Sports medicine physicians maneuver a balancing act: Athletico Founder Mark Kaufman on clearly articulating expectations with athletes

Orthopedic Sports Medicine

Nearly 25 years ago, Mark Kaufman saw an opportunity to combine outpatient physical therapy with community outreach work. What started as a single physical therapy center in Chicago has since expanded to multiple locations throughout Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Athletico most recently opened its 350th location. Athletico employs more than 4,000 clinical and administrative staff and is a leader in the physical therapy arena.

mark k athletico 2222Mr. Kaufman has worked in sports medicine since the mid-1980s, and has seen the industry undergo significant transformations.


"Being in the field for the last 30 years or so, I am continuously amazed by the healthcare and sports medicine advancements," he says. "The techniques and the recovery time keep getting better and better."


With improved techniques comes higher expectations. Sports medicine physicians often face a difficult task of managing athletes' expectations with the best and safest treatment plan for their patients. Mr. Kaufman explains time is often of the essence and sports medicine physicians are constantly pushing the envelope to improve their protocols and get these players back in action. However, ensuring an athlete is compliant with the recovery plan is of the utmost importance as athletes who are not dedicated to their recovery could impede their recovery.


"The risk of failure can quickly and unfairly be thought of as the result of the medical professional rather that the athlete's efforts," Mr. Kaufman says. "You sometimes get athletes who are not 100 percent focused on their recovery."


Articulating expectations carefully and early about surgeon's expectations of the athlete can help mitigate the potential risks when treating athletes. The athlete's entire medical team including the physician, physical therapist, patient and patient's support network should fully understand the expectations and treatment plan so the recovery is successful.


Caring for athletes, especially if the athlete is well known, can prove especially difficult in this technology-driven era where information spreads almost instantaneously. With social media, fans can access vital information about an athlete's injury and most importantly, when they can see that athlete back on the field. Surgeons often have to look past the ticket sales and potential wins to focus on what matters — the athlete recovering safely.  


"Team physicians often walk a fine line when supporting athletes. They want to do everything right by the athlete in respect to supporting and respecting them," Mr. Kaufman says. "The treatment of the athlete always comes first."


Mr. Kaufman will be a panelist at the first-ever Chicago Sports Summit on October 5. Other key speakers include Chicago Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville & Chicago Bulls President & CEO Michael Reinsdorf. To learn more and register, click here!

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