Monday, March 01, 2021

'I want to help them get back on top'

The Western News | February 12, 2021 7:00 AM

Six years after walking through the doors of OrthoRehab as a patient, Jared Winslow has returned to the center as a doctoral student in physical therapy.

A former three-sport athlete for the Loggers, Winslow has followed his passions for sports and helping others back to Libby.

“When people are hurt, I want to help get them back on top,” he said when asked what led to his decision to pursue physical therapy.

Winslow’s first visit to the orthopedics center came after he tore a ligament in his right arm. A steamroll pitcher for the Loggers in 2013, he sustained the injury late in a game at the Harry Griffith Tournament in Miles City.

“It was the second to last pitch of the game, I heard a big loud pop in my elbow and it was just gone,” he said at the time. “I can still throw, but pitching is too much for it right now.”

Shaking off the pain, Winslow insisted on finishing the match. He would go on to play two more games and made it through Logger football camp before realizing the injury might need medical attention.

After an MRI scan confirmed the torn ligament, doctors said Winslow would need Tommy John surgery if he ever wanted to pitch again. The procedure, named after the former major league pitcher who was the first to receive it, replaces the ligament connecting the upper and lower arm bones with a slice of tendon taken from elsewhere in the body.

Ever since John returned to the mound in 1976, players have touted the procedure as a miracle cure for injured pitchers. Looking back to when he agreed to the operation, Winslow recalled it still being “a hot trend in baseball.”

While the surgery has a high rate of recovery — renowned sports physician Dr. James Andrews estimates that 70 to 80 percent of pitchers return to their previous level of competition following the operation — the rehabilitation period can last over a year and a half.

As Libby’s quarterback and point guard, Winslow opted to postpone his surgery until after that year’s basketball season.

Winslow’s father, who introduced him to the mechanics of baseball at age five with Wiffle balls and plastic bats, noted that his son’s analytical mindset and his commitment in the weight room drove his success in sports across the board.

While Winslow was selected as an all-state basketball player, his father recalled his physiology didn’t match the sport. The decision over which sport he was to pursue in college would come down to baseball or football. In his senior year, Winslow was in contact with recruiters for both sports from Carroll College, Montana State University in Billings and Central Washington University.

Ultimately, he signed as a pitcher and infielder with MSUB. Before he could return to the mound, however, he had to undergo the prescribed ligament surgery and faced a grueling 18-month recovery period.

Winslow’s determination paid off once he got to Billings. After redshirting the 2015 season, he returned to the mound as a key reliever and spot starter for the Jackets the following year. He would go on to log three more successful seasons as a pitcher for MSUB, racking up impressive stats, including 14 career victories which is a third-most in the school’s history according to his online roster profile.

During his time on the team, Winslow helped the Jackets win three Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season titles. Recently, he was nominated to the school’s all-decade team.

In his senior year, he threw the last out of the 2019 GNAC Championship, securing the school’s first conference tournament title and a trip to NCAA regionals. During the team’s face-off against the University of California San Diego, Winslow struck out three Tritons. But during the game, he felt the same pop that ended his high school career.

“The last pitch I threw in college blew it out,” he recalled.

Since he left the mound that day, Winslow said he hasn’t thrown another pitch.

Having hung up his MSUB jersey, Winslow headed to Missoula where he enrolled in the doctoral program in physical therapy at the University of Montana.

Now in his second year of study, Winslow has returned to Libby to complete a clinical rotation at OrthoRehab. Tim Whalen, a physical therapist with the clinic and Winslow's supervisor, recalled seeing Winslow towards the end of his time at the center as a freshman in 2015.

“It makes me feel kind of old seeing him already done with school,” said Whalen.

Since starting his rotation, Winslow has progressed from observing Whalen interact with his patients to conducting his own interviews and assisting with diagnoses and prognoses.

Outside of the clinic, Winslow has stayed active in the Libby sports community. Working with his former coach Kelly Morford, he’s helped improve the mechanics of the next generation of Logger players. As he continues with his doctoral program, Winslow is looking to build connections with other Legion teams in the Missoula area.

“There’s a market in [physical therapy] for blending with sports specific training,” he said.

With the strain the coronavirus has placed on sports, Winslow urged younger athletes to continue following their passions.

“This year’s been tough,” he said. “If you put in enough hard work, everyone around will notice.”