From Picking Up Cups to Living the NFL Dream

This Sunday’s Jaguars game against the Chicago Bears will be special for me for many reasons.  For starters, it’s my 500th NFL game.  At 49 years old in my 25th NFL season, I have so much to be grateful for.

Growing up in Massachusetts, the New England Patriots were the only team any of my brothers or I would even consider cheering for.  I can still remember the rainy spring day in 1979, during my sophomore year in high school, when I decided to be an athletic trainer to work in the NFL.

Fast forward 15 years……It was the summer of 1984 during my first summer internship for Ronnie Barnes and the New York Giants.  Our first pre-season game was in Foxboro to play the Patriots!  On a side note, although I had been skydiving a couple of times from smaller planes when I was in college, the 25 minute flight to New England was my very first time flying on a “real” airplane.

Walking onto the field for the pre-game warmup was a dream come true.  My job was to carry the Gatorade cups to the bench and I was on Cloud 9 with a huge smile on my face……until I realized that the cup bags were open and I had just left 50 yards of cups trickled all the way to the tunnel!   embarrassed, red-faced and humbled, I made the walk of shame picking up the cups with the rough Boston crowd rightfully belittling me.  I laughed and said out load: “Welcome to the NFL, Mike!”

How many people have the opportunity to get into a dream job which they envisioned when they were 16 years old and then be fortunate enough to make that dream a long-term career?  Not many and I remind themself every day.  I always remind myself:  I’m simply the results of so many that were willing to help me to reach towards my dreams.  I owe it to them and myself to work hard and to help others as they pursue their carrots.

From my caring mother to my loving wife to my supportive family to my athletic training mentors Carl Krein and Ronnie Barnes, they all shared their love, support and wisdom to help me to help others.  I have so many to thank, including the Giants and Jaguars organizations themselves.  I am forever grateful.

Sunday’s game marks another reason to enjoy life.  Three of my dearest lifetime friends, Scott Mackie, Bill Thomson (a Bears fan) and Bob Kelly will be in town for the weekend.  Of my 25 season in the NFL, these friends have come to visit me for a home game for approximately 19 of those seasons.  Having loyal and caring friends like Bob, Bill and Scott is special and their friendship is priceless.

The sports medicine profession is an exciting field and it makes me want to come to work every day.  The friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had and the happiness I’ve found in the NFL are too many to list.  Although the work is serious, the fun and laughs are plentiful in this energetic environment.  The days may be 12 to 18 hours long but if that’s what it takes to be excited to get out of bed every day, I’ll pick up cups all day long!

Five (and 1/2) Lessons I Learned from Maurice Jones-Drew

MoJo with Mike Ryan and his son

This NFL season marked a milestone for me. With twenty-four years in the league, I’ve now spent half my life on the sidelines working in elite sports medicine. To say the least, the 2011-12 NFL season was a turbulent and fascinating one for the Jacksonville Jaguars. We fired our head coach, Jack DelRio, at mid-season. Wayne and Delores Weaver, our founding owners, announced they were selling the team to Shahid Khan. And, we finished with a disappointing 5-11 record. Amazingly, for me, these weren’t the biggest events of my season as the Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist.

The statistic that most impacted me was the 31 players that we put on Injured Reserve. Thirty-one!  The NFL allows a team to dress 45 players per game.  During this regular season, the Jags activated 74 different players! This is more turnover than your local McDonald’s. Needless to say, my medical staff and I were busy managing a boatload of injuries this season.

NFL Leading Rusher

Despite all of this internal turmoil, our season’s shining star was Maurice Jones-Drew.  The NFL’s leading rusher is also the heart & soul of our team. MJD overcame a serious knee injury last season to play in all 16 regular season games this year.  My job was to rehabilitate his knee, manage all his new injuries and to keep him healthy every day and ensure he was ready to compete on Sunday.  This was further complicated with the NFL lockout this season. And, it’s further burdened when your guy is a 5′ 7″ running back who gets punished nearly all of the 343 times he touched the ball. It’s a testament to him he lead the league with 1606 yards.

