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Ole Miss Physician Preps SEC Officials for Football Season

Dr. Marshall Crowther (left) enters Oxford-University Stadium for an Ole Miss baseball game earlier this year. Crowther, medical director at the University of Mississippi’s Department of Health and Sports Performance, has helped conduct preseason fitness evaluations for Southeastern Conference football officials since 2014. Photo by Petre Thomas/Department of Intercollegiate Athletics

Physical fitness is a requirement not only for Southeastern Conference football players taking the field; officials also must demonstrate their physical abilities. An Ole Miss team physician is helping ensure that the officials are physically up to the grinding SEC schedule.

The physical fitness test was part of a fall clinic earlier this summer in Birmingham for those hoping to officiate football games for the upcoming conference season. Dr. Marshall Crowther, medical director at the University of Mississippi’s Department of Health and Sports Performance, is a member of the committee that assisted with the clinic.

“The officials play an extremely important role in the game of college football and many forget the physical demands that they are under during a typical game, so it is a way to try to make their role as safe for them as possible,” Crowther said.

Crowther, who has participated in the SEC official fitness test since 2014, serves with three other team physicians, from Auburn University and the universities of Alabama and Georgia.

The doctors review each official’s medical history before the annual July clinic. They determine who may be at significant risk for cardiac disease and request stress testing for those showing signs.

Officials participate in a run and agility test during their annual officiating clinic. The physicians monitor participants during these tests, designed to simulate the strenuous activity of a game, and provide assistance if required.

Crowther’s participation in the fitness test serves to ensure officials are healthy and able to do their jobs

“The demands an official goes through are quite high during the length of a three-to-four-hour game, a lot of times during a hot afternoon,” Crowther said. “Our goal for this program is to hopefully catch those that may be at risk for having a serious health event under these conditions.

“Most pass, but only rarely a few have significant health conditions or (are) unable to pass the screening process.”

Crowther also participated in the 2019 NFL Combine, the annual event where prospective NFL athletes demonstrate their skills for scouts. The league annually invites one medical professional representing Division I NCAA teams that consistently have players participating in the combine.

Crowther’s goal at the combine was to learn how medical issues are handled at the professional level and to help athletes make the transition between college and professional performance.

“Dr. Crowther’s participation reflects highly on the university because he is continually praised for his efforts and dedication to sports medicine,” said Alex Langhart, director of University Health Services at UM. “He represents the university on a national stage when he travels to these SEC and NCAA programs. He doesn’t just attend; he makes an impact.”

By Dana Engelbert

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