In any given year, the Jaguars training staff has dealt with injuries of the knees, ankles, shoulders and the back. They have had to talk about ACLs, MCLs, high-ankle sprains and concussions, but there is one body part that gets little recognition - the eyes.
Jaguars head athletic trainer Mike Ryan understands that the players' eyes may be one of the most important tools they have. For this reason, he and the Jaguars have partnered with Bowden Eye Associates for the past 13 years. Their expertise in the subject matter is second to none in the North Florida area.
"We have been dealing with Frank Bowden and his staff since the start of 1995," said Ryan. "They have been wonderful to deal with. As we were going through our growing pains, both as a team and as an organization, they have been right there all along helping out any way they can."
Dr. Bowden agrees with the sentiment.
"Since 1995 I have had a positive relationship as an avid fan and professionally as part of the medical team," said Dr. Bowden. "We have worked closely with Mike Ryan and Dr. David Murray to address issues such as safety, eye health, disease management, trauma care, and refractive surgery for the players and organization."
Dr. Bowden and his staff provide all sorts of services for the Jaguars and are not limited to the 53-man roster. They are available for the administration and coaches as well as potential free agents.
"For our players and staff they provide a one-stop shop for an eye center," said Ryan. "They help us screen staff members and players for our annual physicals in the spring, they provide screenings for both NFL free agents and college free agents. It has been a big plus for us to screen for potential eye issues that can become common in this level of athletics. To be able to have a handle on that before we sign a player has been invaluable."
The importance of healthy vision to an NFL wide receiver trying to catch a pass over the middle or a defensive back trying to get a read on an opposing offense is crucial. Getting a firm grasp on potential eye problems and correcting what can be fixed is what makes Bowden so important to the Jaguars.
"NFL players have unique need for excellent vision as elite athletes in the highest competitive arena," said Dr. Bowden. "Their livelihoods depend on their overall effective competitive performance. Skill position players in particular who must handle the ball have been the most demanding for excellent eyesight. Meeting these demands with the latest technology which has been made available in our practice has been very challenging and rewarding."
"You don't see swelling or limping as you would with a knee, but a potential eye injury could be just as devastating to their career as a broken bone or a dislocated joint. There is a subtlety to certain injuries to the eye and that really takes a highly-trained expert to see those before they become a big problem," Ryan said.
Ryan knows that with preparation and education, his training room can be a more efficient area. And with Bowden Eye Associates around, he doesn't have to worry at all about his players getting what they need.
Dr. Bowden also sees the relationship with the Jaguars beneficial to him.
"Many of my patients regard the team affiliation as a measure of trust, professionalism, and quality care which are valued attributes in health care providers. The opportunities to care for elite athletes has been challenging as their expectations of their visual performance is understandably very high. It has been rewarding to gain the players' and team physicians' confidence," he said.
"If they hold on to the official title of 'Official Eye Care Provider for the Jaguars,' for the next two dozen years, I would be very happy with that," smiled Ryan.