By Tiffany White
Special to Stlouisrams.com
It isn’t difficult to spot a Rams athletic trainer at practice or during a game. They constantly roam the field hydrating the team and orchestrating rehabilitation routines, and according to Rams Assistant Athletic Trainer James Lomax, they are the first responders when a player is injured.
“If somebody gets hurt on the field, we’re the first ones out there,” Lomax said. “We look at them. We evaluate the injury along with our doctors.” Based on the medical team’s assessment, players will get referred to get an MRI, in which the results guide the avenue for their rehabilitation.
“You have to be confident in your skill set and know that when you go in there, that you have their best interest at heart,” Lomax said. “We’re going to do everything that we possibly can to get the guys back out there on the field as quickly and safely as possible so they can perform at the top level that they were before they got injured.”
While rehab is a major part of Lomax’s job description, injury prevention is also critical.
“There’s a lot that goes into it, but all in all, the umbrella of our job does not change – from the seasonal intern to me,” Lomax said. “We are in charge of rehab and prevention – you’re taping them, they’ve got thumb splints, they wear ankle braces, shoulder braces – so we try to prevent injuries.”
At minimum, Lomax will tape close to 3,000 ankles in a single season. In less than three minutes he’ll tape a pair of ankles before moving on to the next player.
“It’s not like a cookie cutter. You have to tape certain players a certain way,” Lomax said. “It’s definitely an art. It took me forever to get it down. Every ankle is different.”
Taping players is a task that Lomax has exercised since he started as an intern while he was a graduate student at Lindenwood University. After gaining hands on experience with the Rams, the former duel-sport athlete from Central Methodist University got on board with NFL Europe where he was placed with the Frankfurt Galaxy in 2004. Lomax accompanied the team to the World Bowl before eventually returning to St. Louis as a full-time member of the Rams athletic training staff.
“James has been a part of the Rams athletic training staff since 2002,” Rams Head Athletic Trainer Reggie Scott said. “When I was hired in 2010, he instantly adapted and enhanced the philosophies that we provide for our players. He has been a huge part of the success in our department. His hunger to learn and find new ways to get better is outstanding.”
Over the course of his 11-year tenure with the athletic training staff, his role began to expand as he took on unexpected roles as a marketing specialist, psychologist, motivational leader and a businessman with stiff negotiating skills.
In his earlier years with the team, Lomax was the Rams’ Gatorade sideline specialist. He was in charge of product placement and worked to help Gatorade obtain maximum television coverage. Currently, he is in charge of ordering all of the supplies and managing the budget for the athletic training room. He oversees a large inventory, but still managed to save the organization $175,000 over the last two years alone through strategic negotiating and relationship building with the team’s vendors.
On the medical side, Lomax has grown into more of a clinical role where he conducts an increased number of rehabs and takes players through the entire process rather than focusing solely on the initial treatments.
“I take guys from the moment they have surgery all the way through their rehab until they’re on the field,” Lomax said. “We have to be positive role models. I can go back on my experience now that I’ve been with the club for 11 years and tell players, ‘I’ve seen guys go through this. I know what the outcome is going to be. You’ve just got to trust me.’ It’s a lot of psychology. It’s probably a lot more than people know.”
The athletic training staff takes a unified approach when it comes to building trust with the team and does so in an environment full of laughs and a credible track record.
“Our staff is unbelievable. We work so well together, I don’t even know how to describe it,” Lomax said. “We know each other’s thoughts almost now. We just know each other’s moves and we’ll help each other out. I feel like it’s a really well-oiled machine right now the way we’ve got things rolling in there. It’s pretty impressive. Reggie has really taken over the lead in all of that. He’s got us going in the right direction and we’ve just taken off.”
Even though his work as an athletic trainer demands a lot of hours throughout the season, he takes tremendous pride in being a great father to his two children and husband to his wife, Sarah.
“I try to be super dad when I’m home,” Lomax said. “This is all for them. I’m here to provide for them and having them makes me work that much harder.”
In between the office and his home, Lomax employs a plethora of roles, which is evident in his day-to-day responsibilities. However regardless of the role – an athletic trainer, father, or husband – he has proven to be a game changer that can always be relied upon.
“His relationship with the players, coaches and staff make him a joy to be around,” Scott said. “He is devoted to his family, profession, and the St. Louis Rams. I couldn’t be more proud to have an assistant like James. We are a better team because of him.”