In September 2017, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse announced a partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System. The partnership named Mayo Family and Sports Medicine Physician, Dr. Jacob Erickson, the UW-La Crosse Athletic Team physician.
It only takes one play to change an athlete's life.
"This year, on my right shoulder I was injured at Whitewater on a Friday night, and then, we didn't know the severity of the injury at first," said Tarek Yaeggi, UW-La Crosse athlete. "We thought is was maybe a broken collarbone."
Yaeggi did not have to wait too long to find out the extent of his injuries.
"Dr.Erickson saw me Saturday first thing," Yaeggi said. "He wasn't supposed to work, so he came in on his own time, saw me, got x-rays, and we saw that it wasn't a break."
Dr. Erickson dedicates his time and Mayo Clinic Health System's resources to help UW-La Crosse student athletes.
"The whole goal of being a sports medicine doctor is to minimize down time from the injury and make an appropriate diagnosis right away, coming up with a treatment plan and getting the athlete back into competition as safely and as quick as possible," Dr. Erickson said.
He works with the university's athletic trainers to provide the best support for student athletes
"Mainly, the day-to-day training is run by the athletic staff, but if we're getting to a point where we're seeing an injury where we're not really sure what's going on and might need some further imaging or we need a second opinion, that is when we'll utilize physicians," said Joel Luedke, Director of Athletic Training and Sports Performance at UW-La Crosse.
Coaches say the partnership gives UW-La Crosse a leg up.
"This is the biggest advantage that we have over any of our opponents not only on the field, but certainly in recruiting and the type of experience we're providing our players," said Mike Schmidt, Head Coach of the UW-La Crosse Football Team.
Playing college sports is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It's my senior season as well as Tarek's and some other guys," said Noah Risch, UW-La Crosse athlete. "We weren't so worried about our long-term health when it's your last chance to play out there with your best friends."
Yaeggi's shoulder injury in the game against Whitewater happened in mid-October. With training and treatment, he was able to play in the last game of his senior season.
Dr. Erickson said he has been working with the UW-La Crosse Athletic Program on an unofficial basis for three years. In that time, he says he has seen hundreds of athletes experience a more effective recovery.
The partnership goes with Mayo Clinic Health System goes beyond sports teams. The goal is to promote more physical activity through community projects.