Howard Head Sports Medicine

Here to Help Us Heal

“Life can turn on a dime.” Like mine.

A familiar quote without impact, until it happens. For me it was last June while on a local hike with my dog, Piney, to enjoy some wildflowers. One hour later, a trail rescue (hats off to locals Barry Davis and Kady Warble for being first on the scene and to Vail Fire Department for getting me out safely), followed by emergency surgery. A freak, severe injury to my leg required four-and-a-half hours of skilled repair (thank you, Dr. Max Seiter of Vail Summit Orthopedics) and a 10-day hospital stay (kudos, Vail Health). My mountain summer plans evaporated; instead, I faced months of physical rehab and a revised goal — to get back to what I love to do most.

That’s precisely the mission of Howard Head Sports Medicine (HHSM) — “To return people to their previous activity levels using the most advanced care, comprehensive education and latest research.” I fit right in! I joined countless patients who have benefitted from the outstanding care and services offered by this valuable organization. As a Vail local, I knew about HHSM; I actually knew Howard and Marty Head as a kid in the 1960s. But until I landed prone in their P.T. room totally by accident, I had no clue what a valuable resource this facility provides our community. I need to share their story.

Howard Head was foremost an inventor, an aeronautical engineer who revolutionized both skiing and tennis equipment. The clinic that bears his name celebrates this: “The Spirit of Innovation.” He believed that anyone can achieve sporting goals and that “the best inventions come from people who are deeply involved in solving a problem.” Driven by Howard and Marty’s vision and funding, the first facility opened in 1987 with a few therapists and an experimental practice, followed in 1990 by the grand opening of a full clinic in a new location. For over 30 years, HHSM has continued to expand its expertise, technology, research and professional staff. A part of Vail Health, currently they support ten mountain locations in Summit and Eagle Counties. Their international reputation attracts patients worldwide.

What so many don’t know about HHSM is the broad array of their therapeutic services and community support. Every patron, regardless of condition or need, receives equal care and attention. It’s not limited to skiers or boarders or bikers or climbers or rafters or dancers or world-class athletes — or any sport. It’s not limited to physical injury. It’s inclusive for any age, circumstance, nationality, etc. I’m astonished at its variety of specializations, as well as related community programs and outreach.

Is your passion gardening and you’ve never set foot on a mountain trail? Tending a garden isn’t enjoyable with an arthritic hand or back, so seek help. Cancer patients, HHSM partners with Shaw Cancer Center and other leading oncology treatment centers. Pregnant? Consider pelvic relief or aquatic therapy. Hit your head and dealing with a concussion? Make an appointment with the Brain & Balance Care Team. Is a fear of heights limiting your climbing performance? Explore the power of mind in sport.

“Such a positive place”

I am extremely privileged to have Mark DelVecchio as my physical therapist. He inspires me to “put in the work.” Both Mark and his wife, Brooke, reflect the amazing staff at HHSM. Both earned their DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), requiring six to seven years of undergrad/graduate study and serious commitment.

A North Dakota native, arriving Vail in 2005, Brooke began at HHSM as an aide, shadowing daily routines and patient care; she also worked in whitewater rafting and bartending before entering to grad school to earn her DPT. Returning to HHSM in 2010, she earned her Orthopedic Board Certification in 2015. Currently Brooke is Lead Physical Therapist and P.T. Coordinator.

“Watching a patient overcome physically … also regain confidence in their abilities as they continue to rehabilitate and resume what they love or need to do and to be part of that process… this warms my heart,” shares Brooke.

Arriving from Massachusetts in 2007, Mark joined the Vail Ski Patrol for seven years (he remains part-time), met/married Brooke and then returned to Maine to complete his DPT. He joined HHMS in 2017. Recently completing his Masters in Sports Psychology, he hopes to explore “a missing piece that we haven’t offered before.”

Photos courtesy of Vail Health Foundation

“Most of us moved here to be active in the mountains we love,” he adds. “Many associate their ability to do a sport or activity with their identity. When that is taken away, some don’t know who they are. Trying to give that back, seeing them regain confidence in whatever it is … really, it’s a cool feeling. Whenever anyone is excited to get back or do something they couldn’t do previously, whether playing with their grandkids or in the NHL, it’s rewarding.”

“The specialists here are always expanding their knowledge with a focus on research,” shares Mark.

“Everyone keeps reading, trying to learn and teach each other,” he says. “We’re always evolving. What worked 20 years ago might not apply today.”

Howard Head Services and Clubs:

Physical Therapy
Sports & Orthopedic Rehabilitation
Occupational Therapy
Hand Therapy
Oncology and Lymphedema Therapy
Total Joint Therapy
Pediatric Physical and Occupational Therapy
Brain & Balance Care
Men’s and Women’s Pelvic Health
Dry Needling
Aquatic Therapy
Workers’ Compensation
Sports Psychology
Performance Training
Vail Valley Mountain Bike Club
Vail Valley Running Club
Community Presentations; Online Continuing Education

Mark also heads up the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Club for HHSM. It’s a free weekly activity sponsored by the clinic, designed for riders of all abilities, which encourages them to get out, gain fitness, have fun and meet others. The Vail Valley Running Club (HHSM) has a similar focus, offering options for parents jogging with kids in a stroller or for marathon trainees, again free and open to the community.

Brooke and Mark love to play in the Vail Valley. In summer, look for them mountain biking Cougar Ridge or navigating a river; in winter, spot Mark tackling Rasputin’s and Brooke jumping off the rollers on Pickeroon! The gym is also a regular hangout.

“Everyone here pushes each other professionally and supports each other personally,” shares Brooke. “Everyone cares about one another; our staff shines. It’s such a positive place.”

I’ve seen it for myself. HHSM is a priceless community resource and ever-expanding. Your life needn’t turn on a dime in order to engage and benefit. For me? I plan to ride my mountain bike with Mark’s group next summer. Can’t wait!