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Health students give Indigenous footy players their pre-season check-ups


Sharlene King
22 January 2013
Northern United rugby league players received full health and fitness checks from student nurses, exercise physiologists and osteopaths at Southern Cross University’s Health Clinic in Lismore today (January 22).

The initiative, a collaboration of the Lismore-based Northern United rugby league club, SCU Health Clinic and Meridian Health, is designed to improve Indigenous health in the region.

Northern United’s club secretary Grantley Creighton said the health checks were a mandatory requirement for both senior and junior players before setting foot on the field this season.

“Koori men are reluctant to visit the doctors. This annual check-up is a way to use the footy club as a vehicle to improve the health of the Indigenous community in the area.”

Indigenous Australians suffer higher rates of kidney disease, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, than the rest of the population.

“It’s about prevention and early intervention,” said Mr Creighton.

SCU Health Clinic senior manager Marlene Assim said a specific health and exercise program was developed for each player, with follow-ups at the six and 12 week marks.

“SCU Health Clinic is here to educate our students and provide them with practical experience, but we are also here to service and support the community,” she said.

The exercise physiology students tested the players’ physical fitness, strength, and breath and lung capacity; full muscular-skeletal assessments were provided by the osteopathy students; while the nursing students reviewed the patients’ medical history and organised blood samples for S&N Pathology.

“It’s an inter-professional clinic for our students,” Ms Assim said. “The students have an integrated learning experience where they get to see what happens in other disciplines and work as a team.”

The final step of the check-up was an appointment with a registered nurse and doctor from Meridian Health.

“If you can get early detection of the chronic diseases affecting Indigenous people, you can change the direction of their lives,” said Meridian Health managing director John Brice.

Mr Brice, who is passionate about closing the gap to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, said he hoped the health initiative might also broaden the players’ career prospects.

“Let’s see if we can make some champions out of these young men and boys and encourage them to embark on university study in sports, health, Indigenous studies or whatever their interest might be.”

Meridian Health, a platinum sponsor of Northern United, is behind the successful bid for the $7 million Lismore GP Super Clinic, set to open in April 2013. The GP Super Clinic’s allied health professionals will be based at the SCU Health Clinic.
Photo: Northern United rugby league player Clinton Roberts receives a health check from osteopathy Masters students Francois Naef (right) and Laurie Axtens (left).