March Madness Q&A with Dr. Mair, Physician for UK Men's Basketball
Scott Mair, MD, is a professor of orthopaedic surgery at the UK College of Medicine. He is also one of the physicians who cares for players on the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. In the spirit of March Madness, Dr. Mair answered questions about what a typical day as a team physician looks like, memories he has gathered over the years, and how this role impacts how he teaches residents and fellows.
Q: As team physician, what are your roles with the basketball team?
A: My primary role is to cover the games and to evaluate and treat any players who get injured. Dr. Rob Hosey (our medical team physician) and I cover all of the home and tournament games, and one of us goes with the team on the road. During a game, we may have to put in some stitches or start an IV. If a player gets injured, we have to decide whether they can go back in the game. Probably our most important job is to protect the players and not let them play if it is not in their best interest.
We don’t go to every practice, but one of us tries to go by to check on players toward the end of practice most days. We may have guys that are rehabbing from an injury or surgery to check on, or new minor injuries. Of course, if something major happens in practice, we get there ASAP. And you really never know for sure when something might happen.
Q: What does a typical day with the team look like?
A: It depends on the day. Typically, they practice from about 2:30 – 5 p.m., with one day off each week. On the road, there is some down time. We eat the team meals; there is a lot of free food so it’s easy to get fat. They will usually have a shoot-around practice about six hours before the game, pregame meal four hours prior to the game, and leave for the arena two hours before game time.
Q: How did you get involved with UK Athletics?
A: When I completed my sports medicine fellowship over 20 years ago, I was looking for a job with two things primarily. I wanted to be able to teach orthopaedic surgery residents and fellows, and to be able to cover athletic teams. In any given year, only a few of those jobs at academic medical centers are available, so if you are fortunate enough to get an offer, you should probably take it.
When I interviewed for the job here, I had never been to Kentucky before. I really liked everything about UK, so I took the job without looking anywhere else. It has worked out great, my wife and four daughters consider Lexington home, and we all bleed blue.
With regards to UK Athletics, I was fortunate to be able to take care of some of the teams from when I first got here, like the UK baseball team. Dr. David Caborn was the doctor for the basketball team when I started. He got me involved some from the beginning, and when he left after my third year here, I got the opportunity with the basketball team.
Q: What is your favorite part of working in this role?
A: I would say my favorite part is I have met so many great people and had many awesome experiences. UK Athletics is successful because great people are involved, from the athletic directors, coaches, to everyone else that works with the teams. When I first got here, I got to hear hilarious stories from Bill Keightley. I’ve worked closely with four different athletic trainers with the basketball team. All were excellent to work with, and I remain good friends with all of them. There are so many people in different roles with the team that I’ve had great times with. And we also get to go to some fun places for games. I’ve been to Maui and the Bahamas three times each. Obviously the most exciting times involve being at the games, especially the NCAA Tournament.
It has been a privilege to work with so many excellent players, and most of them are great people as well. This current group is exceptional. Everyone talks about what a good group of kids they seem to be. And as much a group of characters that they seem to everyone, behind the scenes they are even funnier and just really enjoyable to work with.
Q: How has being a part of the team impacted how you teach your residents and fellows?
A: Occasionally I have taken ideas that I see John Calipari or other coaches do when they are teaching players, and I have used that when teaching our orthopaedic residents and fellows. But probably the best learning they get is to be involved with the day-to-day things we do with the teams, to help and participate, and learn by seeing real-life situations.
UK Athletics has also been a great help to us in recruiting fellows to come here. They see the success of the teams here and want to be a part of it. So that is one more benefit of being at a place like UK. The excellence of the programs helps draw better people to come work with us.
Q: What have you learned from this experience?
A: I wish I could say I learned how to dunk a basketball, but that hasn’t happened yet. I have learned a lot of basketball plays! But I would say the biggest thing I have learned over the years is how fortunate I am that I ended up at UK with this job. One year during the season, Coach Cal tweeted out birthday wishes to me. A few people responded “Happy Birthday”, and about 100 people said, “I wish I had his job.” And they were right. For all the reasons I described earlier, and all the people and players I have had the opportunity to work with, I have been truly blessed.