ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Dr. Gerald O'Connor, M.D., head team physician for University of Michigan athletics for 40 years and an early leader in sports medicine, passed away yesterday (Wednesday, May 5) at 5 p.m. due to complications of injuries sustained in a fall last week. He was 79 years old.
He had been involved with University of Michigan Medical Center since he arrived in Ann Arbor as an intern in 1953. After completing his Orthopaedic Surgery training, he joined the clinical faculty and maintained a busy practice at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
O'Connor was instrumental in the development of MedSport, the U-M Sports Medicine Program, in 1986 and served as medical director until his retirement in 2000. He also was an associate professor emeritus in the University of Michigan's Department of Surgery.
A native of Burbank, S.D., O'Connor has been the Michigan team physician and orthopaedic surgeon since 1964. He worked with four different football head coaches, starting with Bump Elliott in 1964, Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr.
O'Connor traveled with the football program to every bowl game since 1965 (32 games, including 15 Rose Bowls), more than any other member of the U-M staff past or present. The only bowl trips in the history of the University he did not attend in an official capacity were the 1902, 1948 and 1951 Rose Bowls.
He was a well-respected member of the sports medicine field and was president of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine in 1983. The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine presented O'Connor with the Mr. Sports Medicine Award in 1998. He was active in postgraduate education in sports medicine and gave numerous presentations on the diagnosis and treatment of sports injuries.
O'Connor received the President's Challenge Award from the National Athletic Trainers' Association in 1988.
O'Connor also was very active within the American Quarter Horse industry. The Michigan Quarter Horse Association created a scholarship to recognize and honor him for his work supporting youth as both the AQHA and MQHA past president.
He was also honored by the 'M' Club of Greater Detroit, along with former team physician Dr. Robert Anderson, with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award at the annual football bust.
He earned his B.S. from Loras College in 1949 and his M.D. from Creighton University in 1953.
O'Connor is survived by his wife, Margaret, and nine children plus their grandchildren.
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