On the Job With the Colorado Avalanche Team Physician

Unveiling the multifaceted life of Kyle Goerl, MD, the new team physician for the Colorado Avalanche and a key figure at CU’s athletic program.

Kyle Goerl, MD
Photo by Jake Holschuh.

Under the bright lights of the Colorado Avalanche’s home turf, Kyle Goerl, MD, carves his own path in the high-octane world of sports medicine. Newly minted as the team physician for the Avalanche and a team doctor for the CU Buffs—titles he wears with a mix of nonchalance and razor focus—Dr. Goerl navigates the adrenaline-fueled world of professional sports with a dexterity born from his days as a Kansas decathlete, bringing more to the table than just medical expertise. He is a primary sports medicine physician for University of Colorado Medicine, and a CU Medicine provider through UC Health, lending his skills both on the ice and field and in academia. In Goerl’s playbook, the game extends far beyond sprains, strains, and the usual game-day drama. Goerl’s fervor for mental health and family life parallels his dedication to nurturing the physical and mental resilience of athletes. Our chat on a game day in Ball Arena, the nerve center of Denver sports, unveils the man behind the titles.

“I did my residency and family medicine fellowship in sports medicine, so what I do for this team is more on the medicine side of things—illnesses, all sorts of stuff like anxiety. I also take care of the organization—the office staff, families of the players.”

“There are several of us who take care of the team. Before a game, we huddle in the training room and hang out. Sixteen minutes before the puck drops, we do a pre-game emergency action plan: if there’s a bad injury, this is where we’re going to take them out in the ambulance; if you have a possible fracture, this is how we’re gonna get you back to X-ray.”

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“There are some very highly publicized, really difficult things that happen in sports medicine, but those are rare. The likelihood of a serious injury is pretty low. Most of the time, I’m just sitting here watching a game.”

“But it’s hockey, so inevitably things happen—lots of lacerations.”

“Yes, there’s a lot of fun and excitement about this type of job. But to get here, you pass through a lot of really hard hurdles along the way.”

“My advice to anyone considering this field is to be certain about this path. Medicine is demanding—both emotionally and financially. It’s a commitment, not just a career. So first and foremost, make darn sure that it’s what you really want to do.”

“I’ve dealt with generalized anxiety and depression through my training and early career. To care for my mental health today, I do the same things I do for my patients: I take medicine, I see a therapist, I exercise, I meditate—a lot of mindfulness work. I fail continually, but I try to give myself grace for that Sometimes, I fail at that, too.”

“When you’ve got professional athletes being open about their worries, that normalize things. It reduces stigma, and it does all the things that we need to for people to really recognize that, yes, mental health issues are very common, and there are ways to treat it. And it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“Depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder—it’s a condition, just like high blood pressure or diabetes. Normalizing mental health, reducing stigma, and increasing access to care is to the overall benefit for society. Athletes—turns out they have the same conditions we do. People are people.”

“The guys here—there’re just good dudes. They’re nice guys. They have families, they have the same worries as the rest of us. Yes, my job if really fun, but a big part of it is maintaining that level of objectivity. If this was my son, who would I want to take care of him?”