GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The NFL Combine produces a series of headlines every year, and last week’s event in Indianapolis went on as usual.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and his little hands provided internet fodder. 341-pound Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis ran a 4.78-second sprint for 40 yards and immediately went viral. NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu blew the draft pundits away with his on-court training to improve his stock.
Meanwhile, Kevin Farmer, MD, ran backstage at Lucas Oil Stadium, presenting medical reports to NFL team doctors on various players at the combine. Farmer is an orthopedic surgeon at UF Health and a team physician for the Gators football team.
Farmer has been an NFL Combine regular since 2014 as a representative of the Miami Dolphins. The combine is both a sports showcase and a medical convention, as teams seek to learn as much as possible about a potential draft pick’s medical history before selecting him in the draft.
No stone – uh, medical records – is returned.
“The medical stuff here is so well-tuned,” Farmer said. “They have the MRI units. They have hospital clothes, medical equipment of all kinds. It’s all here. You see an athlete, and you get his story, and I basically take him to all the different rooms Each ward has five teams, and I introduce everything to the surgeons on the team so they have an idea of what’s going on and don’t have to do it all themselves.”
Medical personnel from all 32 teams converge on Indianapolis for the portion of the combine not broadcast live on the NFL Network. With over 300 prospects in attendance, they spend as much, if not more, time with the doctors as they do in the field performing exercises.
Players receive a primary care assessment and an orthopedic assessment. They get X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. They have their blood pressure checked, their heart rate checked, and yes, their hands are measured.
And when players meet teams, it’s not a one-on-one meeting. They meet with a panel of doctors who ask about anything and everything in their medical history.
“You walk into a room full of doctors, you sit down and they’re all talking about you,” Nevada quarterback Carson Strong said. Athleticism Last week. “And you just sit there. You hear the whispers, somebody saying this, somebody saying that. I just sat there like, ‘OK, that’s pretty interesting.’ “
Farmer said that to his knowledge, he and a Notre Dame doctor were the only two medical representatives for a college football team at the combine. He takes players to exams, reviews their scans and gathers as much information as possible about the player before presenting the information to the teams.
“Each team has to assess the athletes and then give them a medical score,” Farmer said. “They use it at draft time whether or not it affects where they pick you up.”
Farmer takes a week off from his regular job to attend the combine and often comes across Gators in Indianapolis. Florida had four players at this year’s event: running back Dameon Piercedefensive lineman Zachary Cartercornerback Kaiir Elam and linebacker Jeremiah Moon.
He talks to players about what they’ll encounter at the combine long before they land in Indiana.
“The main thing for me, why I do it, is that it allows me when I evaluate and talk to our players at UF, I can tell them what the NFL teams are looking for, the things that concern, do they address all injuries,” Farmer said. “I think that’s why it’s good for our student-athletes to have someone involved at that level who knows what’s going on.”
In his role with the Gators, Farmer works closely with Paul Silvestri, director of sports health for football, and other doctors associated with the team throughout the year to treat injuries and develop rehabilitation plans. A former Duke baseball player who grew up in Daytona Beach, Farmer earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and did a shoulder and elbow reconstruction fellowship at UF in 2010.
He was hired as a team doctor by the University Athletic Association shortly after his fellowship ended. Farmer is also a recent author, publishing “Football Injuries: A Clinical Guide to In-Season Management.”
The NFL Physicians Society, founded in 1966, oversees the medical operations of the combine.
On its official website, NFLPS.org, the organization answers a question regarding the role of team doctors at the combine:
Essentially, the role of team physicians is to obtain a full medical and orthopedic evaluation of every player who will enter the NFL Draft. Doctors usually perform this assessment by dividing into several groups of orthopedic teams and medical teams. This allows us to share information and helps us avoid the huge redundancy that is inevitable in the process.
Farmer appreciates his share of help.
Both the team doctors and the players.
“I think it’s good for our players to have us here,” he said. “I can fight for them if the teams have questions about any of our athletes. How’s that kid doing? Any concerns? I think it’s good for our kids to have someone here on the inside who can talk to the teams and make a positive contribution.”