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PORTAGE — A local orthopedic practice has opened a sports rehabilitation clinic here to help athletes get back into playing shape after surgery and injuries.

Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute launched the new center after having patients they had done surgery on and rehabilitated with physical therapy come back with reinjuries.

"We saw a lack in the area of places able to get kids back to the sports they love and get back to their pre-injury condition," said Dr. Anthony Levenda, a sports medicine surgeon at Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute. "We just want to get athletes back in shape in a safe, healthy fashion."

The 5,500-square-foot Sports Rehabilitation and Health Enhancement Center offers sports-specific physical therapy and has astroturf and variety of equipment to help the players return to the field of play in a setting that mimics it.

Levenda said that in the past he would often do surgery on patients who would then do physical therapy at the facility until their allotted insurance coverage ran out, then Lakeshore would lose track of them. They might hurt themselves again. Levenda noted that people who tear their ACLs are at high risk for tearing that one again or the other one.

"This way we can offer a continuum of care," said Luis Prato, a sports physical therapist for Lakeshore. "It doesn't help if we do good surgery and good therapy, and they come back to us six months later reinjured."

"When we don't have a continuum of care, either (patients) quit sports or go back and reinjure themselves," Levenda said.

The clinic also has a sports psychologist on staff to help athletes overcome their fears of returning to field or court after a devastating injury.

The center isn't just for high-school or college athletes, Levenda noted, but anyone who plays sports, weekend warriors included. You could be a 50-year-old golfer who injures your shoulder and wants to be back on the greens.

"We want to see them return, in a safe manner, to the things they enjoy," Levenda said.

He said that even though patients will often have to pay cash for the services there, if it means avoiding future injuries "it ends up being cost-efficient in the end." He noted that the clinic is also an option for people with high deductibles or no insurance.

Health insurers often put a cap on the number of physical therapy visit they will pay for, Levenda said, and declare patients healed once they can return to activities of daily living when, for athletes in particular, more recovery might be needed.

"We want to get you back to performing at the level you were at, if not better," Prato said.

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.