In the first few weeks of the 2016 high school football season, three local players were saved from life-threatening medical issues – thanks to quick responses from highly skilled athletic trainers provided through a unique partnership between Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and Fort Bend Independent School District.

The program – now in its third year – places athletic trainers at each of Fort Bend ISD’s 11 high schools throughout the school year. The athletic trainers are part of the hospital’s athletic training residency program and serve the schools as assistant athletic trainers, working with all teams and supporting the head athletic trainer’s work with varsity squads.

“Our athletic trainers bring a tremendous benefit to the campuses,” said Bill Wissen, athletic training outreach manager for the hospital and Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. “These are schools with large athletic programs, and in football, many have well over 200 participants. Our partnership with Fort Bend ISD enables us to provide the needed support for student-athletes without requiring additional funding from the school district.”

There when needed

After an August scrimmage at Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, a varsity player complained to assistant athletic trainer Amanda Jagielo about abdominal pain. An examination convinced Jagielo that the player had a possible ruptured spleen, and she had his parents take him to the emergency room at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, where his injury was confirmed and life-saving treatment was performed.

After Ridge Point JV’s first regular season game, another player told Jagielo that he was experiencing “sharp neck pain.” She conducted a concussion exam and sent for the player’s father. By the time the athlete’s dad reached the field house, Jagielo had recognized a rapid decline in the player’s condition, and she suspected an epidural hematoma, or bleeding in the brain.

The player was immediately sent to the emergency room at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, and a CT scan confirmed the hemorrhage. He was stabilized and transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital, where pediatric neurologists were able to stop the bleeding without surgery.

“Those are the ones that really scare you, because they can be easy to miss, and if the player goes home and goes to sleep, it can be fatal,” said Wissen. “Amanda’s training and skill made all the difference because she diagnosed his condition right away and, ultimately, saved his life.”

On the first day of football practice, a 14-year-old freshman at Bush High School in Richmond went into cardiac arrest just outside of the locker room. Fortunately, M.J. Schultz – the school’s assistant athletic trainer and a resident in Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s athletic training residency program – was on-site.

Schultz immediately ran to the player, and saw that he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. He cleared the player’s airway and began CPR while one of the coaches brought over the emergency defibrillator. It took three shocks to revive the player, who was later transported by air ambulance and underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the outcome would have been different if M.J. had not been there, with his training and ability to react calmly and professionally,” said Wissen. “The pediatric cardiologist who implanted the pacemaker told us that M.J. had given the teenager ‘a second chance at life.’”

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is one of just five institutions in the country with an athletic training residency program that is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). In addition to being the official health care partner for Fort Bend ISD athletics – and more than 70 other schools throughout the region through its outreach efforts – the hospital is making tremendous strides in raising the level of care available at the high school level by educating the next generation of athletic trainers with the highest standards.

“More and more school districts are realizing that having proper coverage by skilled athletic trainers can save lives,” said Marie Charpentier, who coordinates the sports physical therapy and athletic training residency programs at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “Many school districts just don’t have enough athletic trainers on staff to handle the demands, and there is a real need for individuals with the highest level of training. Rural schools, especially, are clamoring for help. We’re involved across the region, and our graduates are in high demand.”

Complete care for young athletes

In addition to its on-campus staffing and outreach program, Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital also has two full-service, high-tech emergency rooms that can provide complete diagnoses and treatment for local athletes, at the hospital itself and the Houston Methodist Emergency Care Center in Sienna Plantation.

Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital is also a leader in a new medical specialty known as primary care sports medicine. David Braunreiter, M.D., and Nader Ayub, D.O., of Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, provide young athletes with a unique blend of services that are tailored to active pre-teens and teenagers.

“Student athletes need a primary care physician who understands the commitment they have to their sport along with staying healthy and active,” said Ayub. “A common story we hear is when an athlete suffers a minor injury, and his or her pediatrician says ‘no activity for a month.’ That’s just not possible for someone in the middle of a season. We help student-athletes successfully manage both injuries and chronic conditions, such as asthma or allergies, so they can return to action as soon as it is medically safe.”

Braunreiter and Ayub are also well-versed in concussion management and the latest and most advanced protocols, including the use of ImPACT (the computer-based assessment and cognitive testing tool).

Commitment to local athletes

Together, these programs and professionals are keeping local athletes healthy – and alive.

“We see this outreach as a vital component of our commitment to the community,” said Chris Siebenaler, CEO of Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “These young athletes need the same level of care and attention as professionals do. It’s not just about taping ankles or helping kids with a sprain. It can be a matter of life or death.”

For more information about Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, visit or call 281.274.7500 for a physician referral. Visit our Facebook page at for the latest news, events and information.