Known as one of the top athletic trainers in the National Football League, Rick Burkholder enters his ninth season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 and his fourth serving as the club's Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance. Following his promotion in 2018, he continued to oversee the athletic training staff and added the team's strength and conditioning and equipment departments to his responsibilities.
On Feb. 19, 2014, Burkholder received one of the highest honors in his profession as he was elected to a three-year term as President of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS), which serves the players of the NFL, the member clubs and other members of the community, while ensuring the highest quality of health care provided to the NFL. During his term, he focused on two specific initiatives – emphasizing the need for gender equality in the NFL's athletic trainers, as well as the importance of athletic trainers at youth and high school levels.
In 2016, Burkholder was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Training Hall of Fame. In back to back years, Burkholder received prestigious awards for his work in the field, earning the National Athletic Trainers' Association's Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award (2016), and became just the second person and first athletic trainer to receive the NATA's President's Award, honoring his contribution to the profession (2017).
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the adoption of new COVID-19 protocols across the National Football League, Burkholder has become the team's Infection Control Officer (ICO), a leading member of the club's Infection Response Team (IRT). As the local ICO, Burkholder was integral in the development of the club's IDER (infectious disease emergency response) plan, a document detailing how the club was adapting its operations to mitigate risk, the types of cleaning products and equipment being used, how the team is complying with state and local guidelines, as well as how team officials would handle a positive COVID-19 test or symptoms within the staff or locker room, among other topics. The plan, which is implemented on a daily basis under Burkholder's watch, was the first among all clubs to be reviewed and approved by the NFL, the NFLPA and jointly appointed infectious disease experts.
Having spent 20 years with Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, including 14 in Philadelphia as Reid held the same position with the Eagles (1999-2012), Burkholder became well known for his expertise in his rehabilitation programs. He and his staff were recognized by their peers following the 2010 season, being named the NFL's top training staff for the year.
Throughout his career, Burkholder has had numerous success stories rehabilitating players. In 2004, an aggressive rehabilitation program allowed WR Terrell Owens to return from a surgically-repaired ankle in seven weeks to play in Super Bowl XXXIX with the Eagles. He also helped RB Duce Staley return to the field in 2001, who suffered a severe Lis Franc sprain in his foot. The process went so well that Burkholder was published and has spoken nationally on the Lis Franc injury and its rehabilitation process. In addition, Burkholder designed a rehab program for Steelers CB Rod Woodson in 1995 after he suffered a torn ACL in the season opener. Woodson returned just four and a half months after surgery to play in Super Bowl XXX.
Burkholder has created specialized rehab programs for several Chiefs over the last seven years, including several Achilles' tendon injuries: LB Derrick Johnson (2014 & 2016), DE Mike DeVito (2014), WR Chris Conley (2017) and S Eric Berry (2017). He also played a major role in Berry's return to the field in 2015 after battling Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Burkholder has been very proactive in sports medicine, emphasizing programs that prevent and combat dehydration, asthma and lower back injuries. In Philadelphia, he was instrumental in injury prevention by modifying the team's stretching program and instituting a torso-strengthening program known as "back school."
Before joining the Eagles training staff, he spent six seasons as an assistant athletic trainer with the Pittsburgh Steelers and three seasons as an assistant football athletic trainer at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. A 1987 Pittsburgh graduate, Burkholder went on to earn his master's degree in athletic training from the University of Arizona where he spent two seasons as a graduate assistant and another as an assistant athletic trainer.
Burkholder is a certified athletic trainer and a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society, in addition to his membership in PFATS. While with Philadelphia, he served as the NFC head athletic trainer representative on the PFATS executive committee.
In 2013, he was a part of a football safety clinic geared specifically for moms at The University of Kansas Health System Training Complex. He is actively involved in the Kansas City community having given educational presentations on concussions and heat and hydration as part of The University of Kansas Health System Sports Medicine and Performance Center. Burkholder was instrumental in obtaining funding from the NFL Foundation and a matching grant from the Hunt Family Foundation with which the Chiefs and The University of Kansas Health System will provide athletic training coverage to KC United, a local youth football league currently without any medical coverage.
Burkholder first gained NFL experience serving as a summer intern with the New England Patriots training staff in 1986. He was influenced by his father, Richard, a long-time athletic trainer at Carlisle High School, and his mother, Nancy, a registered nurse. In 2003, Burkholder and his father were named distinguished alumni of Carlisle High School, and in 2013, Rick was honored with the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society Distinguished Merit Award.
Education:Pittsburgh (B.S. 1987), Arizona (M.S. 1989). Born:Carlisle, Pa. Family: Wife - Kristine; Children - Quinn Taylor and Carly Ann.