College and University

Nebraska – Omaha Taking a Unique Approach to Athlete Pain Management


College and University

Nebraska – Omaha Taking a Unique Approach to Athlete Pain Management

Article reposted from KETV7
Author: Taylor Barth

For athletes, getting hurt is often a reality. That’s why Omaha trainers and doctors are working hard to prevent the pain before it starts.

“Unfortunately, it’s the nature of athletics. We deal with injuries,” said Mike Nicola, head athletic trainer at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “Anytime we have an injury, pain is typically associated.”

Nicola works closely with the UNO men’s basketball team.

“Injury prevention for us is big,” he said.

UNO is one of two colleges in the country to use cutting-edge technology called “Dari.” It helps Nicola and his team of trainers prevent injuries by capturing an athlete’s range of motion, strength and problem areas before they get hurt.

“Now, we’re taking it to the next step. It gives us instantaneous results,” Nicola said.

The “Dari” technology is one of many ways trainers, therapists and doctors help athletes prevent and manage pain before turning to pills.

“Typically, our kids aren’t taking pain medication to play,” Nicola said. “If our doctors have prescribed a pain pill, it’s post-surgically.”

In fact, athletic trainers such as Nicola don’t have the power to prescribe them. Dr. Ross Mathiasen does.

“Pain medications are very rarely the first-line treatment and they’re never the long-term solution,” Mathiasen said.

He’s a sports medicine physician at Nebraska Medicine and works with athletes to find the root of their problems.

“Pain medications do not address the underlying issue,” Mathiasen said. “We need to address the underlying issue and that needs to be better before you get out on the field of play.”

Once that happens, there are many different options. This includes modality electrical stimulation, which helps repair muscle and tissue damage.

Bottom line: Both trainers and doctors said athletes shouldn’t use pain medications as a fast pass to return to the court.

“My theory is, if you need a pain medication to play, you shouldn’t be playing,” Nicola said.

Mathiasen said there’s recently been a lot of education and awareness about opioid abuse.

He said for weekend or amateur athletes who may be in pain, a popular recommendation is rest, ice, compression and elevation.

To see more stories in our “State of Addiction” series, click here to download our KETV NewsWatch 7 app.