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Ozarks Lunkers partner with CoxHealth

Chris Drew

CoxHealth's Sports Medicine Department will support the arena football team in training and on the sidelines.

Springfield has entered the professional arena football market with the Ozarks Lunkers, which is part of The Arena League. In their inaugural 2024 season, the Lunkers will be supported by a partnership with the Sports Medicine Department at CoxHealth.

Co-Directors of Sports Medicine Dr. Shannon Woods and Dr. Heath Melugin made the announcement, joined by members of the Cox communications team and principal owner of the Lunkers, Mark Burgess.

Dr. Melugin spoke about what this partnership means for Cox, saying it "signifies Cox Health’s commitment to sports medicine within our community. It is a professional Arena Football team, and we’re going to be committing significant resources to it, [including] athletic trainers at all the events and physician coverage at all games.”

Dr. Woods has been with Cox for a decade. He said the Sports Medicine Department and its capacity to offer care has grown significantly in that time, and that growth continues.

Dr. Woods said CoxHealth currently covers “18 high schools and one university with Drury University. You’re seeing the expansion now with the Lunkers, and we’re going to continue to expand within the community, and hopefully we'll be able to serve more institutions as the future unfurls.”

Lunkers owner Mark Burgess said the team shopped around the community for sports medicine providers but was most impressed by how interested Cox was in being involved — and their offering of facilities for training and nutritionists.

“We want this to be top-level,” Burgess said. “We want our players to be taken care of at the top level, and there is more than just Cox in town, but they have the facilities we need to make this really work for us.”

He said the six-on-six style of football the Lunkers will play doesn’t lend itself to the hard heavy hits common in the NFL, but injuries do happen. Burgess explained “it’s not like you’re going to have a lot of 300-pound lineman. This is a lot more fast-paced, but if something does happen, we want to make sure our guys are getting the best possible care they can and for the away team as well.”

The Lunkers season begins June 1, 2024.