The longtime former president of Columbia Orthopaedic Group sometimes sits back and just beams. And why not? Just look how far sports medicine has come since the 1950s.

“It used to be a joke in the ’70s and ’80s that sports medicine was a ‘bucket and a sponge at the end of the bench!’” said Dr. Mark Adams (MSHOF 2014, President’s Award 2019). “Now there is a very high level of sophistication and confidence throughout the field in treating the athletic patient regardless of age or sport. Certain injuries that used to signal the end of an athletic career are now treated successfully and returning people to whatever level of activity desired.”

Columbia Orthopaedic Group, or COG, has been among the best in the sports medicine business nationally for decades. That’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly honored COG with the John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award during the 2022 Enshrinement in Columbia presented by Great Southern Bank.

The award is bestowed on an organization that champions the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and sports across the Show-Me State.

Columbia Orthopaedic Group supports the Hall of Fame’s numerous events and has been a tremendous resource in identifying physicians and athletic trainers for consideration for induction.

“They are just incredibly great friends,” said Jerald Andrews, who recently rode off into the sunset after 27 years of leading the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame as its CEO & Executive Director. “However, it’s not just their support for the Hall of Fame that makes them deserving of this award. It’s their incredible way that their physicians and employees challenge themselves to be the best.”

With roots dating to December 1965 in downtown Columbia, the Columbia Orthopaedic Group now numbers 27 physicians who are committed to excellence in the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of orthopedic injury and disease.

They work in a 92,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility with over 200 additional employees dedicated to great patient care.

Over the years, Columbia Orthopaedic Group has developed subspecialty programs in sports medicine, spine, joint replacement, hand and upper extremity, foot and ankle, and trauma and fracture treatment.

The sports medicine physicians have been involved in caring for recreational, high school, college and even Olympic athletes, extending their Columbia-based expertise to the international level.

The group has been the preferred sports medicine provider for student-athletes from multiple surrounding colleges and universities, and school systems for greater than 55 years.

“We love meeting and taking care of the athletic population, as they are always determined to be treated and returned to whatever lifestyle they find invigorating,” Dr. Adams said. “Medical coverage of the athletic person’s needs has been in the DNA of the Columbia Orthopedic Group since its inception in 1965!  We hope to continue that emphasis for another 55-plus years!!!”

In essence, the legacy of the three founders – Drs. Garth Russell, Glenn McElroy and John Payne – continues to reverberate.

“Several of us knew them very well, and worked alongside them prior to their retirements,” Dr. Pat Smith said. “They were true visionaries, as they recognized before most doctors the need for subspecialty care and expertise in the various areas that make up orthopedics.”

By 1969, Columbia Orthopaedic Group doubled in size. Eager to develop the healthcare landscape in Columbia, the physicians partnered with neighboring practices to build Columbia Regional Hospital in 1972.

“Most people are not aware that arthroscopy, now performed thousands of times a day across the country and all over the world, just became a reality in the mid-to-late 1970s,” Dr. Adams said. “Initially, we used our eyes to look down into the scope and visualize problems in the joint. Now we have high-resolution cameras, wireless technology, and specialized instruments that allow us to beautifully visualize pathology that occurs in our joints and orthopedic spaces.”

The sports medicine practice, in particular, has seen exciting advances. From training alongside Olympic athletes (twice) to assisting on the sidelines of the Women’s World Cup, Columbia Orthopaedic Group had a part in orthopaedics at an international level.

Dr. Adams still remembers being a team physician for the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics as some of the highlights of his career. The physicians even cared for members of the Harlem Globetrotters while traveling on tour.

In 1990, there were eight doctors in COG. Now there are 27 physicians covering all subspecialties in orthopedics, and more physicians and staff members joining.

In the field of sports medicine, Dr. McElroy was joined by Dr. Peter Buchert, Dr. Pat Smith (MSHOF 2015), and Dr. Adams more than 30 years ago. Since then, they added Dr. Bus Tarbox, Dr. Tameem Yehyawi, Dr. Josh Hamann, Dr. Shawn Sahota, Dr. Matt Thornburg, Dr. Chris Farmer and Dr. Matt Jones with sports medicine expertise to the group.

At the state level, Columbia Orthopaedic Group became the preferred provider for student-athletes of the University of Missouri in Columbia and Rolla, Columbia College, the University of Central Missouri and even the University of Kansas for a short time!

By 2008, the facility simply wasn’t large enough.

As more physicians were added, it became apparent that more exam room space, and additional ancillary square footage in imaging, bracing, and outpatient surgical suites were needed.

Dr. Adams was placed in charge of the architectural and construction project, and the present, 92,000-square foot facility is the result.

Perhaps most significantly, despite Columbia Orthopaedic Group’s connections to public schools and mid-Missouri universities, its doctors are what you’d call pro’s pros. Simply put, an athlete is going to be cleared  only when truly ready.

“We try to treat each patient as if they were a member of our own family,” Dr. Adams said. “It does not matter  whether we are treating a junior high soccer player, a high school star, the collegiate athlete, the weekend warrior, or a professional making their living in sports, quality service and professionalism is the emphasis.

“We stress honesty in whatever the diagnosis, the treatment, and decisions regarding return to play, however difficult these may be.”

COG has over 100,000 clinic visits per year, and a good number of those represent athletes from the various schools and the multiple colleges here in mid-Missouri.

“We are especially proud of our staff reacting very quickly to any athletic injury, helping comfort the athlete and making a quick and reliable diagnosis,” said Dr. Bus Tarbox, current president of the organization.