As part of our Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground Insider series, we’re taking a look at the people behind the scenes that keep our teams ready for matchday. This week’s focus is on the man making sure the players are safe and healthy to take the field.
Dr. Samuel Clifton Willimon also known as “Cliff” serves as the Medical Director for the Atlanta United Academy program as well as a team physician for the club’s first team at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.
Originally from LaGrange, Georgia, Willimon earned his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in South Carolina before attending medical school at the Emory University School of Medicine and continuing his training to become an orthopaedic surgeon at Duke University. Willimon also completed his Sports Medicine Fellowship with Steadman Clinic and the Steadman-Philippon Research Institute in Vail, Colorado.
During his studies and training, Willimon developed a passion for sports medicine, in particular the growth, development and recovery of young athletes, which led him to return to his native state of Georgia and practice medicine at Children’s Orthopaedics of Atlanta.
“I was excited to return to Atlanta because it was clear to me that Children’s was committed to excellence and improving the future of healthcare including orthopaedics and sports medicine,” said Willimon.
Willimon started working at Atlanta United in March of 2017 and moved into the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground along with the rest of the club when it officially opened in April. The state-of-the-art facility not only provides a place for the athletes to thrive, it also possesses all the assets Willimon and the rest of the medical team need to properly care for them.
“The Training Ground is an extraordinary, world-class facility that was carefully planned,” says Willimon. “The design promotes teamwork and unity by allowing the Academy players to interact with their role models on the first team. The layout of the facility also provides excellent views and access, which is important from a healthcare and safety perspective in case an emergency were to arise on the field or in the stands.”
Willimon’s work schedule is contingent on the status of his athletes. He must be ready to provide care day or night, so in turn his schedule varies day by day. Depending on the severity of a situation or injury, Willimon could find himself tending to an athlete on the field, in the training room, in the clinic or even the emergency room. When needed, he directs and oversees the athletes’ care to the appropriate specialist, such as a cardiologist or neurosurgeon.
It’s certainly a job that requires persistent communication, awareness and diligence, but Willimon is more than up to the task.
“My favorite days are those spent on the sidelines for an Academy or First team match,” says Willimon, “or when I come to the Training Ground to observe practice and evaluate players in the training room. It’s an honor to be able to help the players when needed.”
It’s only been a few months, but Dr. Willimon says he has truly enjoyed his time thus far and believes he has all the tools to continue to make a difference and shape the future of orthopaedics and healthcare.
“It has been a wonderful experience to be able to work with an excellent organization. Children’s and Atlanta United share the same commitment to excellence, so that makes it a perfect fit for me. By working together, we have the best coaching staff, medical staff, facilities and ultimately the best soccer team.”