When I have the opportunity to interact with successful people, I’ve made it a life habit of learning from them.  During this season, I’ve spent more time with Maurice Jones-Drew than I have with my own wife. As you might imagine, when you spent that much time together, you really gain appreciation and insight into the player – and the man. He is a true professional who prepares like a madman for each and every game. And, his preparation drives results in an NFL leading 1606 rushing yards and his 3rd straight Pro Bowl season.

MoJo is a fun guy to be around, but don’t let his electric smile and playful demeanor fool you.  He’s an intelligent guy from UCLA with enormous, tree-trunk legs and even bigger life goals.  MoJo is a winner. And, he’s just getting started.

Here’s are five (and 1/2) lessons I learned from MoJo this season:

1.  Have a Big Carrot

Visualizing a clear goal or, as I like to call it, “focusing on your carrot”, provides a path to success and is a critical part of the plan for MoJo.  He always has to prove himself to others in this “big man’s” sport. For MoJo, establishing a motivational plan before he steps into the locker room for his first practice is an enormous reason why he is so successful.

2.  Believe in Yourself First

Maurice wastes little energy worrying about what others think about him.  He believes in himself first.

Call “IT” pride or confidence or courage, but you clearly see “IT” every time MJD puts his hands on the football.  You see no doubt or fear when he runs with the ball into the heart of an angry defensive line.  He believes strongly in himself and his abilities. And, it’s for great reason.

3.  Know What You Need

#32 knows exactly what he needs to prepare himself for battle and to perform at an elite level each and every game.  Make no mistake about it. He’s in charge and I’m working with him not on him.

Before our second to last game this season in Tennessee,  he had an injury that we treated throughout the week.  Before the game, I taped the injury in a manner that I thought was perfect. It was based on my experience and the projected stress on that body part.  (Yes, can you tell that I’m not going to disclose the injury?)  After one play, he limped off the field and made it very clear to me EXACTLY how he wanted the injury taped.  My twenty-four years in the NFL didn’t matter because he knew what he needed to do his job.  I love that about him because THAT type of feedback is priceless for sports medicine specialists like me working with world-class athletes.

4.  Pain Is Part of the Game

When your body is getting pounded by large men, it makes sense that your body will hurt and pain will often wake you up before the alarm clock.  MJD understands that aspect and he uses that pain as an important source of feedback.  The type and location of the pain is used to help us direct both his rehab and preparation each week.  We had games this year on Sundays, Mondays, Thursday and Saturday. With an erratic game schedule, it made it difficult to create consistency in rehab. MJD’s subjective perspective on that “pain meter” creates insight that allows me to help him.

5.  Honesty is the Best Buffer

Maurice has been blessed with the gift of gab and everyone knows it.  His honesty is refreshing.  He speaks his mind and he will always be open with his opinion.  I’ve learned to have thick skin since 1988, my first year in the NFL.  With that being said, I find MoJo’s open and honest communication style a perfect method to help me properly manage an agressive sports medicine rehab program for a high-level athlete.

Bonus 1/2 Pearl, Because Even MoJo Doesn’t Know This Yet…..

5 1/2.  He Loves to Work Hard

I’m sure MJD will laugh at this one because he is so focused on preparing for the next game.  Maurice LOVES to be challenged with impossible workouts and then have his toughness questioned for his ability to complete the workout.  That’s when the fun begins…

He always comes right back at me with an impressive barrage of verbal assaults.  As long as I don’t back down to his request to change the plan, the challenge is on!  Whether it’s a brutal core medicine ball workout or an interval swimming program, he’ll quickly think about it, put his game face on and then he’ll attack the exercise as if it’s a 4th-and-goal running play with the game on the line. And everyone in the northern hemisphere knows who’s getting the ball…

If I was the coach, I wouldn’t give it to anyone else.

