Owensboro doctor Philip Hurley’s contribution to athletic training has not only earned him a top honor in Kentucky, but now the annual award will also be named after him because of his extensive efforts.
Hurley has been named the 2020 Sports Medicine Person of the Year by the Kentucky Athletic Trainers’ Society. Going forward, his name will be attached to the front of the award.
This award is given to a “non-athletic trainer who has and continues to display support for and made contributions to the profession of athletic training and its advancement in the state of Kentucky.”
“I’m extremely humbled and very honored that I was chosen for that,” Hurley said.
Hurley has become a staple on the sidelines at football games in Owensboro, but his contributions go far beyond the field. He’s also a strong advocate for strengthening safety guidelines and broadening the capabilities of how athletic trainers are allowed to help when they are needed.
“Dr. Hurley is very well-respected by his peers, as evidenced by this honor,” said Owensboro High School football coach Jay Fallin. “Additionally, in his role as our team physician, he is always accessible to me for counsel on improving our safety protocols.
“From preventing and treating heat illness, concussions, and the myriad of orthopedic injuries that occur in football, he is knowledgeable and thorough in helping us make our program as safe as it can be. Most importantly, when a young man who plays for us is injured, he treats him with the level of attention and care that every parent would want for their son.”
Parents of OHS football players were also eager to share examples of how Hurley went above and beyond what is expected of him.
Rising senior Austin Gough, a star linebacker for the Red Devils, was injured just before his junior season began. It was a tough time for the family, but Hurley was there every step of the way during the recovery process.
“It was a wingbanger of a year, for sure,” said Austin’s dad, Greg Gough. “We couldn’t have asked for better care, better attention to get Austin back on the playing field as quickly as he got back. (Hurley) had the right regimen for Austin. Everything just worked out.”
Austin was able to return for the latter part of the season, excelling in the handful of games in which he was able to play.
“We’re very fortunate to have (Hurley) at Owensboro High School,” Greg said. “He means a lot to the team and program. Not many schools have somebody of his caliber on the sideline game-in and game-out.”
Travis Chaney is another parent grateful for Hurley’s presence in the program. Travis’ son, Ryland — a rising junior — suffered a minor injury during halftime of a game early last season. The injury occurred off the field and was because of a drain not being properly marked off for safety.
Travis said while he was glad to see Hurley stick up for Ryland at the time of the incident — challenging school administration at the game about why proper safety measures weren’t in place — it was what came next that was more impressive.
Hurley saw the bigger picture. There are countless safety concerns on the sidelines of football fields or basketball courts, or even in the locker rooms. So, Hurley pushed for change.
Eventually, he co-authored an article in the April issue of High School Today on sideline safety.
“No high school wants to see an athlete injured,” Hurley said. “There’s a lot of things that unless you really take time to think about it or pay attention to it, can inadvertently injure a player.”
Going the extra mile is just part of who Hurley is, Travis said.
“He’s always advocating for safety,” Travis said. “He did all this stuff behind the scenes. No one asked him to do that. That’s a testament to why he got that award. He doesn’t wait for problems to occur. He’s very proactive.”
What really put Hurley over the top — and played a large role in the award now being named after him — was his recent work to help rewrite a Senate Bill (the Athletic Trainer Practice Act) in Kentucky. The revised bill updated language that hindered athletic trainers from using their full skill set.
“We were afraid if (we told them they can’t use their training in Kentucky) it wouldn’t be long before we start losing trainers left and right to other states that had updated their Practice Act,” Hurley said.
KATS President Scott Helton said the organization was beyond honored to present this year’s award to Hurley, and it was a no-brainer to change the name from here on out.
“I find myself short of words to describe just how amazing his efforts were, how selfless they were,” Helton said. “(Naming it after him) was something that came about because of his extensive contributions. … It didn’t take any convincing. It was like this immediate unanimous support for doing that.”
In addition to his work with OHS, Hurley is involved with many other organizations.
In 1990 he moved to Kentucky and joined Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Owensboro. He is board certified in orthopaedics, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is also a member of half a dozen local and national medical associations and societies.
Though he’s a general orthopedic surgeon, Hurley said his favorite thing is sports medicine. He said he’s found great joy in dedicating his time to helping young athletes.
“Taking care of high schools is something I’m very passionate about,” he said. “I really enjoy being associated with high school athletics.”