Oct. 12, 2016
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - During Marshall University's football game at North Texas last Saturday, offensive linemen Clint Van Horn and Levi Brown departed with injuries. What happened next was a new experience for Van Horn, a sixth-year senior tackle, and Brown, a redshirt freshman center.
Marshall debuted its new medical tent, a 68-square foot workspace that allows the program's doctors and athletic trainers to thoroughly and discretely evaluate a student-athlete on the sideline. Van Horn and Brown, on separate occasions, ducked inside the tent to be evaluated in private.
"It keeps gawking fans, curious people and even your teammates and distractions away from what's going on in there," Van Horn said. "I think it's a great addition. I think it should be on every sideline in college and the NFL.
"It shields the fans, it shields reporters, it shields TV cameras and it also shields your teammates so they don't have to be so concerned and worry about what's going on. The injured person doesn't have to worry about who is looking. Everything inside the tent is on a personal level."
The tent is called SidelinER and is made by Kinematic Sports. The tents are literally popping up on college football sidelines around the country. The University of Louisville brought one to Huntington when the Cardinals played the Thundering Herd on Sept. 24, which gave the Marshall medical team an up-close look at their purchase.
The list of benefits is long: privacy for the student-athlete; a more thorough examination for the medical staff; enhanced ability to quickly and accurately diagnose the injury; fewer plays missed for players able to return to action; fewer distractions for the injured student-athlete; fewer distractions for teammates who might be curious about the injury; quicker updates on the injury for the coaching staff.
The atmosphere inside the tent is what is paramount.
"It's like we're in the office almost," said Tim Pike, MU's head athletic trainer. "They're calm, they're more forthcoming in what's going on. It's a more intimate evaluation.
"We're able to gain a lot more information and we're able to kind of cancel out the noise and distraction. You're in the tent, it's just you and the doc, and they're comfortable."
Dr. Charles Giangarra, the head team physician, said the medical tent is a practical and necessary addition for the program. If a student-athlete has an injury at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, for example, the medical team would need to decide whether to evaluate the player on the sideline or head to the Shewey Building beyond the north end zone. The tent increases efficiency, Giangarra said, so that a player might only miss one series instead of two or three by making the longer journey indoors.
"The question is how do you reasonably evaluate a patient without the extraneous people around who are not essential to our evaluation, and do it in an efficient way so we can get the information on the player, what's going on and what we need to do next," Giangarra said.
"The tent gives us privacy, it's behind the bench, we can do it and get the reports quickly to the coach - they're in, they're out, whatever. I think it's a necessity these days."
Pike said the immediate feedback he received about the tents is the doctors and athletic trainers are receiving richer information from the injured student-athlete.
"We get a better evaluation; a better gist of what's going on," Pike said. "That makes us better. It gives the athlete more confidence being in front of the doctor or athletic trainer without all of what goes on at a football game. That's very beneficial."
Brown, who has started all five games this season, said it is "big time" to have the medical tent for the student-athletes. He doesn't have to worry about fans, the media or teammates coming to check on him while he needs to be focused on the questions from the medical staff.
"The student section at North Texas was going crazy and I got in there and they couldn't see me," Brown said. "That made me feel more comfortable. I could talk about what was wrong with me and be confident in telling the doctors exactly what was wrong."
The tent is 11 feet by 6.25 feet, and there is a chance it could temporarily obstruct views for fans sitting in the first few rows behind Marshall's bench during home games. The tent will only be opened when a player is injured or needs an evaluation. But, keep in mind, the tent takes five seconds to open and five seconds to close, and it will provide enhanced medical care for student-athletes.
"They're concentrating on us," Giangarra said of the injured players. "They're not talking to their friends; they are only trying to talk to us. The feedback has been great. The players can be alone with us for us to evaluate them, see what happened and what they're feeling like and what we're going to do to get them better."