Medical pioneer

31 May


Dr. Douglas McKeag’s interest in both medicine and athletics led him down a career path that didn’t exist.

After initially attending Iowa State for veterinary medicine, Doug switched his major to zoology and also became head swim coach for the Ames YMCA. He always enjoyed sports – he played basketball for Iowa State during his freshman year – and was interested in physiology and biology, so he says it just made sense to go into sports medicine.

Only, he says, “There was no such thing at that time.”

How Doug became one of the founding fathers of primary care sports medicine is the story of a visionary pathfinder. After receiving his medical degree in 1973 from Michigan State University, he took the “gutsy step” of asking the athletics director there if he needed any help with his athletes. Doug soon found himself teaching, seeing patients, and conducting research during the day and at 5 o’clock going to the training room and, with the help of another young physician, caring for 734 athletes in 24 sports.

“It was a fascinating experience,” he says.

Doug and a few colleagues began what is now the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. “People were thirsty for sports medicine knowledge,” he says. “There was nothing out there.”

Doug served as head team physician for Michigan State and later a consulting team physician for the University of Pittsburgh as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts professional football teams. He has authored three books and speaks nationally and internationally on exercise and sport. He’s currently a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the founding director of the IU Center for Sports Medicine.

“Sports medicine is now one of the more popular areas of medicine,” Doug says. One of his primary areas of research has been concussion, and he can take credit for some of the changes in how sports-related concussions are treated.

It’s been an exciting career, he says. “When a player gets injured, it’s like making a house call with 75,000 people watching you.”

Today Doug says he’s “trying to figure out how to retire,” and he’s focusing his attention on global health. He’s traveled to Haiti as one of the first responders to the devastating 2010 earthquake, and he’s gone on medical missions to Nepal, Honduras, and Kenya.

Doug and his wife, Diane, live in Zionsville just north of Indianapolis and have three adult children.

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