Tuesday, September 2, 2003


Dr. Allen Richardson examined Lily Kahumoku's injured wrist during a 2000 match. Kahumoku said "it was hard to play" after learning of Richardson's death before last night's match.

UH loses trusted physician

Dr. Allen Richardson, a longtime physician for University of Hawaii sports teams and a leader in sports medicine in the state, died early yesterday morning at Queen's Medical Center.

Richardson, 56, had battled cancer for the last five years while maintaining his roles at UH and with Orthopedic Services of Hawaii, seeing patients as recently as two weeks ago. The exact cause of death was not available last night.

"He was the dean of sports medicine in Hawaii," said Dr. Darryl Kan, one of Richardson's partners at OSH.

Richardson began his association with the UH athletic department in 1979 and was a fixture on the bench with the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team.

"We'll miss his expertise but more importantly him just being around," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "It's so reassuring to have him in the background with us in matches, at the final four. He was so calm and everybody trusted him. He always made you feel good. It is strange not to see him there."

The Rainbows were informed prior to last night's match with UCLA that Richardson had died.

"It was hard to play," senior Lily Kahumoku said.

Richardson graduated from Punahou School in 1965 and earned his undergraduate degree from Yale. An accomplished swimmer, he once held the national high-school record in the 100-yard breaststroke and was an All-American at Yale.

He went on to graduate from the UCLA School of Medicine in 1973 and returned to Hawaii in 1977. He is credited with being the first surgeon in Hawaii to perform an arthroscopic knee surgery.

A recommendation from Dr. Larry Gordon led to Richardson joining the UH medical staff where he worked closely with Dr. Ralph Hale and UH athletic trainer Melody Toth.

As the UH women's athletic program expanded in the 1980s, Toth said Richardson was instrumental in developing programs to assist the growing number of student-athletes.

When Richardson became the chairman of the UH Orthopedic Residency Training Program, he started a sports rotation for the residents, allowing physician coverage for all home volleyball, basketball and softball games.

Toth said the relationship between Richardson and herself enhanced treatment for injured athletes. She recalled an incident in 1984 when UH volleyball player Sue Hlavenka dislocated her elbow during a trip to Japan. A doctor in Japan recommended surgery, but Toth called Richardson at 4 a.m. Hawaii time for his opinion. Richardson eventually talked Toth through the delicate procedure of resetting the elbow.

"The trust between Dr. Richardson and I developed over the years where I could call him collect from Japan and it would be like his brain telling my hands what to do," Toth said. "There was nothing that he couldn't do for the program.

"Personally and professionally Doc has always been my go-to guy and I think the university is really going to miss him."

Richardson was also involved in international swimming, attending the last six Olympic Games. He was a medical official for Federation Internationale Natacione Amateur (FINA) and served as chairman of the drug testing committee.

His wife, Pokey Watson Richardson, won Olympic gold medals in swimming at the 1964 and '68 Games.

Although he excelled in swimming, Richardson's relationship with the UH women's volleyball program grew over the years. He paid his own way to accompany the team to the 1996 final four in Cleveland.

Even after he was admitted to the hospital last month, Kan said Richardson's mind was still on volleyball.

"He wanted to know about what was going on and even had some suggestions on what to do strategy-wise," Kan said. "He never stopped thinking about those girls on the volleyball team and that really meant a lot to him."

Three of Richardson's children are now college athletes themselves. Two play water polo, Keola Richardson at California and Annie Richardson at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.). Puna Richardson is a freshman with the St. John's women's volleyball team.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Star-Bulletin reporter Cindy Luis contributed to this report.


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