Greg Christiansen, D.O., M.Ed, hates to hear stories of amateur athletes whose on-field injuries go unaddressed because there are no medical personnel available at the sporting event. This was especially true of an incident that occurred locally a number of years ago where a teenage soccer player died on the field of play after a collision with another player.
His emergency medicine training suggested that a better plan and response may be able to prevent such a tragic situation from occurring again. Having treated professional athletes in a support role for a NHL team in Buffalo, New York, he transitioned — after moving to Richmond — to support the Chesterfield United Soccer Club. In addition to their year-round games, the Club also hosts a large tournament that annually draws thousands of athletes ages 9-18 from the entire East Coast.
The assistant professor of emergency medicine had found a way to use his expertise and support the community. In fact, he has found not only the place to volunteer his own skills, but also an opportunity to involve the medical students in service to the community as well. According to Dr. Christiansen, “For years VCU students have humbly offered their service just because they want to help out.”
And “They do a great job using their hands-on skills to provide on-field services,” said Christiansen, who provides medical services to the Club year-round and calls on student volunteers to help out with the annual tournament. He also remarked that the medical student service at the tournament also gives VCU great visibility among future college bound athletes who see these leaders as role models.
Second-year student George Tarasidis volunteered at the 2010 tournament “because I remembered participating in these tournaments in my youth. They were always an enjoyable way to spend the weekend and I looked forward to them.” While Tarasidis’ venue saw nothing that needed anything more than what he describes as “a band-aid and a pat on the back,” he believes that the presence of students and medical professionals “puts many parents at ease and definitely takes a load off the tournament coordinators.”
To prep them for the weekend, Christiansen leads a workshop for the students where they train in CPR, concussions and musculoskeletal injuries – what they’re most likely to see on the field. Because of the size of the tournament – 250 teams are spread out over 10 venues – he teams up the students with Club parents who have medical training. On tournament weekend, Christiansen is available for consult by phone with back-up provided by county ambulances and the VCU Life Evac helicopter.
Those preparations stood first-year student Mia Walls in good stead when a player suffered a head injury. “I was very nervous when the staff summoned me to the field,” she said. “Once I arrived, I used a mix of common sense and the medical advice that Dr. Christiansen had provided to us at orientation. I just took my time and assessed the player and made the recommendation that she go to the emergency department for further evaluation. I called Dr. Christiansen to run the situation by him and he agreed that was the best plan of action for her safety. Her coaches and father agreed and she was on her way.”
Christiansen said he received excellent feedback from tournament staff, coaches and parents on the students’ professionalism, knowledge and dedication. “It’s a super way to represent the medical school and VCU in our community.”
In addition to Tarasidis and Walls, student volunteers were Ryan Clayton, Nathan Givens, Paul Halweg, Duy Phan and Phillip Taylor.