IMSA’s Elkin Back on Fast Track Thanks to Performance Tech Driver
The motorsports realm is the foundation for some of the most fruitful business-to-consumer relationships in the world; IMSA’s Director of Communications, Gregg Elkin, is walking proof of one successful relationship.
For professionals like Elkin who find themselves frequently on their feet an injury jeopardizes both careers and lifestyle. When severe chronic back pain began plaguing Elkin in early June, he quickly turned to the IMSA community to find relief from the agony he was facing each day. His answer came in the form of Dr. Robert Masson, Windemere, a world-renowned spine surgeon and endurance driver of the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Centinel Spine ORECA LMP2.
“A close friend of mine when I lived in Dallas was an orthopedic sports surgeon and he’s actually who made me think of Dr. Masson,” Elkin said. “I knew that to be able to maintain my quality of life I needed to continue to go to a sports doctor so going to Dr. Masson was a no-brainer. It’s funny because even before racing I had heard of Dr. Masson through a mutual friend whose son played baseball with his son Kyle.”
Dr. Masson joined IMSA in 2017 with Performance Tech Motorsports as a driver in IMSA Prototype Challenge. He immediately became a spokesperson for healthy living for both drivers and workers in the paddock without whom the sport could not run.
He made his largest statement this January when Dr. Masson joined Performance Tech Motorsports in the No. 38 Centinel Spine LMP2 for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona bringing three more medical sponsors to the series; Be The Match, Orlando Health and Restitute Health. Extensive press coverage highlighted Dr. Masson’s push to educate the paddock on spine health and brought him to the forefront of Elkin’s mind when injury struck.
“Through racing, I got to know him in passing,” Elkin said. “Eventually, through this personal connection created by racing I was able to get to know him on a very individual, friend level. As soon as I realized Dr. Masson was who I needed to see I contacted the team who got me in touch with him and that got everything going at a rapid pace.”
The beginning of summer marks the busiest time of the year for Elkin and the IMSA paddock with five races in a two-month span. Working an average of 12 hours a day on their feet in grueling weather makes physical health a priority for all members of the racing community. Finding time to prioritize health can be challenging with such a rigorous schedule making the connection to Dr. Masson all the more valuable.
Elkin was scheduling an appointment less than a week after reaching out to Performance Tech Motorsports for information on Dr. Masson and how to contact him. Upon his arrival at the Masson Spine Institute, Elkin was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back that needed resecting. Dr. Masson wasted no time in treating Elkin by injecting a steroid into the site of the herniation to reduce inflammation and pain. By the end of the appointment, Elkin had a surgery date and a firm plan of action on how to get back to living pain free.
“By being a part of the racing community, I was able to get in contact with Dr. Masson so quickly and easily,” Elkin said. “The process was so streamlined because of the racing community. Without that community, this connection wouldn’t have been made and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten help so quickly. A quick bit of research shows that Dr. Masson is at the top of his field in the country. Racing allowed me to not only get help quickly but get help from the best. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know Dr. Masson on such a more personal level.”
There is a deep understanding of the high caliber physical fitness individuals must obtain within the racing business. Many sponsors and partners join the motorsports realm with a health-centric marketing plan in mind, specifically with a goal to help improve a person’s overall well-being. When paired with a race team, partners are connected to more than a professional athlete they are joined with a network of individuals leading very different but none the less active lives. Partners quickly recognized how limited mobility can vastly affect the quality of a team. This small fraction of a business is a great scale model for other companies as any corporation can attest to the needed compensation when an employee is out sick or injured. Together, teams and partners are innovating new techniques and mindsets to help people like Elkin get back to their best life in the shortest amount of time possible.
“Dr. Masson being an athlete himself gave me extra confidence in him,” Elkin said. “He knew that my goal was to be able to still play golf. He knew the mobility I needed and understood how important being able to continue with my recreational activities was to me. He told me it would take four months to get back to golfing which isn’t bad at all compared to the alternative of playing in pain or never playing again.
“The way he described how going into surgery with a goal makes total sense. Being able to go out and be able to swing more freely and play a game I’ve enjoyed my whole life is something I realistically can visualize and work toward. He told me by doing that it would make my surgery easier to recover from and he was right.”
By building these bridges and forging these relationships the entire process is humanized. Dr. Masson, as a spinal surgery patient himself, can empathize with how his patients feel through the entire process. One of Elkin’s highest praises for Dr. Masson throughout the process was his ability to make someone feel so at ease in each conversation as though it is between friends rather than a doctor and their patient.
“His bedside manner is unbelievable. He is direct when telling you that you have an issue that needs fixing,” Elkin said. “He then goes into an easy to understand, and yet, detailed plan of attack and treatment. He showed me exactly what needed to be fixed and how he would do it. He explained why it was an outpatient surgery and that I would be able to get up and walk away from the table.
“He is clearly very successful and confident in what he is doing which is greatly comforting. I think even more impressive was the way he interacted with my wife. The night before my surgery she asked me if I was nervous and I explained that I wasn’t because Dr. Masson has so thoroughly gone through each step with me. When we got there the day of my surgery, he sat down with her and explained each step with the same amount of detail and compassion as he did to me. He made sure she was just as comfortable with the process as I was.”
One of the most important things Dr. Masson shed light on when explaining the surgery was pre-habilitation. This is the idea that healthy living is not only preventative but places you in the best condition should illness or injury occur. Dr. Masson concludes you should train for your surgery to show up strong the same way you would for any athletic event or major physical challenge. This method also comes into play post surgery. During the follow-up process Dr. Masson works with his patients to keep them moving and training in an effort to decrease the chances of future injury.
“The follow-up process was like checking in with a friend. Rather than calling and quickly running down a check list, Dr. Masson’s staff spent time on the phone with me talking through everything I was feeling even if it was menial. He and his office are working with me to do my follow-up appointments via phone so I don’t have to drive down from Daytona. The whole process really was just so incredible. I can’t boast about it enough.”
Fortunately for Elkin, a mixture of sponsorship and media directed him towards Dr. Masson. Two weeks post surgery Elkin was at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca performing his daily tasks with little to no pain. Had there not been a connection for him within the paddock he would more than likely still be restricted in many aspects of his daily life due to pain as he awaited treatment. Performance Tech Motorsports’ quick introduction in conjunction with Dr. Masson’s immaculate work allowed Elkin to get back to work in record time.
“It was so amazing waking up from the surgery and being pain free. I can sleep again; I can work and I can walk comfortably,” Elkin said. “Before the surgery, it was nearly unbearable. I couldn’t sleep and some nights I would even be screaming in pain from it. The connection from racing helped start this whole process to better my life. The sport cultivated the connection between professional and customer to allow me to find the help I needed.”
Elkin is on the move and next joins Performance Tech Motorsports at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the season finale of IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and IMSA Prototype Challenge. Perhaps he will even get a round of golf in between race weekends. Petit Le Mans runs Oct. 9-12 in Braselton, Georgia. For more information or ticket sales visit https://sportscarchampionship.imsa.com/events/2019-motul-petit-le-mans.