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On Top of His Game

Aug 28, 2018 06:00AM ● By Med Magazine

By Alex Strauss

Like many athletes, Ryan Meis, MD, is always looking for ways to up his game. But unlike other athletes, he is perfectly happy to be doing it from the sidelines. In fact, these days, that is where much of his “game” is played.

As a Sport Medicine specialist and Chair of Orthopedics at CNOS Clinic in Dakota Dunes, Meis has become a fixture at high school, college, and even championship sporting events throughout the region—one of a growing team of sports medicine colleagues at CNOS dedicated to keeping players strong, injury free, and in the game.

“I split my time between two different games on Friday nights, as well as the Morningside football games on Saturdays,” says Dr. Meis, who played baseball at Morningside during his own college days. “It is my job to help assess whether an injured player should go back in. I think it is really important so I rarely miss these events.”

If those injuries need further attention, players can be seen the following Saturday morning at the CNOS sports injury clinic, saving time and reducing pain and stress for patients and their families.

“We might see ten kids on any given Saturday, but these are kids who are otherwise going to end up in Urgent Care. It’s just the right thing to do,” says Meis.

Learning from the Best

Ryan Meis grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After Morningside, he headed to Creighton in Omaha for medical school and on to an orthopaedic residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It was during his fellowship in Birmingham, Alabama, under the tutelage of pioneering sports medicine expert Dr. James Andrews, founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, that Meis developed his passion for managing complex shoulder, elbow, and knee injuries.

“You could watch TV on a Sunday during football season and see who got hurt and know who was going to be in your clinic the next day,” says Dr. Meis. “I was starstruck. That experience really jump started my career.”

In Alabama, Dr. Meis honed his skills in advanced procedures like arthroscopic shoulder surgery, multi-ligament knee repair, and the so-called Tommy John elbow surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction), a potentially career-saving operation for the throwing athlete which Dr. Andrews helped refine.

 The Road Back to Iowa

When Meis first began to search for a place to practice all that he had learned, he says the Sioux City area “wasn’t really on my radar.” Then he encountered CNOS, an innovative Dakota Dunes clinic that was doing something unusual—integrating orthopedics and neurology.

“Sometimes, you feel like you are just guided to something,” he says. “CNOS had put together something very special. They had also gotten into sports medicine very early on, at a time when there weren’t a lot of docs covering high school and college games. When I was interviewing, they had trainers stopping in at 48 schools. That creates a large pool of kids who, when they need care, can get it quickly at CNOS. When you are a sports medicine physician, that is exactly what you want.”

Meis also realized that his high-level training could help uplevel orthopedic care in the region where many of the complex procedures he had learned (particularly those performed through a scope) were still relatively new.

The Evolution of a Sports Medicine Program.

From those early days, and largely under Dr. Meis’ guidance, the CNOS sports medicine service line grew, evolving into a comprehensive program including fellowship trained physicians and surgeons, 13 certified athletic trainers, 4 strength and conditioning specialists, and physical and occupational therapists at 6 locations—all devoted to the idea that “life is sport”. Through screenings and on-site treatments, the team provides support to more than 35 area high schools and colleges.

In addition, Move 365, a sports medicine initiative supported by the non-profit CNOS Foundation, provides athletic training, including injury evaluation on site or at free screening clinics; strength and conditioning through sports performance camps, in-school training, and personal training; and physical therapy. The idea is to keep people “in the game”—whether that game is baseball or gardening.

“These three pillars all work together to decrease the risk of injury,” says Dr. Meis. “We manage on the sidelines, provide care if there are injuries, and, if an athlete has to have surgery or is injured, we have physical therapy to help them recover.”

Beyond the Field

When he is not on the sidelines of a game, Dr. Meis’ professional time is about evenly split between the clinic and the operating room. But those aren’t the only places where his expertise comes into play.

Dr. Meis regularly teaches courses on shoulder and elbow injuries in Florida and Omaha, which he says helps to keep him on the cutting edge of new knowledge and techniques. “It gives me the opportunity to sit down and ask questions and figure out what really is new and working and what isn’t worth trying because it isn’t working well.”

As a father of a college freshman, a high school freshman, and an eighth grader, Meis also estimates that he has coached some 60 youth sports teams over the last 13 years. “I have tried to coach everything I possibly could,” he says. “They need people there who understand and are nice to kids.”

Even vacation is not always an escape from the need for his skills. With a chuckle, Meis recounts the trip to Okoboji where he he was called upon to help a friend’s wife—on the water.

“My friend said ‘I think we just passed you on the boat. My wife hurt her foot getting in the boat. Would you mind taking a look at it?’,” Meis remembers. “It turns out, she had dislocated her toe. So I jumped in the water, swam to his boat, popped the toe back into place, went back to my boat, and we both had great weeks!”

Becoming more serious, Meis adds, “Sometimes you find something that you were just meant to do. I have been so lucky to have the training that I did and to work with the people that I did. The stars have aligned nicely for me.”