When the high school football season kicks off Friday night, Mayo Clinic will have athletic trainers on the sidelines of virtually every game within 40 miles of Rochester. A handful of those medical specialists will enjoy a short night of sleep before being called back in for a football-centric clinic that's being offered throughout the fall season.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine recently announced the continuation of a popular Saturday morning clinic aimed at football players of all ages, though it's open to any athlete in need of medical attention. The specially targeted service has become a popular option among in-the-know parents who are concerned about their child but wish to avoid the costly fees of a visit to the emergency room; typical medical fees still apply.

The clinic will be open each Saturday from this weekend until Oct. 15. Specialists will be on hand from 8 a.m. until noon, serving both walk-in patient and those with appointments. Phone lines open at 7:30 a.m. for scheduling appointments at 507-266-9100, but most walk-in cases are seen within 30 minutes, according to Chad Eickhoff, supervisor of Mayo Clinic's athletic training services.

"Sometimes we get a few dozen (patients) and other times not quite as many," Eickhoff said. "It's all about timing. We currently are servicing all of the local high schools in the 30 to 40 mile radius with athletic trainers. A lot of them will talk to parents (after an injury) and if it's not an emergency, they can come in on Saturday. Otherwise they have to wait until Monday, so it's a convenience thing.

"I don't know how many times parents have made comments about this being great because they didn't want to take them to the emergency room, but they also didn't want to wait until Monday to be seen."

The clinics are being held on the third floor of the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, which is located at 565 1st St. SW.

A sports medicine physician, sports medicine fellow, physical therapist and athletic trainer will be on hand each week. They'll offer the following services: X-rays, splinting, bracing, crutch instruction, concussion evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation exercises.

The diagnosis, treatment and long-term impact of head injuries in football has become a popular — and controversial — talking point in recent years, but Eickhoff says that's just one of the reasons this clinic is being offered.

"It's a variety of injuries," Eickhoff said. "We could see five concussions one Saturday and sometimes its none. It's really about injuries from head to toe."

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