Dr. Mary Lloyd Ireland

She once treated Olympic athletes. Now she sees patients here at UK.

Every four years the best athletes gather from around the world to compete in the Olympics.

Behind the scenes, each team has its own team of doctors, who are there to treat injuries and illnesses and help to make sure the athletes perform at their best.

Dr. Mary Lloyd Ireland, now a sports medicine physician at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, was an Olympic team doctor in 1992 at the Summer Games in Barcelona. During her time as an Olympic team doctor, she primarily worked with members of the women’s basketball team and the gymnastics team. She joined the team at UK in 2008.

A native of Lexington, Ireland grew up playing sports. During her time as a student at Sayre School, she played field hockey and basketball and also was a swimmer. In 1972 and 1976, Ireland competed for the chance to join the United States swim team. She missed making the team by two-tenths of a second.

“The third time,” she says, “when I tried out as a doctor, I made it.”

After the Olympics, she returned to Lexington and built a sports medicine program in private practice and served as a team physician for the UK Athletics for 12 years, becoming the first woman to serve as team physician for a Division I football team.

Her experiences as an athlete and doctor for Olympians provides her with a unique perspective that makes her better able to relate to patients, she said.

“Having been an athlete and knowing how important athletics are to young people, I’m better able to empathize,” she said.

Ireland’s advice for aspiring Olympic athletes? Dedication and perseverance are the key to success in athletics, but listening to your body is also important. Small issues become big issues when they go untreated and ignored and can get in the way of athletic performance, she said.

“To hit the mark you have to aim a little above it,” she said.


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