Al Proctor 2011
One of the most valuable men in North Carolina’s sports history rarely got the headlines and hurrahs.
Al Proctor toiled in the periphery of the spotlight, yet made major contributions treating hundreds of athletes from the preps to the pros and by teaching thousands the art of athletic training.
While excelling in multiple jobs, Proctor’s generally known in high school circles as “The Father of Sports Medicine.” .
More than 5,000 students learned how to tape ankles and bandage knees at his annual clinic in Greensboro and about 1,000 received financial aid to assist college trainers.
When employed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Proctor’s impact increased. He helped launch high school sports medicine programs throughout the state and developed an adult-teacher certification plan, which led to greater safety on the playing fields.
Athletes still get hurt. Knees pop. Ankles snap. Bones crack. But not nearly as often as in pre-Proctor days.
When coaches were doubling as trainers, a study showed 54 percent of prep football players got hurt and the re-injury rate hit 71.0.
Conversely, when athletic trainers took over, injuries dropped to 27 percent. Where certified adult trainers were on board, percentage of re-injured players plummeted from 71 to 7 percent.
“This gave them a solid background, to be able to recognize injuries, treat ‘em, and rehabilitate,” said Proctor, who still serves as a consultant on the N.C. Sports Medical Committee.
“Al was the father of sports medicine, particularly at the high school level,’’ said Charlie Adams, retired executive director of the NCHSAA. “He was major in bringing a (safer) environment.”
Proctor’s interest in athletic training was kindled at Wake Forest. Needing a job, he landed part-time work as an assistant under noted Warren Ariail.
Taping an ankle of Deacon quarterback Norm Snead, later an NFL player, was one of his first tasks. It didn’t fly well.
“He got blisters,’’ Proctor said.
After that fumbling beginning, Proctor’s skills sharpened. He worked at then Greensboro High and hosted his first of more than 30 summer clinics for prospective trainers in 1963.
Moving on, he spent two years as assistant trainer with the New York Yankees, then eight years at N.C. State. Proctor knew athletes, how to massage their psyches as well as treat their physical ailments.
Widely popular and diversified , he also officiated basketball for 27 years, including five seasons in the ACC. Refing is tough, but Proctor’s a tough guy who has survived a heart attack and cancer.
Along with wife, Ann, he helped raise sons Cameron and Mac, served in the Raleigh Civilian Club, is still active in church and Bible Studies and substitute teaches in Wake County. He’s certified in Bible, science, social studies, has a masters in counseling and a doctorate in education administration.
Proctor, 74, is small in statue — 5-8, 145 pounds, roughly his high school football playing weight at Shelby. But in the world of sports medicine, he’s a veritable giant of Hall of Fame stature who deserves headlines and thousands of hurrahs.