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Back in the Game

Partnership with Stormont Vail brings alumnus into the action again

Dr. Ryan Tomlins observing a student-athlete

From The Ichabod - Winter 2018

Dr. Ryan Tomlins, bs ’03, grew up with a passion for sports and a desire to work in sports medicine. Thanks to a new partnership between Washburn University Athletics and Stormont Vail Health, he now has a major role in keeping Washburn student-athletes in top playing shape.

Tomlins grew up in Salina, Kansas, where his father was a chiropractor who worked with a local football team. Tomlins attended games with his dad, played multiple sports in high school and then played basketball at Washburn from 1999-03 while earning a biology degree. He was part of two MIAA championship teams and the 2000-01 national runner-up team.

Tomlins earned a medical degree from American University of the Caribbean in 2009. He’s been with Cotton O’Neil Orthopedics & Sports Medicine since 2016 as a non-operative orthopedics and sports medicine physician. In addition to his regular practice, he sees student-athletes once a week in the Washburn training room, travels with the football team and attends home football, soccer and basketball games.

“Having somebody who’s gone through what a lot of these kids have gone through, who understands what it’s like to be a student-athlete, helps a lot,” he said.

The addition of cross country and track and field in 2016 brought the student-athlete total to more than 400. This partnership, announced in July 2017, allowed head athletic trainer Steve Ice to add an additional trainer and gave them regular access to Stormont Vail doctors and staff. Injured Ichabods can get x-rays, MRIs, office visits and surgeries quicker. During off hours, urgent care clinics can take images and send them to Tomlins digitally. In addition, Tomlins and Dr. Matt Bohm, who also visits the training room weekly, are trained in general practice. They can see Ichabods for common illnesses and help keep infectious outbreaks from sidelining multiple players.

“The means to get us into the office quickly have been great for us,” Ice said. “Our network of orthopedists is a really healthy line of folks who are always available. It’s very comforting to have a physician when you’re unsure about the extent of an injury. Do I let this one go home for the evening or do I need to address this a little more directly today?”

Ice is happy to have a team of doctors who know the competitive nature of college sports and the special needs of getting student-athletes back into playing shape.

“They’re evaluated by the athletic trainers first,” Tomlins said. “We’ll triage the injury or symptoms and see if it needs attention right away or it’s something they can rehab with straight forward things like icing, exercising or over the counter medications. We’ll take into consideration what season is it. If we’re out of season, we can be more conservative. If we’re in season, we can be a lot more aggressive.”

One change Ichabod fans may have already noticed is a Stormont Vail tent set up at football games where medical staff evaluate injuries quickly and privately. The nature of NCAA Division II athletics means fans – and parents – are closer to the action.

“We’re approachable. People know us,” Ice said. “The tent provides a quick and simple place where we can close it off and let the physicians concentrate on the evaluation.”

Tomlins stayed mostly injury free during his time at Washburn, so he didn’t visit Ice or his staff much when the training room was a smaller facility.

“Things have changed a lot since I walked those halls,” Tomlins said. “There are better facilities and upgrades, but when you have someone like Steve who’s been doing it for 35 years, we as doctors feel very comfortable with the situation. There’s a lot of confidence. We want to be an elite sports medicine type of environment from level one athletic training students to the physicians and everyone in between. It takes all of us to keep the student-athletes healthy and in the game.”

The agreement gives Tomlins a chance to be a part of the Ichabods’ success once again, and it is filling a need for Washburn.

“The partnership with Stormont is very vital because they hold all the doors and now we have the keys,” Ice said. “We’ve been able to open it up, and it’s really made it a great situation for the school and hopefully for them as well.”

The Ichabod magazine spring 2019

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2018-19 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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