July 5, 2010

James Andrews clinic welcomes high schoolers

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GULF BREEZE, Fla. - Just by taking a look at their medical records it would appear Brandt and Rush Hendricks have had some rotten luck with injuries. But despite the list of potential career-enders, the brothers actually feel fortunate.

It doesn't have anything to do with where on their bodies they've been hurt. It is where in the world they've been hurt.

The brothers hail from Jay, Fla., a tiny town in the Florida panhandle that is in proximity to The Andrews Institute. The facility, named for and operated by world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, has become a place athletes like Brett Favre and Sam Bradford have come for care. But it is more than that - the institute actually caters to all local athletes, including the Hendricks boys.

"Absolutely, I treat young athletes from the region every week," Andrews said. "We have most of our docs assigned to the schools in the area, but I treat any athlete who has a need for the injuries I specialize in. That is the great part about having a team is we have a specialist for just about every aspect of sports injuries that may be needed. We have been fortunate to attract great talent to our team. I am here (in Gulf Breeze) every Thursday and Friday."

The Hendricks family is certainly pleased Andrews is available to them. After a pair of surgeries each, both have earned Division I scholarships. Baseball outfielder Brandt is a rising sophomore at Alabama, while Rush will be an incoming freshman for the South Alabama football team.

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Andrews opened his Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze in 2007 and it has served not only local athletes, but regional athletes with top-flight care. The Institute is located adjacent to Gulf Breeze Hospital, a division of the Baptist Health Care System.

"The Gulf Breeze location allows the service to reach all of south Alabama, Northwest Florida and south Mississippi to a high level of immediate care for athletic injuries," Andrews said. "Our experience tells us that the earlier we identify and intervene with and injury, the better the outcome. Baptist Health Care serves a large geographic region and having sports medicine service compliments the full menu of available services offered."

The Institute boasts a multi-specialty ambulatory surgery center, outpatient rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging center, athletic performance center and a research and education institute.

"Having all these services and specialties in one place allows for a multidisciplinary center to create a full array of services to the community," Andrews said. "Spine has become a major part of our business even though most people don't think of spine care and sports for instance."

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Brandt Hendricks first went under Andrews' knife before he went to Tuscaloosa. After a great prep career at Jay, including being ranked fifth on Florida's Mr. Baseball list of prospects, he injured his shoulder. Brandt went to see Andrews and after the doctor was "checked out," by his mother, surgery ensued.

"I had been told it (surgery) would have to be done sooner or later and I was nervous about it," Brandt, 21, said. "But my mom did some research and found out he is the best there is, so that made me relax and know I was in good hands."

The surgery, which took place in Gulf Breeze, attached five anchors in Brandt's shoulder to repair his torn labrum. Even with the repair, he was nervous about trying to throw hard or for a long distance until Andrews spoke to him.

"After the surgery, Brandt was still tentative about letting one go," Nina Hendricks, the boys' mother said. "But Dr. Andrews grabbed him by the shoulder one day and shook it and told him he'd have a better chance of breaking his arm than hurting that shoulder. Brandt was OK after that."

Gulf Breeze, Sports Mecca
Until recently Gulf Breeze, Fla., was really only known as the town between the bridges that link Pensacola to Pensacola Beach and for a hotbed of UFO sightings. In the past few years, however, the small panhandle town has become a sports medicine mecca.

The Andrews Institute, which calls Gulf Breeze home, gained national exposure earlier this year. After former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford had shoulder surgery, he did his rehabilitation at the Institute in preparation for the NFL draft. About two months ago, Brett Favre made the two-and-half-hour drive from Kiln, Miss., to have his ankle surgery.

But perhaps the biggest service the Institute provides is that enjoyed by local athletes. Many local high schools are manned by certified athletic trainers through the institute and a Saturday clinic open to all athletes during the fall. The evaluations are free to all athletes.

"We are able to manage an athlete from injury on the field with 22 (athletic trainers) providing outreach to all services and treatments like rehab, imaging, and surgery all the way through performance so we return the athlete to full form prior to competition."

He was OK, until last fall when he broke his leg in an intrasquad scrimmage at Alabama sliding to avoid a collision with Crimson Tide catcher Ross Wilson. Again, Brandt needed surgery and again, Andrews was there. This time he observed as Dr. Kyle Cain repaired the break at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham.

Rush Hendricks has had his share of visits with Andrews. He started by having the doctor repair his ulnar collateral ligament when he was 11 and then having two knee procedures in Gulf Breeze when he was 14.

Now getting ready to start his college football career, his scars have bridged the gap to friendship with some of his new teammates.

"Guys see my scars and asked who did them and I tell them Doc Andrews," Rush said. "Some of the guys will show me theirs and say 'me too' and we have something in common."

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Something else Rush has in common with all high school athletes in the panhandle is access to the Andrews Institute's Saturday clinic. Open in the fall, it caters to any athlete needing attention.

"Football season makes it more pressing due to the Friday night game coverages and not wanting injuries to sit over a weekend prior to us diagnosing and implementing a plan of care," Andrews said. "Coaches and parents love it so they can identify the playing status as soon as possible in order to plan the next week's strategies. Saturday also enables a broader access from the region. People are able to get there and do not need an appointment in order to have an injury looked at. We staff with one to two physicians and a team of (athletic trainers) so we can accommodate several players at once."

Best of all, the evaluation is free. The only charge is for X-rays if needed and any expedited follow-up care.

"It really has been a blessing to have the best care available to us here," Nina Hendricks said. "Several families from Jay have been to the Saturday clinic and we've done a lot of word-of-mouth advertising."

And for the Hendricks, that's good news. Younger daughter Tessa plays volleyball, basketball, softball and is a cheerleader at Jay. She has already visited the Saturday clinic for a wrist and thumb injury.

According to Rush, interest in the Institute and Saturday clinic has spread.

"On Saturdays after a game, there are about 20-30 guys there to be seen," Rush said. "Before the Saturday clinic, Brandt would just have to ice down and recoup."

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