The Justin Sportsmedicine Team | TheFencePost.com

The Justin Sportsmedicine Team

Brandon Westphal
Greeley, Colo.

Photo courtesy of the Justin Sportsmedicine Team.Rick Foster, Program Director for the Justin Sportsmedicine Team, working on a cowboy before a rodeo.

“If you’re gonna rodeo, you’re gonna get hurt.” This quote is the first thing you see when you visit the Justin Sportsmedicine Team (JST) website. In a sport described as one of the worlds most dangerous, there’s never a shortage of injuries. The same cannot be said of the availability of health care professionals to treat these injuries.

The Justin Sportsmedicine Team was formed in 1980 by Dr. J. Pat Evans and Don Andrews as an effort to provide rodeo cowboys and cowgirls access to professional medical care. Dr. Evans was team physician for the Dallas Cowboys at the time and lent his services to football great Walt Garrison – who entered professional rodeos during football’s off-season. While following Garrison, Dr. Evans decided to organize a team to treat rodeo athletes. His decision led to the first mobile sports vehicle to serve professional athletes in North America.

In 1981 the program gained the sponsorship of the Justin Boot Company. Justin pledged its support as a means to give back to contestants who wore its products and its support continues today with the company serving as the program’s sole benefactor. The first season the team attended 10 Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) events and treated around 775 contestants. This year the JST will appear at more than 125 PRCA rodeos and treat more than 6,000 contestants.

The JST carries stocked medical kits to indoor arenas and maintains two permanent locations, one at the home of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo in Mesquite, Texas, and the other at the home of the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Guthrie, Okla. While a permanent location with supplies, equipment, and staff is the best way to treat patients, this is not how rodeo works. With this understanding, Dr. Evans and Mr. Andrews set out to perfect the concept of mobile sportsmedicine. Their efforts continued until earlier this year when both retired from the team. In retirement, the men continue their support of rodeo and rodeo contestants as board members of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. (Also serving on the board is Walt Garrison.)

The JST team has evolved much over the last 30 years. What started out of the back of a pickup truck has grown to three fully equipped, self-contained “mobile centers” traveling across the country each year aiding athletes who would otherwise be ignored. First-year Executive Director Mike Rich, ATC/L, PTA, continues the tradition of making contestant care the top priority. Rich, a member of the JST for the last 20 years, explains it this way: “I’ve worked with a lot of professional athletes in a variety of sports and rodeo is definitely one of the toughest and most grueling. Most people who know rodeo will tell you (that) it’s not if an athlete will get hurt, but when and how bad.”

Under Rich’s leadership, the team acquired brand new mobile centers earlier this year. Each outfit is comprised of a 40-foot custom made Bloomer trailer pulled by a Dodge one-ton dually pickup. The trailer interior, designed by Cowboy Classic Living Quarters, includes: television monitors with DVD players providing pre-conditioning and rehabilitation information, an assortment of four electrical muscle stimulation units, a microwave for preparing special casting and padding materials, diagnostic and minor surgery equipment, a full line of bracing and splinting materials, hot and cold packs, treatment and taping tables, and climate controls along with hot water, an ice machine and refrigerators. The only thing more impressive than the tools the team employs are the people who operate them.

Recommended Stories For You

The Justin team is a network of select orthopedists, trauma specialist, athletic trainers, massage therapists, and hospitals and clinics across the country. The mobile nature of the sport requires a broad network of providers. Specially qualified staff are the heart of the team, and one such member is Rick Foster, MS, ATC.

Foster grew up spending winters on the ski slopes and summers on the ranch outside of Boulder, Colo. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a master’s degree in exercise physiology and a varsity letter as part of the ski team. While attending grad school, Foster helped re-organize the school’s rodeo program and competed as a bull rider. He returned to the school after graduation to serve as the rodeo team coach for five years and during this time boarded the team’s horses and held roping practices at his arena.

An innovator in his own right, Foster created a battery of tests centered on enhancing performance for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team as his master’s thesis. Around the same time, he began to partner with others to develop safety programs for local youth rodeos and helped organize the first sportsmedicine program for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA). Foster was one of the first to join the JST when he volunteered to cover rodeos along the Colorado Front Range in 1981. Now a full-time member of the team, Foster serves the organization as a program director.

The responsibilities of a program director are many. The first task is getting to the rodeo. Foster is in charge of driving one of the mobile centers and has to meet certain criteria to do so. “Before I’m a trainer at any rodeo I’m a long-haul trucker,” says Foster. “I’m subject to the same standards as a commercial driver, which means I must maintain a commercial driver’s license, pass the same drug screening, and keep the same log books as those who drive for a living. I also have to pass a physical exam every couple years to keep my license.” Foster continues, “Once I get to the rodeo, I supervise staff and volunteers working the event, maintain injury related records, and provide attention and advice to all the contestants I can.”

Foster drives his mobile center to more than 25 pro rodeos a year and is away from home most of every summer. According to Rick, “I’m not home a full week between April and August. Things slow down a little in the winter, but there’s never really an off-season in our sport.” He admits this takes its toll on things at home. “I’m way behind right now,” says Foster, who also operates a small ranch and hay operation. “My wife and children do a lot while I’m away.” Like others whose livelihoods are made on the road, the Fosters make the best of it. “Being gone a lot is difficult, but family traditions such as this are what keep the sport alive,” states Rick. “Doing something so rewarding helps.”

The sport of rodeo is alive and well thanks to sponsors such as the Justin Boot Company and people such as Foster. While many venues have suffered the last couple of years, rodeos across the country have experienced increased attendance and support in their communities. As long as cowboys and cowgirls continue to rodeo, they will continue to get hurt. Thankfully, they can count on the Justin Sportsmedicine Team to be there for them when they do.

