By Jim • 

Salem area doctor did much for high school sports

Dr. Thad (“Tad” to his friends) Stanford was a fine gentleman, soft-spoken and thoughtful, and when he talked, people listened. He was also a fierce advocate for high school football players and other athletes in Oregon, and when he died on Dec. 5, 2012, he left behind a legacy that will not be soon forgotten by the teams he supported or the association to which he wedded himself for a good part of four decades, the OSAA.

A former college football player and golfer at the University of Michigan and later an orthopedic surgeon and member of the National High School Hall of Fame for his work with sports medicine at Salem-area high school teams such as Sprague, South, North and McKay, and in more recent years, Roosevelt of Portland, Dr. Stanford was a shining light.

The former Wolverine wide receiver moved to Salem in 1965, and that’s when he began his long association with the Salem-are schools as a team doctor, which lasted for more than 30 years. But he went well beyond the duties of a team doctor, playing a part in passing legislation that required all districts to have athletes receive physicals before competing in athletics.

Dr. Stanford, who I came to know in the Salem Sports and Breakfast Club, also initiated the OSAA’s Medical Aspects of Sports Committee in 1972, which led to his association with the first National Federation of State High School Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in 1996. During my four years in the SSBC, Dr. Stanford often spoke before the club, composed of old, warn-out high school and junior high coaches like myself along with the athletes being honored on Fridays, raising his voice occasionally when the topic was one of his most passionate ones, like preventing concussions and taking care of those who had suffered from the immediate and long-range effects of concussions.

In all instances, he was an advocate for young athletes, and his voice was strong and clear when it came to his kids.

Although Dr. Thad Stanford avoided personal gain or applause for his compassion for young athletes, he was a great man whose strong voice paved the way for better examinations, better ways to prevent serious injuries, how to recognize concussions by coaches along the sidelines and how to care for those who had suffered head injuries.

The spring before he died, the Salem Sports and Breakfast Club presented Dr. Stanford with a special award for his service to the Salem community in particular and high school athletics in general. He and his wife Suzanne both attended the SSBC’s year-end meeting to honor area athletes.

Needless to say, Tad, Dr. Stanford, received a standing ovation from the old coaches’ club who admired him so much. Little did we know that he would live less than a year after that meeting.

Rest in peace, Dr. Stanford, and thanks for all you did for athletes and athletics in Oregon.

A remembrance and celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Innocent Winery-Zenith Vineyard in Salem.

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