CU opens its sports center to area athletes

An idea so simple, yet so brilliant

Every now and then, an idea comes along that seems so brilliant and obvious, you wonder why it hadn’t been done sooner.

Such is the case with the University of Colorado athletic department’s decision to lease space in its new five-story Champions Center at Folsom Field to the CU School of Medicine and Boulder Community Health, which have partnered to open the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center.

The center is open to the public and offers access to a variety of services and care in a state-of-the-art facility that includes swim flumes, X-ray and MRI testing capabilities as well as evaluation and treatment of injuries, physical therapy, blood testing, physiological analysis, gait breakdown, biomechanics analysis, hydrotherapy, concussion management and performance coaching.

The idea behind the center is to help both the weekend warrior and elite athletes. The Average Jane who injures her knee in a weekend race can be treated by the same doctors in the same 16-room facility where elite runners, cyclists and others from around the region will regularly go for help. It’s also the same building and some of the same physicians who regularly treat the bumps and bruises suffered by the Buffs.

The concept is smart because the area was clearly lacking such a facility after Boulder Community Health closed the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Basing it at a college football stadium with access to all the amenities the Buffs have is a prodigious improvement.

The athletic department wins because it has opened a new revenue stream while bringing people from the community who might not have been CU fans or have much interest in college sports into its home where an interest might be piqued.

“As we flushed it out over time, it just got to be something that I thought was really unique in this community. Plus, they were in the process of closing their facility up at Mapleton, so there was really a need in the area,” Athletic Director Rick George said. “So the timing was just great.”

Part of the reason this hadn’t been done before is because the school hadn’t invested in its athletic facilities much in the last 25 years. There simply wasn’t a site on campus or near the stadium where such provisions could be housed. When the school decided to move forward with plans to build the new Champions Center in the northeast corner of Folsom Field and a permanent indoor practice facility on the east side, it opted to devote one whole floor of the project to the 27,000-square-foot center.

Dr. Eric McCarty is a former member of the Colorado football team who became an orthopedic surgeon when his football career ended. He returned to CU in the early 2000s to become the team physician after spending time at Vanderbilt University where he said a similar facility was in place. McCarty said the center always made sense given the culture of exercise and fitness throughout the region here.

“It’s great for our athletes, but it’s also great for the community because they’re going to have the same kind of care that our athletes have,” McCarty said.

Eventually the center will provide opportunities for CU students to conduct research, and the school of medicine will offer degree programs based largely around the center and sports-related injuries and rehabilitation.

Eric Medved, executive director of the center, said he hopes the space eventually evolves into a trusted source of information and resources related to human performance and sports medicine in the Rocky Mountain West. It’s refreshing to see a segment of academia diving into a business partnership with such a broad range of possibilities and benefits.

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