The year 2020 will be remembered world-wide for COVID-19 – especially for the things that were lost and/or canceled due to the global pandemic. However, against the odds, many events did happen in 2020, including the Tulane football season, LHSAA sporting events and the annual New Orleans Bowl and Allstate Sugar Bowl. Those events were essential to the region both for financial reasons and for emotional reasons. Dr. Gregory Stewart, from the Tulane University Center for Sport and the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine, was a key behind-the-scenes figure who ensured that all of those events could go on as his expertise in developing safe and effective protocols allowed a major part of the New Orleans sports scene to continue. For that reason, the Sports Award Committee is presenting him with a well-deserved Jimmy Collins Award.
Dr. Stewart has established himself as a national leader in the sports medicine field. However, in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, his role became even more pivotal for local sports groups. He quickly established protocols for Tulane University athletics and was selected to serve as the chairman for the American Athletic Conference’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group.
With Stewart’s protocols in place, Tulane was one of just 15 FBS teams to play 12 or more games in 2020 (no games were canceled and team activities were never paused during the season).
“It was incredibly challenging,” Stewart said. “It changed every day. We worked with the information we had and did what made the most sense at the time. But every day, new information became available so we used that information to adjust and improve on a daily basis.”
As he also serves as the event doctor for the Allstate Sugar Bowl on an annual basis, the Bowl’s CEO Jeff Hundley quickly enlisted Stewart to develop the COVID game-plan for the Sugar Bowl – this was a pivotal year as it was also a College Playoff Semifinal game.
“We have a tremendous asset right here locally with Dr. Stewart,” Hundley said. “He is one of the best in the world as far as sports medicine and this year, with him overseeing the Sugar Bowl’s COVID plan, we gained instant credibility with the CFP and participating teams as his reputation ensured top-of-the-line standards for safety during the week of the game. Most importantly, the Sugar Bowl did not have any COVID-related issues for the week of the game.”
“It was incredibly rewarding every time we successfully held an event,” Stewart said. “I always tell people that in my job, you don’t want to see me, you don’t want to know I’m there. If nobody is aware of my presence, then I’ve done a heckuva job. With the worldwide challenges of COVID, I guess it was harder for me to stay completely behind the scenes. But it is an honor to be recognized for the work our entire team did under very difficult circumstances.”
Dr. Stewart is the co-director and co-founder of the Center for Sport. He currently spends most of his time working with former professional athletes. As Medical Director of the Professional Athlete Care Team at Tulane University, he leads the NFL Benefits Neurological Care Program, NFL Player Care Foundation Healthy Body and Mind Screening Program, and the Trust (powered by the NFLPA) Brain and Body program. His newest project is leading the Tulane University Center for Brain Health which specializes in caring for military veterans of any discharge status.
He has served as Tulane’s Team Physician since 1987 and was inducted into the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019. He also serves as the Director of the Tulane Athletics Sports Medicine Program and the sports concussion management program. In addition, Stewart has been nationally recognized as an expert in non-operative treatment of musculoskeletal disorders in adults. He also specializes in disability prevention, rehabilitative medicine, sports medicine, and has a particular interest in sports concussion.
“It’s exciting to be recognized by the New Orleans Sports Awards Committee,” Stewart said. “I came to this city in 1986 and it turned out that New Orleans is the right place for me. This is where I’m supposed to be.”