VSON’s outreach program provides year-round support for young skiers, hockey players and more.
If your kids are involved in after-school sports in either Summit or Eagle Counties, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Rachel Freeman, Outreach Athletic Trainer at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery.
After all, Freeman acts as a go-between to offer more simplified access to VSON’s free sports injury care for local school-aged athletes, covering more than 2,000 kids across every possible genre of four-season activities in the area.
“My phone number is the least-best-kept secret in Summit County,” Freeman says. Her role, as a sort of medical quarterback, is to help families quickly get the care they need following an injury, and she personally fields incoming calls and texts from parents, often after hours.
“I’m here to support all kids in the county so they can keep doing what they love,” she explains. “We deal with more than 150 unique patients and about 345 formal, in-office visits, but that doesn’t count all the outreach work we do.”
Freeman helped create VSON’s outreach program in 2019 with the help of Dr. Erik Dorf, a hand and shoulder specialist with VSON who grew up in Vail and had been casually providing assistance with the Vail Valley Soccer Club’s cup event. Dorf saw a need for streamlined sports injury care for young athletes in the community, and designed the VSON outreach program to fill that need.
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Today, the outreach program helps serve kids involved in Team Summit, Team Breck, Loveland Ski Club, Summit Youth Hockey, the Vail Mountaineers, Breck Vipers, Vail Yetis and the Kids Adventure Games in Vail. They’ve also contributed services to Cycle Effect, the women’s mountain bike program, and Summit High School as well as offering help to visiting national ski and other sporting teams during events.
“I have a pretty cool collection of team jackets, as a result,” Freeman laughs. “The role is great as it provides me an opportunity to see them on the hill, in a weight room or on the hockey rink – wherever is convenient to parents. I’m able to triage them immediately versus families trying to book an appointment on their own. VSON is committed to getting people direct access to care.”
Freeman’s year-round outreach job starts in the fall as she attends parent meetings and team formation meetings and introduces herself and VSON’s services, including the 22 athletic trainers who can help with young patients’ recovery.
It’s then a busy schedule of winter, spring and summer activities, accompanying local teams across the entire state, where she’s able to use her training to do quick assessments of injuries and offer a plan of treatment for patients and their parents. Freeman is also trained in assessing and interpreting concussions, a common injury in youth sports, and arranges treatment that can prevent more serious brain trauma.
“I love the kids, and I get to be part of their journey from injury to the podium – that’s the cool part,” she says. “I’ve been able to help kids from the moment of a femur fracture to the first day on the hill after surgery has taken place. I love the variety, and every day is a new adventure.”
Freeman’s role ties directly into the VSON commitment to community engagement. One of VSON’s core company values is to be actively involved in the communities in which its employees live, work, and play.
“It’s definitely a team effort across the organization,” Freeman says. “From the Patient Representatives who help me get families access to care to the CEO who’s made outreach a bedrock of our internal culture. Across the board, the staff at VSON sees to it that we can support our community.”
What started as a one-woman operation has grown and expanded, establishing VSON as a leader in corporate giving, support, and development. Freeman is looking forward to adding a new outreach staff member this summer who can help supplement VSON outreach work.
“Aside from participating in more clubs and youth sports, we sometimes have events where games run on four fields at once. I’m good, but I’m not that good.” Freeman laughs. “Another set of hands is going to go a long way. I can’t wait for this next step in VSON’s outreach program.”