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Where are they now'

Brian Benninger

Crater High School, 1979

Brian Benninger has been on quite an odyssey since he was born in Colorado Springs, Colo., 43 years ago.

An Air Force dependent, he traveled to many parts of the globe and has lived nearly half his life in England. But the formative years he spent in the Rogue Valley have never been too far from his heart.

Benninger was a first-team, all-conference running back in football for coach Steve Swisher and a three-year starter in basketball for coach Jerry Anderson. He got a full ride to Chico State in football, where he became a four-year starter.

Benninger's fondest memory in football can be traced to the fall of 1976 when, as a sophomore on the Comets' JV team, he carried the ball just a handful of times and amassed 307 yards and five touchdowns in a victory over South Umpqua.

— It seemed like the other team was falling over like bowling pins, says Benninger, now a doctor in Portland who teaches medical and dental students at Oregon Heath Sciences University and works with a shoulder assessment machine that he invented. I guess the other team wasn't very good.

On the hardwood, the 5-foot-9 Benninger used his catlike quickness to become one of the top guards in the Southern Oregon Conference. The team struggled to win due to a lack of height, but Benninger still had fun playing for Anderson, an emotional coach who railed at officials and slammed his clipboard to the floor.

He was full of passion, Benninger says. Every coach I had after Jerry seemed terribly boring.

Benninger's family initially settled in Medford in 1972. He attended Washington Elementary School and played tackle football as a fifth-grader for Leo Noahr.

Leo was really the first coach I had and I learned tons from him, says Benninger, whose family moved to Central Point, where his mother was teaching, the following year. Leo was very knowledgeable and supportive.

I remember our team beating Jackson Elementary for the division title and then Westside School (now the Navel Reserve Station) for the championship. It was quite a big deal back then.

So was the sports banquet Benninger attended seven years later while a senior at Crater. He was named the school's outstanding male athlete and was presented a watch by Bill Walsh, the master of ceremonies. Walsh, who attended school in Central Point, was the head coach at Stanford at the time and later guided the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.

Benninger moved on to Chico State, where he earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and physiology. In 1985, he moved to England, where he attended the University of Leicester and later completed his residency at Charing Cross Medical School in London.

Benninger began practicing in 1991 with a focus on sports medicine. He became a team physician in professional rugby and for cycling and boxing teams with the British Olympic Association. A couple of years ago, he invented a shoulder-testing machine that assesses proprioception, which is the awareness of the position of one's body.

This machine lets you know whether a patient needs therapy or surgery, Benninger explains.

Benninger moved to Portland so he could huddle with Paul Cordo, the director of neurological sciences at OHSU who invented a vibration machine to help stroke patients.

I'm trying to get rid of vibrations on my machine because they're ruining my results, and he's trying to create them, Benninger says.

In his free time, Benninger journeys to Mount Hood to downhill ski and occasionally ventures to Southern Oregon, where he likes to raft and fish on the Rogue River.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail