Student-Athlete Alumni Profile: Kyle Anderson, MD
June 7, 2016

By Christopher Matsos

After sustaining a number of football injuries during his first two years as a member of the University of Michigan football team, Dr. Kyle Anderson’s (Football, 1987) undergraduate studies and career path took an unexpected turn. Dr. Anderson recalls his injuries as perfect timing, in hindsight: “You don’t ever want to experience injuries, but the timing of my injuries really could not have been better. I had always been interested in science, but being injured allowed me to directly experience how Sports Medicine functions in an athlete’s life and the importance of it.”

He saw such an impact as an injured athlete that he decided to attend the University of Michigan Medical School. Playing football at Michigan while taking pre-med classes is a daunting task. Dr. Anderson describes his experience: “You learned to quickly manage your time. I believe I had an advantage as a student-athlete because we are used to time management and keeping priorities in order. After my football career was over, I had more time than ever before. This gave me a great advantage in medical school at the University of Michigan.”

Dr. Anderson is now a world-renown orthopedist who has a private practice in Metro Detroit, The Michigan Orthopedic Institute, and also works with Detroit’s professional sports teams. He worked as an orthopedist for the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings from 1999-2006 and currently serves as orthopedist and team doctor for the Detroit Lions.

He has a variety of roles as team doctor for the Lions, including examining potential draft picks. Dr. Anderson has been giving his recommendations to team executives: “We examine players at the NFL Scouting Combine and try to provide the team administration a sense of the medical risk involved with a potential draftee. What injuries do they have? How long have they played with the injury? What are the risks of continuing to play with that injury? Essentially, a complete medical evaluation on the risk involved with drafting this player.”

Much of Dr. Anderson’s duties with the Lions take place on game days, when he is on the sideline ready to evaluate injured players who may not be ready or willing to come out of a heated contest. “Football players, and athletes in general, are used to playing above pain. Many times we need to protect the players from themselves (sustaining further injury). It may come to the point where we must take the player’s helmet away so he cannot re-enter the game.”

Players don’t always appreciate this during the course of a game, but they understand the importance: “We had a player sustained an abdominal injury. He wanted to go back in the game and play, but we advised against it. At the hospital, we found out that he had a liver laceration. Players are often times upset during the game, but they appreciate it later.”

The issue of protecting players in the game of football, and specifically the NFL, has gotten much attention lately, with concussion related issues at the forefront. “Players are concerned with the long term issues associated with concussions. They have become much more vocal and proactive, and also more forthcoming when sustaining a possible concussion.”

Dr. Anderson explains that concussions in football are decreasing thanks to rule changes, helmet designs, and coaching, but reiterated that additional funding and research cannot come fast enough. “The NFL is funding a good deal of research for concussions. However, more could be done overall across the sport.”

While the injuries Dr. Anderson sustained playing football at Michigan seemed like hindrances at the time, he realizes they have played an important role in his career after football. He even incorporates his experience at Michigan when interviewing applicants who have finished their residency and are applying for his fellowship program. “We like to ask applicants if they have ever experienced injury as an athlete and if this drives them to work in Sports Medicine. We actively look for this type of person.”

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