June 5, 2019

Calgary Booster Club honours Kinesiology's Preston Wiley

Elite rugby player became sport medicine doctor with a passion for helping athletes
Preston Wiley, centre, receives the 2019 Honoured Athletic Leader award from Jon Jewell, Calgary Booster Club president, and Carol Hermansson, Booster Club director.

Jon Jewell, Booster Club president, Preston Wiley, and Carol Hermansson, Booster Club director.

Calgary Booster Club

As an elite rugby player, Preston Wiley was introduced early on to some of the more severe injuries that sport can inflict. Thankfully, it was from a distance.

“I was lucky that I never had anything that has permanently affected me,” related Dr. Wiley, MD, now a researcher and longtime member of the University of Calgary’s Sport Medicine Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology. “I had the usual bumps and bruises, a couple of broken bones, one concussion. But on the big scheme of things … I was very fortunate.”

It is those less fortunate that Wiley has been tending to for decades, after garnering a couple of degrees from the University of British Columbia and attending medical school at the University of Calgary. For his dedication to healing the wounded, he was in April rewarded as a 2019 Honoured Athletic Leader by the Calgary Booster Club.

Research assistant job led to sport medicine

“It’s interesting, I’ve spent just over half my life here and there are a lot of people who’ve dedicated since they were 10 years old to sport in Calgary,” Wiley, born and raised in Vancouver, pointed out. “It’s quite significant to me and humbling to be recognized for the years that I’ve put in for something that I really love to do. It’s not a labour; it’s a passion and an interest.”

That passion blossomed upon graduating from UBC. “I was lucky enough to be the research assistant to the newly opened sport medicine clinic at the University of British Columbia,” explained Wiley. “I worked with Drs. (Doug) Clement, (Jack) Taunton and (Don) McKenzie at that time and when I did that and saw what was happening, that fuelled my future.”

Up until this year, the 64-year-old Wiley was the head physician for the University of Calgary’s varsity athletics, a position he held for 29 years. Within that broad spectrum, he specifically dealt with wrestling and women’s rugby. He is still involved as a consultant to Rugby Canada — he toiled on the national team for 11 years — and sits on the medical research and science committee at World Rugby.

Deep roots in the community

As a researcher, his focus has been in overuse degenerative problems, and that includes tendon and knee osteoarthritis research. Calgary being such a hotbed for diverse sports, of both the summer and winter variety, there is a perennial need for someone like Wiley. “Every season has their own sports participating,” he said, “and Calgary has a hugely athletic and active population. So for my type of business, we’re busy all year round because the community is active all year round.”

To pick the one most rewarding thing about his profession is a near impossibility, but Wiley did attempt to narrow it down.

“From a medical perspective, I think the recognition of athletic-related injury or medical problems and getting players safely back to participation,” he indicated. “That’s the goal of all doctors. To recognize, treat and send people out the door in a better state than when they came in.

“I like being a sport medicine physician,” he continued. “That sort of summarizes it. Also, remember, over 80 per cent of the people I look after are community based. So elite athletes, for all of us at the Sport Medicine Centre, tends to be a small population. But the great thing about that small population is they get things that are unusual that we learn from and can then apply to the general population.

“The place we’ve learned the most from is rodeo athletes. When you’re on a thousand-pound horse or two-thousand-pound bull that’s mostly muscle and bone, it can be quite dangerous. But that’s another story.”