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Dr. Dave Crandell Honored with USA Hockey Excellence in Safety Award

By Greg Bates, 06/08/21, 8:59AM MDT


Crandell has been a leader in advocating for disabled hockey players

Dr. Dave Crandell has always had a passion for helping disabled athletes. 

For the last 21 years, he’s volunteered his time for USA Hockey to play an integral role in making sure these athletes get the best medical care and are able to chase their dreams on the ice.

Crandell, who is an assistant professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Harvard Medical School at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston and the Massachusetts General Hospital, has split time over the years between the amputee and sled hockey disciplines. Crandell also serves as medical director for the Limb Restoration and Adaptive Sports Program

“Trying to advocate for disabled players to play, but at the same time wanting to make sure everybody stays safe; I thought it was a good match,” Crandell said. “That’s actually worked pretty well for over 17 years.” 

In 2000, Crandell helped develop opportunities for amputees to play stand up hockey by founding the American Amputee Hockey Association. 

For his outstanding contributions to USA Hockey and many years of continued service to make hockey a safer game, Crandell has been recognized as the recipient of the USA Hockey Excellence in Safety Award. 

Crandell’s medical colleagues throughout the country know he’s a worthy winner.

“I think it’s his commitment to his patients and his commitment to athletes and his passion for disabled athletes,” said Dr. Mike Stuart, USA Hockey’s chief medical and safety officer. “He’s done a lot with sled hockey and amputee hockey.” 

Crandell has been a member of the USA Hockey Safety and Protective Equipment Committee since 2003 with Stuart. Crandell is the lone rehabilitation doctor that sits on that board.

“He’s been very helpful in using his experience as a physician and rehabilitation and taking care of injuries, including catastrophic injuries, because obviously, that’s a really, really important focus of our work is trying to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries,” Stuart said. “Fortunately, they are not common, but they are devastating when they do occur. So, [Dave] has lent us his expertise in that realm, which I think has been very valuable.” 

Said Crandell: “I think everyone’s kind of come around to the idea that concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries are a significant public health issue and if we weren’t addressing that then we really weren’t doing our job."

Dr. Alan Ashare, who is Crandell’s medical mentor and nuclear medicine specialist at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, and professor of radiology at Tufts Medical School, has known Crandell for over two decades and knows his dedication to disabled athletes.

“He is an outstanding person,” Ashare said. “First of all, he’s a great clinician. And he was actually recognized for his clinical work after the Boston [Marathon] bombing — he had a lot of patients — in 2013. He took care of a lot of those people and got them walking again on some made up limbs.” 

Crandell was humbled to be able to help the bombing victims who lost limbs.

“The most severe people came our way,” Crandell said. “Because I’m the medical director for the amputee program, we had 15 new amputees, all at the same time. That was a very challenging time professionally. But one of the lessons that we learned is that if someone gets a significant injury — in this case from a bombing, but it can happen from a car accident or some other trauma — that if you don’t stop somebody’s bleeding, they don’t make it to the hospital and they don’t become a rehab patient.”

Through his volunteer work with USA Hockey, Crandell has been able to travel the globe, which he’s thoroughly enjoyed. He’s been to Finland twice, Czech Republic, Latvia and St. Petersburg, Russia.

His first big USA Hockey event was heading to St. Petersburg with a small group of standing/amputee athletes for the 2000 world championship. 

Also, Crandell arranged and performed concussion screening “pre-event impact testing” to the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team and provided injury surveillance monitoring for the Torino Paralympic Winter Games in 2006.

Acceptance Remarks

According to his colleagues, Crandell is a guy who will never say “no” to an opportunity to volunteer and help others.

“I think that speaks a lot for the way he’s donated his time,” Stuart said. “I know that he’s also even purchased some sleds from a donation from one of his patients, so he’s committed. He’s committed to the disabled athlete and he’s willing to give up his own personal time for their benefit.” 

With over two decades logged into volunteering for USA Hockey, Crandell has been a huge asset to the hockey community. At 59, he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“I’d like to think I’m just getting started,” Crandell said. “I’m certainly not planning on retiring from my day job. I’d like to think my wife would let me continue to volunteer for the future. I’d like to think that balancing my professional perspective and trying to keep the game as safe as possible, I think, is one of the big things.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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