Marketplace: Neurology clinic helps get patients back on the slopes
Given Jeffrey Kutcher’s interest in sports and his passion for neurology, combining the two by becoming a sports neurologist seemed like a good career choice. Then when the media started paying more attention to long-term effects of head injuries in athletes about 10 years ago, Kutcher felt even more convinced.
Kutcher is a neurologist and the owner of a new business in Park City called the Sports Neurology Clinic. He and his team work with athletes before and after head injuries to ensure they can perform to the best of their abilities. The clinic operates out of the Athletic Republic building in Quarry Village.
Kutcher began practicing neurology in 2002 at an in-patient clinic at the University of Michigan. He primarily worked with patients suffering from complex diseases that affected the brain, and many of them were at the end of their lives.
It was taxing for Kutcher, so he started delving into sports medicine in 2005. He worked with patients who sustained head injuries while playing sports.
It was not long before he started working fewer hours in the in-patient clinic and more hours at the university’s athletic department. In 2008, he said, there was a spike in the public’s interest in concussions and head injuries. More people were learning of the long-term effects of concussions, particularly in sports like football.
“All the sudden people started caring about this,” he said. “And it’s been a non-stop whirlwind since then.”
To meet the demand, Kutcher became a full-time sports neurologist. He said he helped build an academic sports neurology program at the University of Michigan until he decided to start a clinic of his own. He is passionate about the work.
“We are changing lives, we are getting people back to what they want to do, whether it’s athletically, socially, academically, professionally, whatever, by using the principles that we learn as neurologists, but apply them through a sports framework,” Kutcher said.
He opened the Sports Neurology Clinic in Michigan in 2016. He decided to expand his operations shortly after. He settled on Park City because he frequently visited the town while working with U.S. Ski and Snowboard. He is a team physician, and he served as the team neurologist for the U.S. Olympic Team at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics.
He said Park City seemed like the “natural place” for a second location because of the athletic community that lives and plays on the mountain.
He opened the Park City clinic in August, and ran it out of different facilities until Athletic Republic finished its new facility in October.
The Sports Neurology Clinic has a clinical exam room to talk with patients and perform tests to discover what the patients’ impairments are. Then Caralyn Baxter, the clinic’s physical therapist and regional director, or Nate Foot, an athletic trainer for the clinic, takes the patients into Athletic Republic’s gym.
Baxter said she likes to recreate the activities her patients typically do to see how their nervous system reacts. Sometimes, she does a basic workout with her patients. Other times, she takes them to the slopes to ski so she can observe the impairments they have because of their injury.
“I can truly understand exactly what it is going in their sport, and then better address that,” she said.
In the last decade, neurologists started implementing moderate exercise for concussion patients because research showed resting did not help as much as doctors previously thought, Kutcher said.
Kutcher said there are a lot of people with misinformation about concussions and how to treat them, but he is happy to educate people as long as he can keep helping people take their lives back. The success stories, he said, are what keep him and the rest of his team going.
“Patients that come in that haven’t been playing sports for two months, they are not going to school or being home-schooled or have half days at school. Their life is just turned upside down,” he said. “We get them back to their normal life relatively quickly. That is pretty awesome.”
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