Dr. Hamish Kerr joins us on “5 Questions with CJSM”

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are having their closing ceremony today.  Among the many sports that have been declared a success in these games is Rugby 7’s, which saw South Africa beat the New Zealand All Blacks for rugby gold.

Soon, many of these same athletes will begin tramping around the globe:   the International Rugby Board (IRB) HSBC Sevens World Series begins in Australia in October. As the series circumnavigates the globe, it will make stops from Dubai to Las Vegas, and points in between, before it wraps up in May 2015 in England (which, by the way, will host the Rugby World Cup in 2015).

And by that time, we’ll be just about a year from Rugby 7’s making its debut as an Olympic Sport in Rio.

Yes, I would say, rugby is in ascendancy as a sport right now both globally and domestically.   Here in America, for instance, youth rugby is growing at an astounding rate.  We publish frequently on the sport in our journal, and I have a particular fondness for the sport having spent some of my adult life in southern Africa and in New Zealand, where it is, arguably, religion.

HK at Twickenham

Dr. Hamish Kerr at Twickenham Satidum, home of England Rugby

One of my colleagues whom I hold in great esteem, Dr. Hamish Kerr, is intimately involved with rugby.  I have been after him for a while to a guest post on our “5 Questions with CJSM” format.  It is appropriate that we have him guesting today, as the Glasgow games wrap up……

Dr. Kerr finished medical school in Glasgow in 1998 and moved to Albany, NY in 1999 for his combined Med/Peds residency. He spent another 18 months back in Scotland in 2004 prior to starting his sports fellowship in Boston in 2005, where he worked under Dr. Lyle Micheli, who, among his multiple other lifetime honors, was recently inducted into the USA Rugby Sports Medicine Hall of Fame.

Before I took off for a summer holiday, I asked Dr. Kerr to put pen to paper and answer the following questions.




1) CJSM: You wear a lot of hats:  practicing clinician, educator, team physician.  Can you give us a run down of your various commitments.

 HK: I am principally the sports medicine fellowship director for Albany Medical College. We have a fellow, residents and medical students rotating with us year round. I have 5 faculty who see a mix of musculoskeletal medicine and sports concussion patients. I practice in two sites, one with Capital Region Orthopedics and another academic office site where we see most of the sports concussions and have a multidisciplinary clinic. We have MSK ultrasound, ImPACT, and treadmill testing available.

My 2nd role is as head team physician at Siena College. We provide field side cover for men’s and women’s soccer and basketball , plus men’s lacrosse. Siena men’s basketball made the NCAA 3 tournaments in consecutive years 2008-2010 and will host the MAAC tournament in 2015.

USA Rugby I have been working with for 4-5 years. It is a voluntary position, but very enjoyable. I have covered the men’s national team for the 15-game and the 7’s-game as a team physician both on home soil and abroad, including the UK, Mexico (Pan Am Games 2011) and Moscow (IRB Sevens Rugby World Cup 2013). I also Chair the Medical & Risk Committee and serve as a member of the Rugby Committee helping administer the game in the USA from a medical perspective.

2) CJSM: I have enjoyed following your research career, most especially the work you have done with rugby.  Can you tell us about some of your previously published research, ranging from the epidemiologic work you have done to the motion analysis work which, I believe, is on-going work you are doing?

HK:  I have been interested in the biomechanics of human movement since studying physiology & sports science as an undergraduate. I have done work in soccer looking at heading the ball, and more recently analyzing the rugby tackle. We have about 4 years of data I hope to publish sometime soon. I have been lucky to have access to a state-of-the-art motion analysis lab at Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute which is 10 minutes up the road from my office.

Injury epidemiology is very challenging to do well. I have been involved in this for rugby and other sports. It’s especially tricky with sports that don’t have medical staff in attendance. It’s really important that we are able to determine whether interventions we may endorse actually reduce injury incidence or severity. There must be outcomes, and you can’t calculate them unless you are doing surveillance.

I am very interested in concussion prevention currently, and have been looking at various risk factors that we might be able to modify.

3) CJSM: I know you are a medical educator for training medical staff caring for rugby athletes worldwide.  Can you comment on some of the work you do in that setting?  Can you comment on the excellent resource the IRB provides, ‘Rugby Ready’ ?

 HK:  I think the International Rugby Board is really leading the way with how it facilitates training for referee, coaches, administrators and now physicians and medical personnel. There is a combination of online modules and face-to-face workshops that are provided by the IRB. I have completed training as a Senior Medical Educator, so recently helped Dr Jonathan Hanson from the Scottish Rugby Union provide our USA Rugby team physicians with ‘Immediate Care in Rugby’ training so that we were able to confidently attribute a consistent level of competence to all those travelling with our men’s and women’s teams. It is a very worthwhile course taught worldwide in several languages. The IRB player welfare website has all the necessary online learning and is very easy to navigate and well put together.

4) CJSM: You have to compose a 140 character tweet on twitter; in that tweet, can you tell us the difference between traditional rugby and the Olympic sport of rugby sevens.

HK:  Rugby sevens originated in Scotland and is played with only seven players on the same field that the 15 player game is played on. The sevens game is therefore more expansive, with greater space to exploit and speed becomes an essential commodity. It is very entertaining. It will make an excellent Olympic sport. It is played all over the world, New Zealand are the most dominant team in both sevens and traditional 15’s rugby.

(er, Dr. Kerr, we might have to have you sit for a twitter tutorial, as you’re well over 140 characters!  In the mean time, may we suggest:  ‘R U ready 4 speed & entertainment?  Checkout #Rugby7s #Olympics’)

5) CJSM: It’s a shame our readers cannot hear your lovely Scottish brogue–you still have a lot of Scot in you!  Tell us, when it comes to Scotland facing off against the USA in rugby, what colors does your heart wear?

 HK:  This has happened often as Scotland and the USA have both hovered around the Top 10 Seven’s teams in the HSBC IRB Sevens world series and play each other frequently. I am of course always wearing my stars and stripes with pride! Two years ago, the tournament in Glasgow in Scotland (where I went to medical school) was a decider or ‘relegation’ tournament that needed the USA to finish ahead of the Scots to avoid dropping down to playing in a lower tier. Suffice to say I was not greeted with any warmth or affection from my Scottish medical colleagues that weekend. Very peculiar circumstance to find oneself in….


I’m sure with your wit and charm, Dr. Kerr, you navigated your way back into the good graces of your Scottish colleagues.  Thanks for joining us!



About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

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