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Medical All Star: The Mayo Clinic Expands Its Focus on Sports Medicine

While the Mayo Clinic has had a Sports Medicine Center as part of its Rochester, Minn., campus since 1990, this year the world-renowned health care mecca is stepping up its game. The Clinic is opened a brand-new facility in Rochester this spring and has formalized a partnership with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, complete with a new Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis, set to open this fall.

It all adds up to some fairly exciting times for the clinic, the co-director, Dr. Michael Stuart, tells Edge.

“We are doing a lot of new things,” he says. “We have tried to put evidence-based medicine into sports performance.”

The Mayo Clinic offers more than just fine medical care; it also provides plenty of preventative strategies in sports, cutting-edge training efforts and sport-specific recovery.

The new Rochester facility includes a focus on hockey, with artificial ice, a skating treadmill and high-definition video analysis of hockey movements. Of course, a hard court, turf space and an anti-gravity treadmill help cover the gamut of sports, and touch on every aspect from training to recovery.

“Along with our hockey program, sport-specific conditioning, skill coaching and nutritional elements, we will also have the ability to do on-ice testing, cognitive training and visual training,” Stuart says. “It has come a long way over the years and a lot of it is an evolution as sports science has improved.

“I feel the facility is part of it, but the staff is bringing us to the forefront with our multi-disciplinary group practice approach.”

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As it fine-tunes programs, the Mayo Clinic has brought on staff dedicated to various levels of performance-solution programs for hockey, running and golf—featuring individual, group and team programs in various areas. Along with top-level equipment and space to use it, staff know-how offers performance solutions to “get athletes back on their skates,” says Stuart, who is also the chief medical officer for USA Hockey and the men’s Olympic team physician.

“Through my USA Hockey position and [the Clinic’s] interest and expertise in hockey, our new center will be a destination for a lot of athletes,” Stuart says.

To enhance its position in hockey the Mayo Clinic continues to add new tools, such as Hockey IntelliGym software, a cognitive training program developed from an Israeli Air Force training program that has been used by USA Hockey for about five years, a nod to the importance of brain training in elite sports.

“It is one of those aspects of sports that deserve attention and research,” Stuart says. “These are rather abstract ideas, but are put into practice through this type of training.”

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Stuart says that improving on-ice awareness, to use a hockey example, can not only help a player “see the ice and understand the game and possibly improve the way they see the game,” to help performance, but can also increase a player’s anticipation and awareness to help reduce unanticipated hits, which lead to concussions and injuries.

“We really find IntelliGym to be helpful as a part of our skill development objective,” Stuart says. “My hope it that it will have an effect on injury prevention.”

Working as a leader in the hockey world isn’t the only big-name partnership for the rapidly expanding Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. When it opens, the $7 million, 20,000-square-foot Mayo Clinic Square, attached to the Target Center, will provide official team coverage for the Timberwolves and Lynx. The facility will also provide the athletes and teams with international exposure, education and research. The new clinic, which includes an MRI facility adjacent to the training facilities and home site of the Timberwolves and Lynx, will also be open to the public.

Already a major name in the international medical community, the Mayo Clinic is poised to become a most valuable player in sports medicine.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.