“If you’re gonna rodeo, you’re gonna get hurt.” This quote is the first thing you see when you visit the Justin Sportsmedicine Team (JST) website. In a sport described as one of the worlds most dangerous, there’s never a shortage of injuries. The same cannot be said of the availability of health care professionals to treat these injuries.

The Justin Sportsmedicine Team was formed in 1980 by Dr. J. Pat Evans and Don Andrews as an effort to provide rodeo cowboys and cowgirls access to professional medical care. Dr. Evans was team physician for the Dallas Cowboys at the time and lent his services to football great Walt Garrison – who entered professional rodeos during football’s off-season. While following Garrison, Dr. Evans decided to organize a team to treat rodeo athletes. His decision led to the first mobile sports vehicle to serve professional athletes in North America.

In 1981 the program gained the sponsorship of the Justin Boot Company. Justin pledged its support as a means to give back to contestants who wore its products and its support continues today with the company serving as the program’s sole benefactor. The first season the team attended 10 Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) events and treated around 775 contestants. This year the JST will appear at more than 125 PRCA rodeos and treat more than 6,000 contestants.

The JST carries stocked medical kits to indoor arenas and maintains two permanent locations, one at the home of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo in Mesquite, Texas, and the other at the home of the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Guthrie, Okla. While a permanent location with supplies, equipment, and staff is the best way to treat patients, this is not how rodeo works. With this understanding, Dr. Evans and Mr. Andrews set out to perfect the concept of mobile sportsmedicine. Their efforts continued until earlier this year when both retired from the team. In retirement, the men continue their support of rodeo and rodeo contestants as board members of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. (Also serving on the board is Walt Garrison.)

The JST team has evolved much over the last 30 years. What started out of the back of a pickup truck has grown to three fully equipped, self-contained “mobile centers” traveling across the country each year aiding athletes who would otherwise be ignored. First-year Executive Director Mike Rich, ATC/L, PTA, continues the tradition of making contestant care the top priority. Rich, a member of the JST for the last 20 years, explains it this way: “I’ve worked with a lot of professional athletes in a variety of sports and rodeo is definitely one of the toughest and most grueling. Most people who know rodeo will tell you (that) it’s not if an athlete will get hurt, but when and how bad.”

Under Rich’s leadership, the team acquired brand new mobile centers earlier this year. Each outfit is comprised of a 40-foot custom made Bloomer trailer pulled by a Dodge one-ton dually pickup. The trailer interior, designed by Cowboy Classic Living Quarters, includes: television monitors with DVD players providing pre-conditioning and rehabilitation information, an assortment of four electrical muscle stimulation units, a microwave for preparing special casting and padding materials, diagnostic and minor surgery equipment, a full line of bracing and splinting materials, hot and cold packs, treatment and taping tables, and climate controls along with hot water, an ice machine and refrigerators. The only thing more impressive than the tools the team employs are the people who operate them.

The Justin team is a network of select orthopedists, trauma specialist, athletic trainers, massage therapists, and hospitals and clinics across the country. The mobile nature of the sport requires a broad network of providers. Specially qualified staff are the heart of the team, and one such member is Rick Foster, MS, ATC.

Foster grew up spending winters on the ski slopes and summers on the ranch outside of Boulder, Colo. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a master’s degree in exercise physiology and a varsity letter as part of the ski team. While attending grad school, Foster helped re-organize the school’s rodeo program and competed as a bull rider. He returned to the school after graduation to serve as the rodeo team coach for five years and during this time boarded the team’s horses and held roping practices at his arena.

An innovator in his own right, Foster created a battery of tests centered on enhancing performance for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team as his master’s thesis. Around the same time, he began to partner with others to develop safety programs for local youth rodeos and helped organize the first sportsmedicine program for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association (NLBRA). Foster was one of the first to join the JST when he volunteered to cover rodeos along the Colorado Front Range in 1981. Now a full-time member of the team, Foster serves the organization as a program director.

The responsibilities of a program director are many. The first task is getting to the rodeo. Foster is in charge of driving one of the mobile centers and has to meet certain criteria to do so. “Before I’m a trainer at any rodeo I’m a long-haul trucker,” says Foster. “I’m subject to the same standards as a commercial driver, which means I must maintain a commercial driver’s license, pass the same drug screening, and keep the same log books as those who drive for a living. I also have to pass a physical exam every couple years to keep my license.” Foster continues, “Once I get to the rodeo, I supervise staff and volunteers working the event, maintain injury related records, and provide attention and advice to all the contestants I can.”

Foster drives his mobile center to more than 25 pro rodeos a year and is away from home most of every summer. According to Rick, “I’m not home a full week between April and August. Things slow down a little in the winter, but there’s never really an off-season in our sport.” He admits this takes its toll on things at home. “I’m way behind right now,” says Foster, who also operates a small ranch and hay operation. “My wife and children do a lot while I’m away.” Like others whose livelihoods are made on the road, the Fosters make the best of it. “Being gone a lot is difficult, but family traditions such as this are what keep the sport alive,” states Rick. “Doing something so rewarding helps.”

The sport of rodeo is alive and well thanks to sponsors such as the Justin Boot Company and people such as Foster. While many venues have suffered the last couple of years, rodeos across the country have experienced increased attendance and support in their communities. As long as cowboys and cowgirls continue to rodeo, they will continue to get hurt. Thankfully, they can count on the Justin Sportsmedicine Team to be there for them when they do.