On Friday nights, East Texas student athletes take the football field. On Saturday mornings, some of them line up at the Christus Good Shepherd Free Saturday Morning Sports Injury Clinic in Longview.

The clinic has been serving student athletes for 25 years.

Christus Sports Medicine Coordinator Casey Reed said the department conducts 2,000 to 3,000 sports physicals per year.

“This is kind of one of our tangible ways that the Sports Medicine Department lives our mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus out into the community,’ Reed said. “For some kids that maybe wouldn’t have the access, this allows them to have that access. To have a free evaluation by a doc and a free X-ray on Saturday morning.”

The weekly clinic is conducted by board-certified sports medicine and orthopedic surgeons. It offers free X-rays, free office consultations and same-day MRIs to athletes of all ages from middle school to college.

The clinic allows the student-athlete, family members, coaches and athletic trainers to make a treatment plan the day after a game to prepare for the following week. Athletes then can schedule an individual appointment with a specialized sports medicine physician.

According to Christus, it is the only clinic of its kind in the area.

Not all are patients are high school football players as middle school sports, volleyball season, local colleges, cheerleaders and more are active through the fall. A spring Saturday clinic also is offered.

“We have that legacy of caring for kids, whether they can pay or not, they can still come on Saturday and be seen,” Reed said. “Really kind of equalizing health care for kids that maybe couldn’t have otherwise.”

The goal is to provide athletes with the care they need to avoid delays in care.

“This kind of helps our schools and our athletic trainers really make a game plan on Saturday, and that’s why we’re so excited to offer not only the clinic but also the MRI portion of it so that on Saturday they can have a game plan going forward and not have to wait to see the doctor on Monday,” Reed said. “This allows the athletic trainers to work on rehab or really get a game plan on how to get the kids back on the field as safely and as quickly as possible.”

If a football player sees a doctor on Monday without taking part in the Saturday clinic, an MRI could be scheduled with insurance further out in the week, which does not leave much time for athletic trainers to work on rehab before the next game.

She said there are about 20 staff members working on Saturdays, including X-ray techs, trainers, medical assistants, doctors and more.

Dr. Marc Matarazzo joined Christus in 2020 as an orthopedic surgeon. He said he has never been with a program like the Saturday clinic that was as well organized as Christus’.

If he had to describe Saturdays in one word, it would be “chaos.”

“There’s a lot of young kids limping around, you know, hoping that their injuries are minor,” he said. “We can diagnose them much quicker and then we can institute treatment right away. We see a lot of patients that will go somewhere and they really won’t get a good diagnosis. They’ll just get a generic diagnosis and then they have to wait to get seen. Then, if they need additional imaging or additional studies, then they have to wait for that. We provide a lot of opportunity to reduce all that waiting.”

The clinic is scheduled 9 to 11 a.m. each Saturday through Nov. 13 in Suite 5000 at 703 E Marshall Ave. in Longview.

Masks are required for all staff, patients and visitors to the clinic.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.