Medial Meniscus Tears Made Easy

Assisting the efficient joint relationship in the knee, two cartilaginous menisci rest on the flat surface of the larger lower leg bone (tibia). The inner (medial meniscus) and outer (lateral meniscus) have a flat under surface that sits on the tibia bone and the concave (depressed) overlying surface of the menisci houses the convex (rounded) end of the thigh (femur) bone.

Both of the menisci act as shock absorbers for weight-bearing by providing extra protection to the articular cartilage of the femur and the tibia. It also helps distribute forces throughout the knee while adding stability to the entire knee joint.

An injury to either of the menisci can be both painful and difficult to bear.

The medial meniscus, located in the inner side of the knee, is by far more prone to be injured compared to it lateral (outer) counterpart. This is due to its direct attachment to other structures of the knee such as the medial collateral ligament and the medical capsule of the knee joint.

The “unhappy triad” injury is a common injury in contact sports involving resulting in damage to the medial meniscus, medial collateral ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament.

Meniscus Repair

Only the peripheral zone of the meniscus cartilage is well supplied with blood while the remaining central region of the meniscus lacks a direct blood supply. Therefore, meniscus injuries affecting the central zone do very little healing.  Only if the meniscal tear is on the peripheral edge is a meniscal repair possible.  If a meniscus repair is not an option, a meniscectomy or a meniscus trimming is a surgical option if necessary.

How to Tear a Meniscus

Common causes of medial include direct forces to the outer knee, aggressive knee twisting, overuse trauma, hyper flexion with rotation and excessive birthdays. These factors can result in thinning and tears of either the medial or lateral meniscus.

Injuries to the medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament will stress the medial meniscus and result in a medial meniscus tear (MMT). Degenerative conditions predispose the medial meniscus to injury. This is a painful injury initially accompanied by swelling and tenderness.

Signs & Symptoms of Medial Meniscus Tear

  • Knee joint line pain which can be increased with twisting and grinding movements.
  • Swelling and tenderness usually accompany the inflammation along the medial joint line.
  • Possible joint locking and “catching” from the tears and loose piece of the meniscus and/or articular cartilage.
  • Range of motion for both bending and straightening of the knee joint may be compromised.
  • Difficulty bearing weight with the involved knee.

Professional Treatment for Medial Meniscus Tear

The severity and type of tear sustained will guide the proper treatment approach to medial meniscal injuries.

  • Seek clinical evaluation of the injury. Improperly diagnosed and managed meniscal injuries can result in problems that you don’t want to experience.
  • RICE – rest, ice, compression & elevation to minimize the inflammation and decrease the symptoms.
  • Utilize the latest physical therapy modalities and rehab devices to reduce swelling and decrease pain.
  • Knee braces and sleeves will assist in supporting the knee and reducing the excessive motion that will increase the medical meniscus symptoms.
  • Maintain knee range of movement as early as possible.
  • ·Progressive resistive strengthening exercises for the quadriceps as early as possible maintain dynamic knee stability.

Asking the Right Questions Like a Pro

Here’s what a smart pro athlete would ask his/her sports medicine specialists to ensure a fast and safe return to sports:

  1. Is this injury related to my biomechanics?
  2. Exactly what structures in my knee are damaged?
  3. Do I need an MRI to assess what exactly my knee hurts so much?
  4. Do I have any articular cartilage damage in any of the three (3) compartments of my knee? If so, do I have arthritis and where?
  5. What kind of exercises do I need to avoid?
  6. Are there any long-term complications with this MMT?
  7. Do I need to visit a physical therapist?

Elite Sports Medicine Tips from Mike Ryan

  • Be Smart Now – Resting early on for 3-5 days can prove to pay off if the MMT quiets down quickly.
  • It’s Not About Medications – Avoid pain medications for pain unless you REALLY need them.
  • Quads Are MCL Guards – If your quad are strong, your MCL will recover fast and with better results. It’s that simple.
  • Avoid Bending With Twisting – That’s a common way to tear a meniscus so avoid this movement combo whenever possible.

