Secondary School

New York Athletic Trainer Using Cupping to Care for High School Athletes


Secondary School

New York Athletic Trainer Using Cupping to Care for High School Athletes

Article reposted from
Author: Stan Hudy

What became a topic on a variety of morning shows and talk radio from the Olympic Pools in Rio and the success of the US Swimming team, medals were won with the help of an ancient Chinese therapy called ‘Cupping” that has been used in the Shenendehowa Athletic Training room for the past several years.

Certified Athletic Trainer, Rick Knizek, first saw the cupping technique while in Sochi, Russia as the U.S. Bobsled team prepared for the 2014 winter Olympics and brought the method back to Clifton Park.

“I learned it over there, one of the providers was doing it, he basically taught me the whole thing, gave me some things to get started with and I’ve been doing it at school for a little bit,” Rick Knizek said. “When I first saw my colleague doing it on one of athletes on the bobsled team that we were traveling with I was very interested, I had never seen it before, I had heard of it, but not actually seen it.”

Knizek said there are several different methods to cupping.

“The cups that I use are a little bit different than the ones that you may have seen on TV,” he said. “The traditional cupping is a Chinese technique where you use these glass cups and they use heat to create the suction.

“The ones that they were using on TV with the swimmers and gymnasts those are a silicone cup where they have a little gun at the top and they can control how much suction the cup has, drawing air out of it and create a vacuum. They leave them stationary, they leave them static in one place for a few minutes at a time and that’s why you end up with those big welts.”

While not the most attractive thing on an athlete’s body, the procedure has its advantages.

“They hit trigger points and spots in the muscle group and the goal there is to try to do some localized increased blood flow,” Knizek said. “The cups that I have are silicone, I don’t have a little gun that goes on them, but I can manually create the vacuum, the suction, just by squeezing them and placing them on the skin.

“The technique I use is more dynamic than static which means that I usually move the cup along an area, back and forth at varying rates, sometimes I hold it one spot a little longer, but generally I use an area of the muscle and I move it dynamically back and forth to not only produce localized blood flow, but to also help loosen up the muscle.”

Knizek said that he prefers to use the cupping technique post-injury versus as a preventative measure as was the use for the US men’s and women’s swimming and gymnastics team that gave the welts and the ancient therapy its notoriety over the past two weeks.

“It’s been very effective on larger muscle groups – quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back especially works well,” Knizek said. “Mostly those larger muscle groups, just recently used it on a status-post ACL injury and had issues with her quad and limiting her range of motion post-operatively.

“I was able to use that and it really produced some increase in mobility and range of motion shortly after it.”

Knizek is aware of the mystique and mystery that surrounds the Chinese therapy that leaves some often embarrassing marks on an athlete’s body.

“I know there is not a lot research and there is not a ton of evidence based behind it, but I know from listening to the athletes that I have worked with and seen how it actually translates into cause and effect, I think it works very well.”

Just as the cupping therapy has some simple applications and success, so is Knizek’s approach to helping an athlete get back into the game.

“I’m a big believer that if there is a trick I’m going to try it and with some of these things there is that mental component or that placebo effect,” Knizek said. “Sometimes my sales pitch is “This if 50 percent legit and 50 percent voodoo and I can guarantee it’s going to do one of two things –  it’s going to do something, or absolutely nothing, but it’s not going to hurt you.

“If it works, it works.”