Alumnus Michael Falk combines athletic training, physical therapy and NFL insights to help clients overcome injuries and aim for peak performance
By Mary Schmitt Boyer, Jour ’77, photo courtesy of Front Room
“He’s the top student I’ve ever had.’’
David Leigh, the longtime head athletic trainer at Marquette who became a clinical instructor and helped develop the athletic training major in the College of Health Sciences, is talking about Dr. Michael Falk, H Sci’12, PT’17, owner of Kinetic Sports Medicine and Performance.
“He’s probably the brightest kid I’ve ever had,’’ says Leigh, who retired as Marquette’s trainer in 2001 and continued as a Health Sciences faculty member till 2018. “He worked his tail off. It was never enough to be a good student. He wanted to be the best.’’
That is also the attitude Falk brought to establishing Kinetic Sports Medicine and Performance after earning his doctorate in physical therapy at Marquette. “Looking around the Milwaukee area, we just didn’t see anywhere that was doing the type of work that we wanted to do — a clinic truly for athletes,’’ Falk says. “High school students, college students home on break or in the summers and professional athletes who spend the off-season here.’’ Kinetic now has two offices in the area.
Growing up in Dallas, Falk was an enthusiastic, if slightly injury-prone, athlete with a history of knee issues. “I just couldn’t stay healthy,’’ he says. “That’s what sparked my interest in the field.’’
Even before enrolling in Marquette’s Athletic Training program in the College of Health Sciences, Falk sent out a lot of letters and applications and struck up a friendship with head trainer Pepper Burruss of the Green Bay Packers. Falk served as a summer intern with the Packers all the way through college and, after earning his undergraduate degree in 2012, spent two years as a season-long intern.
With that on his resume, Falk had his pick of jobs when he finished his internships. He interviewed with NFL teams and NBA teams, even was offered his ‘’dream job’’ as director of rehabilitation for a team he declined to name.
Burruss had another suggestion. “His survey of the professional sports landscape was that having a dual credential as an athletic trainer/physical therapist was going to be really important going forward,’’ Falk recalls. “He saw the writing on the wall that eventually all teams were going to have a physical therapist on staff. So, he pushed me to go back to PT school.’’
Burruss didn’t have to push too hard. Falk had become friends with Lauren Boyler while he was an undergraduate, and she was the athletic trainer for Marquette’s men’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis teams. He saw how hard she worked, and he’d learned the kinds of hours the job required during those internships with the Packers.
“Professional sports are great, but it’s a grind,’’ Falk said. “During an NFL season, from the time training camp started through the Super Bowl, I virtually lived at the facility. Being young and single, it was easier than it would be today.’’ When friendship with Boyler turned to romance and, eventually, marriage and parenthood, that sort of work-heavy schedule was much less appealing. So, following graduation from Marquette’s doctoral physical therapy program, they decided to launch their own unique clinic together, where she’s now Dr. Lauren (Boyler) Falk, PT ’17.
“We truly focus on the specialized needs of athletes,’’ Michael Falk says. “Most PT clinics are general orthopedic clinics for the everyday person. For us, 80 to 85 percent of our clients are competitive athletes — high school, college or pro — and the remaining percentage are recreational athletes, like runners. “The other biggest differentiator for us is our advanced technological approach and our ability to provide an environment similar to what people would experience in a professional organization or at a DI school.’’
As it happened, their first client in 2018 turned out to be Ben Heller, the former Whitewater High School star pitcher who was playing with the New York Yankees and coming off Tommy John surgery. When the Yankees gave Heller the option of doing his rehabilitation close to his family’s home in Brookfield, the Yankees head trainer (a former classmate of the Packers’ Burruss) recommended Falk — even though his Kinetic clinic had yet to officially open.
“I think they opened a month or two earlier than they’d planned,’’ said Heller, now with the Minnesota Twins organization. “From the get-go, I could tell they really cared about me accomplishing my goals. I felt like I was in a really good spot.’’
That’s exactly why the Falks created Kinetic Sports Medicine and Performance. “Our vision was to take what Lauren did at Marquette, what I’d seen in Green Bay and as best as possible create that environment for local athletes,’’ Michael Falk says.