Pat Clare, MD attends his 400th Husker Game as Team Physician


pclare_2Lincoln Journal Star Article: Team surgeon a fixture on Husker sideline

September 30, 2006 7:00 pm

Bob Devaney: 101-20-2.

Tom Osborne: 255-49-3.

Dr. Pat Clare: 327-70-3, plus 15,000* ankles, 7,500* knees and 2,500* shoulders, some toes, some fingers. (*-guesstimates).

Saturday night, the Nebraska football team’s chief surgeon was on the sideline for his 400th NU football game.

As usual, the time was spent talking, watching and listening. Nothing out of the ordinary after being on the sideline for all but two games since 1974.

“This is pretty easy most of the time,” said Clare, who played at Nebraska from 1958 to 1961.

Scott Strasburger, another former Husker and Clare’s partner for 10 years at Memorial Stadium and in practice at Nebraska Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine, quickly added: “You can be watching the game, enjoying the play and all of a sudden, boom. You’re gone for the rest of the game because somebody has a broken leg and you’re in surgery the rest of the night.”

For Clare, there is no choice.

“I’m not going to miss a game, because I did once to participate in the box hunt and Tom Osborne would ask me once a week, ‘Are you coming to the game this week?’ for years after. I really do love this.”

Clare joined the Nebraska medical staff right after he left the Air Force in 1974. Since then, he checks in after each practice, fixes broken limbs and repairs torn ligaments, cartilage, dislocated joints and muscles.

There were the long nights after games, such as the 1994 game when NU quarterback Brook Berringer was taken to the emergency room with a collapsed lung. Quarterback Tommie Frazier was also in the hospital at the time, getting his blood clots checked. There was the time an opposing player was injured and required emergency brain surgery by Clare’s partner at the time, Chuck Newman. “You do what you can as well and as fast as you can,” Clare said.

Clare is recognized as one of the leaders in his field. During the 1970s, some Husker opponents would have Clare look at their injured players.

“Everywhere we go, Texas, Oklahoma, California, it doesn’t matter, somebody comes up and says to Pat, ‘You fixed my knee,’ or‘You operated on my shoulder.’ And I mean everywhere he goes there’s somebody he’s worked on,” Strasburger said. “And the other sports orthopedists have the utmost respect for Pat.

“Of course, I fired him when he fixed my Achilles and told me I had to wear a cast for three months.”

Asked to provide humorous stories about Clare, longtime NU trainer Doak Ostergard said, “You know, he just doesn’t screw up. He’s so cool under pressure. I suppose his wife, Linda, might have some complaints about missing dinners, having to wait for long hours after he promised he’s ready to leave. But other than seeing him drive James Harris’ Mustang, with the tinted windows, the chrome wheels and the hot paint, over to Iowa State because he missed the team bus, I can’t think of anything.”

Clare said he did get plenty of stares on the ISU campus with the hot Mustang owned by the NU athletic nutritionist.

And Pat Martin, who works as a technician with Clare, said there have been plenty of late nights after long days of surgery when the surgeon was found sleeping at his desk with his Dictaphone in his hand. “I think he really does love what he does,” Martin said.

Reach Ken Hambleton at 473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.