Sports Doctor Anthony Daly Prepares for the Nonpolitical Aches and Pains of the Olympics
02/04/1980 at 01:00 AM EST
Nine months a year Dr. Anthony Daly runs a thriving orthopedic surgery practice in Inglewood, Calif. that earns well over $100,000. The other three months his income drops to zero, and paradoxically that's when Daly, 46, really enjoys himself. He serves as chief physician to U.S. amateur athletic teams.
This year that means he will head the medical unit treating the American Olympic entrants at Lake Placid and, if they go, Moscow. He opposes any U.S. boycott of the Soviet Games, by the way, declaring, "I can't believe our best response to the Russians' intervention in Afghanistan is to ask our athletes not to compete. As one of our sprinters said, 'Let's go over there and beat them in their own backyard.' "
Four years hence, if there are Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Daly will be overall medical director. But even before the current political contretemps, Daly found "It's a lot more hard work than glamor."
He became intrigued with sports medicine in 1962 when he was named team doctor for football at West Point while serving his residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. "I was fascinated with the motivation of athletes to get well," he recalls, "and with the conditioning of sports." Since 1973 assignments with U.S. track and basketball teams have taken Daly to Africa, China and Europe. In 1975 he became chief physician to the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), a position which pays no salary, only bare expenses.
Son of a New Jersey railroad conductor, he graduated from Rutgers in 1954 with a degree in biology, went to Philadelphia's Hahnemann Medical College and interned at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver. After Walter Reed, Daly, then a lieutenant colonel, spent three years as chief of orthopedic surgery for an Army hospital in Augsburg, Germany and another year at Fort Hood, Texas. In 1968 he set up private practice in Inglewood.
In addition to amateur athletes, he also treats the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League. Other pros, among them basketball's Bill Walton and Spencer Haywood, consult Daly as well as their team doctors. "There's sometimes a question as to the loyalties of the team doctor," Daly explains. "Many players think the team doctor may be aligned with the owners and will do anything to get them to play." On the other hand, Daly finds a disquieting fanaticism about victory in this country among pros and amateurs. "You see a win-at-any-cost attitude even in high schools now," he laments, "and that's wrong."
Daly will supervise four doctors at Lake Placid, but the absence of one—Pasadena chiropractor Leroy Perry—has caused a minor flap in the sports world. Perry, whose ministrations have earned him the nickname "Magic Fingers" from a wide following of athletes, says he was excluded because of medical politics and the unsympathetic attitude most M.D.s have toward chiropractic techniques. Daly, for his part, won't comment on Perry, noting only that the doctors he chooses for the Olympics must have "training of the highest caliber" and be "compatible."
His Olympic patients "will be in top shape," Daly says, "so that 60 to 80 percent of what we treat is colds, sore throats, nerves, upset stomachs and tension-type problems." The Olympics also require continuous testing of athletes for three kinds of drugs: stimulants, narcotic analgesics and strength-enhancing steroids. That program alone will cost $1.3 million at Lake Placid. "We could put the money to a lot better use," Daly says. "I don't know who supplies the drugs, but the manipulation of athletes is a serious international problem."
Daly is a weekend jock who once fractured his elbow playing basketball in the Army but settles now for tennis and golf plus stretching exercises. He lives with his second wife, Mary, 31, and two sons in Brentwood. He has three daughters by a first marriage that ended in divorce.
If sports medicine takes time other doctors would use for vacations, Daly is not complaining. "This is a way to combine something I'm good at with something I really like."