Move over, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. You’re about to get company on the injured players list.
In a Tuesday morning ribbon cutting at Golden 1 Center, Kaiser Permanente and Sacramento Kings officials opened their sports medicine facility catering to NBA players as well as teenage student athletes and “weekend warriors.”
Calling it a first-in-the nation venture, Kaiser is staffing the 18,000-square-foot facility for its patients with sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers and a neuropsychologist, who will begin seeing patients Monday, Oct. 24.
“We don’t see a limit on any specific type of athlete,” said Dr. Jason Brayley, chief of Kaiser’s sports medicine program and a Kings physician. “If our members are involved in any form of physical activity or any sport, our doors are open.”
The center includes a 7,000-square-foot open gym area and nine physical therapy rooms centered on “sport-specific” rehabilitation for anything from golf and soccer to football and gymnastics. The facility also features a 74-foot sprint lane and a green, faux-turf playing field, ringed by treadmills and other exercise equipment.
From the ceilings, netting can be dropped to allow physical therapists separate space to rehab all types of sports activities, including soccer kicks, running sprints and baseball swings. As part of preventative care for student athletes, 10 computer stations will assess their preseason cognitive function, for comparison later in case of a concussion. There’s also a mini-basketball court where injured players can work on rebounding, shooting and dribbling mechanics prior to returning to the court.
“If I’d had this during my career, I could have played five more years,” joked Vlade Divac, 48, the former Kings and Los Angeles Lakers player who retired from the NBA in 2005 and is now the Kings general manager and director of basketball operations.
Kings President Chris Granger said the facility is the only one of its kind in the NBA. “It’s a slam dunk for us,” said Granger, adding that he hopes injured Kings players won’t be frequent visitors. The only team with a similar facility, Granger said, is the Minnesota Timberwolves, which has a sports medicine center affiliated with the Mayo Clinic, but is across the street, not inside, the team’s arena.
Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, a Kaiser patient who rolled to the ceremonies on a knee scooter, the result of breaking his leg in August, said the arena’s new medical facility is part of “catalyzing” Sacramento’s downtown and returning more jobs and liveliness to the city’s core. “It’s like the defibrillator of downtown,” Hansen said. “It’s restoring a strong heartbeat.”
Some, however, question the appropriateness of a sports medicine center inside an NBA arena.
“We need not look far to see the link between the rise of obesity (and the associated sedentary lifestyle) with the rise of professional spectator sports,” said Dr. Allan Abbott, a sports medicine expert at the University of Southern California, in an email. He prefers that “health care providers focus on exercise promotion for their sedentary patients, rather than those who have already bought into the commercialization that surrounds the NBA.”
But Kaiser’s Brayley said the new facility’s message is promoting healthy lifestyles and a return to exercise.
“In sports medicine, it’s what we can do to help that person exercise and stay fit ... to use exercise as a prescription to health,” he said.
The sports medicine facility, with an undisclosed price tag, is part of Kaiser’s three-pronged push into downtown Sacramento. In 2023, Kaiser expects to open a new hospital on 18 acres in the city’s long-empty historic railyard, replacing its aging Morse Avenue hospital. Two years ago, Kaiser bought a six-story building at 501 J St., directly across from Golden 1, that the company is converting into medical offices. The building, expected to open in 2018, will provide primary care, obstetrics, pediatrics and oncology services for Kaiser members working or living downtown.
Kaiser, which also has a sports medicine center in Elk Grove, has been the official Kings medical team since the 2013-2014 season.