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Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation goes for gold

Dan McGovern and Robert Wagenaar discuss plans for the new Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilition

Robert Wagenaar is a serious squash player who is personally familiar with recovery from painful sports injuries. But at the moment the native of the Netherlands, a Sargent College professor and chairman of the physical therapy and athletic training department, has more important things on his mind than the knot of pain in his right shoulder. He and Dan McGovern, clinical director of physical therapy, are busy building a rehabilitation and sports medicine practice that could someday be the first choice for the city’s professional sports teams and most competitive athletes.

Helping Wagenaar and McGovern to do that is the new Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, a 4,500-square-foot facility that opened two weeks ago in the BU Fitness and Recreation Center. The Ryan Center, which replaces the previous facility at 930 Commonwealth Ave., is staffed by physical therapists along with healthcare and exercise science professionals from the Boston University Medical Center. The new collaboration will provide everything from diagnostics through post-rehabilitation care.

“In this new place,” says Wagenaar, “with more space, the educational mission will also become more important. More of our physical therapy students who are here in academic programs will be working at the site. I think this center could be a crystallization point in terms of educating clinical specialists in orthopedics and sports medicine.”

In addition to more specialists, the Ryan Center has several therapeutic tools and machines that were not available before the move. “The centerpiece,” says McGovern, “is the Swim Ex pool. It uses buoyancy and the resistance, or assistance, of water to make motion more or less difficult. We also have a functional pulley trainer that allows us to train individuals in multiple planes of motion, so it’s more functional and lifelike than some other machines. And we have a leg press that uses elastic bands for resistance that can be used for slow controlled movement or for higher plyometric exercises.”

McGovern moved much of his existing equipment, such as a stationary bike, an elliptical trainer, and a treadmill, from 930 Commonwealth Ave. “We have many new things,” he says, “like various modular ultrasound equipment, but the most important piece of equipment here is our hands. We have a very experienced and very skilled staff.”

McGovern’s long-term vision includes strengthening the academic component of the center and providing a place where faculty can conduct groundbreaking rehabilitation and sports medicine research. He’d also like to see the Ryan Center attract top athletes, something that would not be an entirely new experience. McGovern has treated competitive athletes from around New England and student athletes from many Boston-area colleges at the former facility. Wagenaar, who has worked with the Netherlands’ top soccer players, shares the goal of making the Ryan Center the first choice of top athletes.
“With the new services we will be offering,” he says, “I think we could do that.  We will be looking at ways to bring them in.”

The Ryan Center is named after donor and BU trustee Sharon Ryan (SAR’70) and her husband, Robert.