Richland man leads Special Olympics medical staff

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Athletic trainer Kevin Conley got hooked on Special Olympians nearly 15 years ago at the University of Pittsburgh.

Conley helped Pitt host a Special Olympics basketball tourney and discovered an exceptional group of athletes.

Special Olympics, an international sports organization, serves youths and adults with disabilities.

“They're fun to be around. They really appreciate anything and everything that you do. It's just a great, great experience,” said Conley, 45, of Richland, new medical director of Team USA for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games set for Jan. 29 to Feb. 5 in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I've heard it's very cold there — down in the teens and single digits,” Conley said. “It's close to the ocean, too, so they get a lot of snow. It'll be interesting.”

Participants in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games will compete in seven events: figure skating, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding, floor hockey, speed skating and Alpine skiing.

If U.S. athletes get hurt, Conley's team will coordinate the athletes' medical care — his professional specialty.

Conley — who has a doctoral degree and teaches an injury-assessment and treatment course at Pitt — is assistant dean for undergraduate studies and vice chairman of the sports medicine and nutrition department at Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Speaking of nutrition, Conley wonders what to expect, food-wise, in South Korea.

“That's my biggest concern,” he said. “I'm not a big raw seafood guy, and I understand that's a lot of their diet ... I just don't want to have to eat jellyfish, and that kind of stuff,” he said.

Conley and his wife, Jill, former athletic trainer for Pitt's women's basketball team, have two children, Hayden, 6, and Stella, 4. They're parishioners at St. Richard Church in Richland.

Jill Conley now works for the Elizur medical equipment firm out of the UPMC St. Margaret office of orthopedic surgeon and Pittsburgh Steelers team physician Dr. James Bradley.

As medical director for U.S. athletes at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, Kevin Conley is responsible for ordering and procuring all the medications, athletic tape, wound ointments and other supplies possibly required by 152 athletes, ages 14 and older.

The U.S. athletes will travel with 45 coaches to South Korea on Jan. 25 and return Feb. 7 to the United States.

Members of Team USA will be among more 3,250 athletes from 110 nations at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang.

“My role is to just coordinate all the medical resources that we're going to need for the games and for our training camp at Lake Placid,” Conley said.

Team USA's training camp is set for Dec. 10 to 14 at the Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 1980 winter Olympics.

Team USA management elected Conley to head the delegation's four-person medical staff, which will include two physicians and a registered nurse practitioner.

Last year, Conley traveled to the World Special Olympics Summer Games in Athens, Greece, to assist Dr. Timothy Taft of the University of North Carolina, medical director for Team USA at those games.

“Kevin was a vital member of the medical staff for Team USA at the 2011 World Special Olympics Summer Games,” said Chris Hahn, head of the Team USA delegation heading to South Korea.

“His background, knowledge and experience in athletic training serve him extremely well as the medical director for the 2013 World Winter Games in South Korea.

In preparation for the games in South Korea, Conley recently spent a weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., to help plan Team USA's training camp.

Conley, a certified athletic trainer for 21 years, has coordinated medical coverage for Special Olympics events in Allegheny County since the late 1990s.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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