Dr. Joseph Maroon
Dr. Joseph Maroon has distinguished himself as a neurosurgeon. Some of his accomplishments in the field include: Vice Chairman and Professor of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Heindl Scholar in Neuroscience, Team Neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1977, Member of the National Football League's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, Author of Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory and The Longevity Factor, innovator in the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors, concussions and diseases of the spine, and a consultant and contributor to a variety of medical journals and books.
You would think that an individual who has accomplished so much in his field has reached the pinnacle of success with little to achieve. This assertion is not true for Dr. Joseph Maroon. He has found another passion that, for many, would be a full time commitment. He is a competitive triathlete and has continued to train and compete in these grueling events in spite of his demanding work schedule.
Born in 1940, this Wheeling, West Virginia native spent his youth in Bridgeport, Ohio where he excelled in baseball and football. A shortstop on the American Legion baseball team, Maroon was surrounded by excellence. John Havlicek, Boston Celtics' standout and All Star pitcher Phil Niekro
were two of his teammates. Named to the All-Ohio Football and Baseball teams, Maroon received a football scholarship to Indiana University where he became a Scholastic All American. He subsequently played squash and racquetball in medical school, later developing an interest in running, biking and swimming.
Dr. Maroon gives credit to his parents as role models. His father's sense of humor and perseverance in everything he did and his mother's sensitivity, humanism and love provided an influential blend that shaped this remarkable man. He points to these three most important factors to achieve a successful life: "A healthy mind, relationships with God, family and friends and living in the present moment." He notes that without a healthy mind, it is not possible to live in the moment and relate to others. He continues to stay fit as an enhancement to the quality of his surgical skills and a compression of morbidity (diseases) into the shortest possible time.
His current training regimen includes biking approximately 125-150 miles per week, swimming 4-5 miles and walking/jogging 10-15 miles per week. This extreme training is to prepare for the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon the premier event in this athletic genre. Maroon has placed in the top ten among his age group at the Hawaiian Ironman with the exception of one year when a degenerative knee injury compromised his performance. He utilize his time effectively to accomplish his training and routinely begins swimming at the local YMCA as early as 5:15 AM.
A participant in over seventy triathlon events, Maroon exemplifies the accomplishments that can be derived from a dedicated passion for success. His amazing performances are light years away from his initial first steps to become an ironman. He points to his father's death as the catalyst that led to his dramatic metamorphosis. He left medical school to help his mother operate the family truck stop in Dallas, Ohio and was also going through a divorce. The stress had taken its toll on both his mental and physical health. A close friend who was an avid runner asked him to jog at a track. He could barely complete four laps on that first attempt; nevertheless, he slept better than he had in months. He returned to the track the next day and began adding distance with each attempt. The seed had been planted, and the rest is history. He credits the physical metamorphosis that he made during this period to the emotional and spiritual well being that he eventually experienced. It took a year, however he was able to return to surgery and the medical endeavors that eventually helped thousands.
Dr. Maroon would advise anyone wishing to maintain exceptional youth to balance work with family, social, physical and spiritual sides of life. His diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables and lean protein including fish and chicken. He avoids beef and whole grains as much as possible. He supplements his diet with fish oil as and anti-inflammatory, CoQ10 for energy enhancement, a multivitamin with an emphasis on the B vitamin content and supplemental B12, D3 and turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. Resveratrol is also part of his daily intake which helps with anti-aging and endurance. One may also want to read his book The Longevity Factor: How Red Wine and Resveratrol Activate Genes for a Healthier and Longer Life!
Yes, Dr. Maroon openly admits to joint and muscular pains that he did not experience during his youth. However, one would ask how many triathlons he performed during those younger years? He asserts that he has not improved physically as he has aged but been able to maintain his performance levels. An insight into his character is the remarkable ability to override adversity, When faced with the prospect of a knee replacement, he chose stem cell transplantation for cartilage regeneration; the former surgery could have ended his athletic endeavors. Instead, he significantly reduced pain and continued to enhance his skills.
Chuck Noll, four time Super Bowl coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, once challenged Maroon when he would not let a player return to action due to a concussion. Noll wanted to know what constituted the criteria for a player to return. Maroon realized that Noll was correct in his assertion that no objective data was used to determine a player's ability to play after a concussion. This led to what Dr. Maroon cites as his greatest accomplishment as a physician. He subsequently co-designed Impact TM , a neurocognitive test which is now the standard of care in many athletic arenas including the National Football League, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, NASCAR and thousands of high school and college athletic programs. The test is designed to determine when an athlete can return to competition after a concussion. Baseline data is quantified and used in the event an athlete suffers a concussion to determine a safe return to competition.
Just as impressive is his surgical record. He has operated on over 20,000 individuals with excellent results and points to athletics as an integral catalyst towards his success as a physician. The motor skills and focus required to be an outstanding surgeon are also honed by athletics. As an athlete, he cites competing in three Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Championships as his greatest accomplishments with more to come.
It is apparent that God and spiritualism are enmeshed in Dr. Maroon's appreciation and respect for himself and life. He admits to being grounded by his beliefs which drive him to give back to others. When you suggest that he has accomplished a lifetime of successes, he recites a quote by Somerset Maugham, "The meaning of life is what one is willing to create." Creating is the reason he continues to express so much energy in his practice and athletic pursuits.
He pursues great health with this ultimate outcome: "My goal is to maintain the same level of fitness as I have now with the hope of compressing morbidity (diseases) into the shortest possible time and die quickly!"