COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.
The in-house sports medicine team is the last thing Air Force Falcon fans want to see at a football or basketball game. If the doctors are on the field it almost always means someone from the home team is injured.
But for Falcon athletes with, say, a damaged knee or a concussion, the “sports docs” at the U.S. Air Force Academy are highly appreciated pros dedicated to getting them back on the playing field.
For Mormon cadets, the academy’s sports medicine physicians are also fellow Latter-day Saints. Each of the doctors on the academy’s sports medicine team is a member of the Church and a returned missionary.
The ranks of the American armed forces are, of course, well represented by Mormons. “But to have a team of all LDS physicians is pretty rare,” admitted Air Force Col. Darren Campbell, who directs the team.
A family practice/sports medicine physician, Col. Campbell arrived at the academy nine years ago. At the time he was the only Mormon doctor on the staff. But over the next eight years several other Mormon doctors joined the sports medicine team — including Lt. Col. Jonathan Jackson, Lt. Col. Richard “Judd” Robins, and Lt. Col. Mark Slabaugh. Another LDS colleague, Lt. Col. Dain Allred, also served at the academy before separating from the Air Force.
The team’s medical duties extend far beyond treating injured inter-collegiate athletes. They also provide sports medicine care for all academy cadets and for other active duty military, dependents and retirees in the Colorado Springs area.
They also serve key roles in a nationwide program researching concussion prevention and care — a highly visible area of study in the athletic community.
An all-Mormon sports medicine team may be a rarity — but plenty of Latter-day Saints wear the uniform of the armed forces. It’s a natural fit, observed Lt. Col. Slabaugh.
“Service to country is important for many members of our Church,” he said.
Over the course of his 20-year military career, Lt. Col. Slabaugh has been stationed in areas across the world. At each stop he’s enjoyed the fellowship of other Mormon military personnel.
Col. Campbell added it’s a highlight to interact with the many LDS cadets at the academy. Several have come to him for their mission physicals. He’s witnessed several leave the Air Force Academy to serve missions — and then later return to the academy with highly valued maturity and experience.
As medical professionals, the Mormon doctors at the academy are well trained to offer advice to patients healing from an injury. As members, they believe prayer and priesthood blessings can offer divine remedies.