instrumental in bringing the sports medicine program to Effingham Hospital," Dr. Palmer said.

Doug Andrews, OptimOrthopedics’ director of sports medicine, said the company provides athletic training and team physician services for 16 high schools in southeast Georgia, along with team physicians for Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.

Optim also offered one full-time trainer for ECHS and one for SEHS, with the possibility of a third trainer shared between the two schools. Optim’s proposal also included sports physicals and ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) testing, a computerized concussion evaluation system.

The school board did not take action on the proposals. Shearouse said a decision likely will be made by the end of this month.

"We have had a great relationship with Dr. Palmer and with our local hospital. We value our relationships with both," Shearouse said.

Either way, the school district will save $40,000 – welcome news at a time Effingham County Schools are facing a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

"That amount is close to a beginning teacher’s salary and benefits," Shearouse said. "Any amount we can save, that’s another position we may be able to afford."