Backline: U.S. Soccer's rock 'n' roll doc

AS A MEMBER OF THE ROCK BAND SHA NA NA, he went by Santini. He was Gatsby, one of Rodney Dangerfield's cronies, in the movie "Caddyshack." Now, U.S. national team players call him "Doc."

Scott Powell is an orthopedic surgeon with an Orthopedics and Sports Medicine practice in Southern California. In 2004, he became part of the doctor corps used by the U.S. national team program.

Last year, he accompanied the U.S. team that competed at the 2007 U-20 World Cup and served as team doctor for the second half of the Women's World Cup in China.

Powell was the guy who stitched up a gash in Stephanie Lopez's scalp and got her back on the field in 80 seconds during the quarterfinal win against England.

The person most delighted with Powell's rock history may be women's national team coach Pia Sundhage. She's such a music aficionado that at her first training camp in charge, she started the first team meeting by singing Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are-A Changing."

Now, when Powell is with the team, she has a partner.

"We were at a restaurant in Juarez, Mexico," says U.S. women's national team press officer Aaron Heifetz. "There was a guy doing a great job with American pop songs. Someone told him Pia likes to sing. He gets her on stage and says, 'And now here's a song from Coach Pia!' Then it was, 'And now Doc Powell!'"

Heifetz says he was skeptical when he heard of Powell's interesting background but quickly confirmed it with a Google search.

"When word filtered around that he was in 'Caddyshack,'" says Heifetz, "his street cred went through the roof."

Powell played junior varsity soccer at Columbia, where Sha Na Na started as an a capella band. Besides Woodstock, when it came on before Jimi Hendrix, the group was famous for its variety show that aired from 1977 to 1982 and its tracks on the "Grease" soundtrack.

Powell was considering an acting career and got it underway with the role in "Caddyshack." But when he and friends were working on a screenplay that included a doctor character, he found himself steered toward a medical profession.

"I was investigating what a doctor would really sound like in terms of dialogue," Powell says.
His research included observing the goings-on at a VA hospital.

"It sure wasn't the same as running around on stage," says Powell. His interest piqued, he then called his best friend from fifth grade who had become an emergency room doctor.

"I wanted to know what it was really like," says Powell, who had majored in English at Columbia.

Drawn to the profession, he began applying to medical schools.

"They kept having me come back a couple of times for interviews," Powell says. "I guess they were thinking, 'Here's a 33-year-old guy who played Woodstock and wants to be a doctor!?'"

Powell chose Albert Einstein College of Medicine and eventually picked orthopedics as his field. He met longtime U.S. Soccer doctor Bert Mandelbaum at an Arthoscopy Association meeting and they started talking about the sport, because Powell had coached both his children's teams. Mandelbaum got Powell involved with U.S. Soccer.

Powell says his soccer background is important.

"It's value-added," he says, "to have someone with a background to be aware of the common injuries, and even to have suffered those injuries yourself. And it's important to be able to observe the players, their gait for example, to know when they're injured."

And when the head coach is an enthusiastic musician, the rock background comes in handy as well.

(This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Soccer America magazine.) 

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