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School of Medicine veteran traveled to Finland to aid American lacrosse team on its way to 2012 world title

Feb. 7, 2013

Doug McKeag’s European trip last summer may not have been a vacation, but the IU School of Medicine veteran enjoyed every moment of his trip to Finland as the team doctor for the U.S. team as it competed in the 2012 Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 World Championships.

McKeag, a world-renowned sports medicine expert who recently retired from the medical school, helped keep the American team healthy on its way to the 2012 world title, clinched with a 10-8 championship game victory over Canada in late July in Turku, a city in southwest Finland.

Doug McKeag

Sports medicine expert Doug McKeag, left, had a chance to hold the world championship trophy won by the U.S. team in last summer’s 19-and-under division in Finland.

McKeag knows about major athletic organizations and events. He’s worked at the Olympics (the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo and the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing), with NFL organizations (the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants) and high-caliber collegiate athletic departments, such as his alma mater, Michigan State.

But few of them have captured his fancy as much as lacrosse.

“It’s a fascinating sport, kind of a combination of soccer, basketball and hockey, with a little bit of football, too,” he said. The field looks a lot like a soccer field, in fact, and the aim -- like soccer and basketball -- is to score by putting the ball into the net. Using sticks to score is similar to hockey.

McKeag’s interest in lacrosse started when his son joined a team in Zionsville, northwest of Indianapolis, and it’s been growing ever since.

“It’s amazing to see how much it has grown here in the Midwest,” he said. “Notre Dame has a really good lacrosse program, and the Chicagoland area is one of the sport’s hotbeds. I’m really excited by how many high schools across Indiana have been picking it up; kids really are getting into it!”

McKeag’s medical background infuses his enthusiasm. “Lacrosse is a contact sport, not a collision sport like football,” he said. “You don’t purposely stand in another player’s way, though occasionally you’ll get hit with a (lacrosse) stick. That’s one of the things that attracted me: It’s not like football where collisions are intended.”

So even though injuries can occur -- including concussions, one of the white-hot topics in sports these days -- they are relatively rare.

“Lacrosse players are exceptional athletes,” he said. “They are so quick and run so hard for so long, they are in great shape.”

The U.S. team required relatively little of McKeag’s time, since it had few injuries or illnesses. But he was asked to help out other teams in the tournament, like those from Australia and the Czech Republic.

“There were a dozen teams entered, and only a couple were able to bring their own medical people, so we were happy to pitch in and help out. It was great to be able to get to know people from the other teams; it was a great part of the experience.”

And for McKeag, that experience was amazing. “We had great crowds for every game (the U.S. team) played; the stands were packed, and the fans were really into the games,” he said. “Obviously, lacrosse has developed a lot of fans in Europe, too. It was a great, great honor to be part of it all.”

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