Taming a Rib Injury []

A lot of Athlete’s have suffered a bruised or broken rib. It is an injury that causes severe pain and is very difficult to play through. It makes it hard for the athlete to breath or catch his/her breath. The only positive sign to this injury is if you can handle the pain it shouldn’t keep you from missing playing time/participating in your sport. Here are some key tips on how to recover from this common injury.

A rib injury seems simple enough….until it’s you with the injury.  An athlete with a bruised or broken rib will commonly describe an injury which is very painful, makes it difficult to play with.

The key to managing a rib injury is to find a safe way to continue to play with the injury.  Jokingly….as long as the athlete’s not breathing, it’s an easy problem.

Tony Romo, starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, is a prefect example of this.  He suffered a bruised rib in the first half of his game earlier this season against the San Francisco 49ers.  He was taken out of the game, only to return in the 4th quarter to lead his team to an impressive victory.

What’s the trick to quickly diagnosing a rib injury and super charging the recovery? has those answers and will show you how to decrease the pain and increase your performance after a rib injury.


Bruised ribs are normally seen due to trauma to the chest region. They are especially common in contact sports and are often a result of sport injuries. However, at times a person may end up with bruised ribs from coughing or violently sneezing. The downside of this kind of injury is that there is little that can be done to hasten the healing process, as the ribs continuously move as we breathe. However, there are some simple ways of dealing with bruised ribs.

Bruised Ribs Symptoms

There are many bruised rib symptoms which will help you in diagnosing this condition. They are:

  • Tenderness close to the traumatized area. This tenderness and pain may be aggravated on coughing and laughing.
  • When the ribs are bruised, then there may be some bruising outwardly visible as well. So, the skin may appear blue in color over the affected region. It may otherwise also be red and slightly swollen. Read more on rib swelling.
  • Due to the pain, you may have a tendency to take small short breaths, leading to shortness of breath.

Bruised Ribs Diagnosis

The diagnosis for a bruised rib can be done on the basis of many factors, like the symptoms and with the help of radiological examinations. If you have had a recent trauma in the chest region and there is some redness and swelling present, along with severe tenderness, then a bruised ribs diagnosis can be reached. However, for a final diagnosis, the help of an X-ray may be taken.

Bruised Ribs Treatment

Injured ribs can be quite painful to deal with. This is because, unlike the arm or the legs, the ribs cannot be immobilized as they constantly move when we breathe. This further adds to the pain and discomfort. This also increases the bruised ribs healing time. You can take some pain relievers to deal with the discomfort and pain. However, the best bruised ribs treatment consists of taking adequate bed rest and applying ice to the affected region of the chest. This helps to prevent any swelling also from occurring. However, do not apply the ice directly on the abdominal region.

Prevent any kind of further trauma to the region by covering the affected region, as any kind of trauma will only aggravate the injury and further delay healing. Be sure to not engage in any kind of strenuous physical activity immediately after recovery. This is because any kind of recurrence of sporting injury can lead to severe pain and relapse. Limit the amount of stretching and bending at least for the first 24 to 72 hours. There are high chances of catching a severe respiratory infection like pneumonia when you have a bruised rib. So it is best to take certain precautions in such cases, like prophylactic antibiotics to prevent a bout any such infection. You can also try and perform some deep breathing exercises, which will help to not only decrease the pain but will also help in healing. Read more on broken rib treatment.

Bruised ribs shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is because if one tends to ignore a bruised rib and continues with his normal physical routine, then he could aggravate the injury. Furthermore, at times, if the ribs are cracked, then they could point inwardly and end up puncturing the lungs, leading to severe repercussions. Hence, it is best to take such cases seriously and diagnose and treat the condition at the earliest. But like they say, prevention is better than cure, so when playing any kind of physically demanding contact sport, it is best to wear appropriate protective gear, so as to prevent the chances of sustaining a chest injury and landing with bruised ribs.

Author Source: