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College and University

Athletic training staff get injured Alabama players healthy again

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Article reposted from Tuscaloosa News
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Every Alabama football player is required to have his ankles taped or braced for every practice or game. That means every player comes to see Jeff Allen and his staff before every practice and every game.

He’ll tape about 15 players a day before practice and more on game days. That’s about two hours of work every day. Some may consider it one of the more ponderous tasks of his profession. Allen doesn’t.

“It matters,” Allen said. “It’s not just a menial task. It matters.”

The way Allen – Alabama’s associate athletics director for sports medicine – sees it, about a quarter of the injuries he and the medical staff deal with are ankle injuries. That’s why every player is required to be taped, every day.

“If we don’t tape them and don’t do a good job of it, I guarantee you, our injuries are going to shoot up,” he said. “When I’m taping them, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m protecting this guy so that he can stay on the field.’ I’m not just throwing some tape on him. I’m doing it the right way, doing it the way that’s going to work biomechanically and physiologically so that we keep this guy on the field.”

So players begin putting their name on a list to be taped, and the process starts around noon. It goes until meetings at 2 o’clock on a normal practice day.

But there’s also more to it than biomechanics and ankle support. Those two hours every day are the time for Allen and the athletic trainers to build bonds with players.

“The guys that I tape every day, definitely it’s a great way to sit there and talk to them, just like a barber does when you sit there in a chair,” Allen said. “We certainly use that as an opportunity to build those relationships.”

Trust is key in the relationship between players and athletic trainers. The medical staff, by nature, will spend the most time with players who are injured. They’re the ones running on the field when a player stays down after a tackle.

The relationships have to start before then. Most athletes arrive at Alabama with no experience of working with a professional medical staff on a day-to-day basis. Allen and the medical staff have to build that trust before injuries strike. The alternative can be corrosive to a team’s culture.

“The main thing, and I’ve seen it happen where the athletic trainers, the players, and the coaches aren’t on the same page and there’s some controversy or lack of trust,” said Dr. Lyle Cain, an orthopedic surgeon with Andrews Sports Medicine. “What you see typically is unhappy players, number one. Because the players don’t trust the treatment that they’re getting. That’s a disaster. If the players feel like the athletic trainers are too much on the coaches’ side, or the doctors are too much on the coaches’ side or the team side, I think you totally lose trust in the system. They don’t get well as quickly. They don’t follow through on their plans for rehab, and it makes a difficult situation medically to deal with any kind of injury because the player really doesn’t trust what you’re telling them.”

Players may arrive with the idea that the medical staff are the ones who keep them from returning to the field. Allen, along with the team doctors and athletic trainers, are the ones who make that decision. But there’s also far more than that.

Allen and his staff are with players when they receive bad news. They’re the ones who translate medical diagnoses into a language that players and their families can understand. They have to communicate with the coaches and the strength and conditioning staff about what players can and cannot do.

Then they’re with players through their rehab. They communicate with doctors, specialists, families and players to keep them on track. Taping ankles is just the beginning. Allen and his team are known as one of the best in every area.

“I’ve been at Alabama almost 30 years and worked with some excellent athletic trainers, but Jeff’s overall package is just so unbelievable,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson, Alabama’s team physician.

It starts with those relationships. It’s built over time, on the training table before practice or in the rehab room. Robinson said the medical staff gathers before games to say a prayer that there won’t be any injuries.

“He loves on them, to be honest with you,” Robinson said. “He gives them a hug and puts his arm around them and talks to them.”

The medical team is more than just Allen, and more than just the athletic trainers. Robinson and the team physicians play a big role. Andrews Sports Medicine is one of the premier practices of its type anywhere, and it happens to be just down the road.

But Allen is the one who oversees it all as the head athletic trainer for the football team.

“I’ve told my other doctors that I work with and the other people around that I think there are several people important to the University of Alabama program,” Cain said. “Obviously Coach (Nick) Saban is at the top of the list. But I think Jeff Allen is probably in the top two or three. There is no coach, administrator, doctor or anybody else in the program that’s as important in terms of what happens through the season, what happens in the offseason, what happens with the players from a perception and happiness standpoint as Jeff Allen.”

Allen and the medical staff have been especially vital to Alabama this season. The Crimson Tide watched four of its top linebackers go down to injury in the season opener against Florida State. Outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings had surgery for an ankle injury and played three weeks later against Vanderbilt. Inside linebacker Rashaan Evans made a return from a groin injury in that game, too.

Outside linebackers Christian Miller (biceps) and Terrell Lewis (elbow) were also hurt in the opener and expected to miss the rest of the season. Inside linebacker Mack Wilson (foot) was injured in the LSU game, but missed just one game and played in the Iron Bowl.

“I don’t know that we’ve had more (injuries this season),” Allen said. “We’ve had more to one position. That’s the problem. Usually they’re spread out among the whole team and you can kind of absorb them. When you have that many to one position, that’s really hard to manage.”

Even when Miller and Lewis were declared out for the season, Allen and his team went to work and tried to find new ways to help players return to the field sooner.

“We modify different braces or create braces or make braces that prevent that structure from being reinjured. Like the elbow braces that Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis are wearing,” Robinson said. “Mack has a special orthotic in his shoe that’s custom-made for him that protects that bone from having too much stress on it. Things like that are invaluable.”

If Alabama can win a championship with those linebackers back on the field, it won’t be the first time Allen and the medical staff have helped put the Crimson Tide over the top.

They also had a key role in the 2015 championship. Senior running back Kenyan Drake broke his arm against Mississippi State on Nov. 14 of that year.

Before Drake had even left the field, he and Allen were talking about his timetable to return. Drake declared that night that he’d be back for the SEC championship game – and he was.

“I don’t think there’s any question that between him and Dr. Cain, they’re able to get these athletes back faster but also safer than most programs,” Robinson said.

Cain operated on Drake as soon as possible. Allen had a carbon fiber brace 3D-printed with the help of Alabama’s engineering department for Drake to wear. He had a machine that he wore on his arm while sleeping to help his treatment. He was in the training room to rehab whenever he could be.

Drake caught a pass on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage in the SEC title game. He swung to the left side, moving the ball into his healthy arm. He used his right arm – broken less than a month before – to stiff-arm a defender. He didn’t even realize it until he was back on the sideline and Allen asked him how it felt.

“They did all they could to help me get back, working with the engineering program, getting a carbon fiber copy of my arm and putting the whole cast around it,” Drake said. “It was a real team effort and I appreciate everything they did for me.”

The real dividend came a month later in Phoenix. Drake returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Clemson in the fourth quarter of the national championship game.

“It would have been really easy with Kenyan to put him in a cast and say, ‘Hey, good luck to you. You’ll get better in 8-10 weeks and you can start trying to come back.’ That cast probably would have cost $15,” Allen said. “Dr. Cain took him the next day and did a very aggressive procedure, put a plate over the fractured forearm, we put him on a bone stimulator, started doing aggressive rehab. Stuff that’s incredibly expensive, but I think the return on the investment was pretty good.

“If we don’t have him in that national championship game, I don’t know if we win it. I really don’t. I don’t know if we win the game.”

Allen has a mural in his office of Drake diving across the goal line on that play. He’s holding the ball in his right arm: the arm that was broken.

That comeback was made possible not just by the aggressive treatment, dedicated rehab and top-of-the-line medical care. It also happened thanks to the relationship Drake had with the athletic training staff.

He’d dealt with a major injury the year before when he broke an ankle and was out for the season. Allen and the medical team helped him come back from that. He knew he could trust them.

“Obviously, when you’re hurt, it’s a way deeper relationship than just getting your ankles taped,” Drake said. “It wasn’t strange when I had to go through the rehab because you’re already familiar.”

As much as anything else, that’s what sets Alabama’s medical staff apart.

“I think in a lot of places, he would not have been on the field,” Cain said. “But I think he was (able to return) primarily because of his confidence in the athletic training staff and the rehab and the process that he had already experienced. His mentality was totally different than it would be at most places.”

After the game, there was a moment when Drake, Allen and Cain embraced. Allen said it was the “most special moment” he’s experienced in college athletics. The relationship remains, even after Drake’s college career ended that night.

“When I go to campus, one of the first stops I make is the training room,” Drake said.

He’s not the only one. Washington Redskins defensive end Jonathan Allen stopped by earlier this season after an injury likely ended his rookie year. The offseason sees “a flood” of former players coming in and out: Eddie Lacy, Eddie Jackson, AJ McCarron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley were just a few who came through.

Cain said that many former Alabama players who have gone on to the NFL will call Allen for advice when they’re injured. They trust that he’ll have their best interest in mind.

“They want to keep players on the field,” Drake said. “That’s what they do. That’s what they do best. I don’t think anybody else in college football or anybody in the world does a better job than Alabama.”

Jeff Allen’s concern for players is also on display with the sideline medical tent the Crimson Tide has used since the 2015 season. Allen developed the tent with a pair of Alabama engineering students, and the concept spread around the country. The tent sells for $5,000.

The tent gives the athletic trainers and doctors a modicum of privacy on the sideline to examine players. If there’s bad news, the players can hear about it without the world knowing.

“We’ve had games with a camera right over top of us,” Allen said. “It’s crazy. It’s very hard to get a good evaluation. It’s obviously very taxing on the kid. We did it with the idea of privacy in mind and knowing it would help from a privacy standpoint. What I didn’t really fully appreciate until now, is how much more relaxed we all are in there. Thus, the evaluation is better. I feel like we’re getting a much better medical evaluation simply because we take away all the distractions that are so prominent on a sideline.”

It was a simple fix to a problem that had existed for years for men and women in Allen’s position. He just happened to be the first one to think of it.

That’s what Allen has always been after: an innovative solution. It puts the players first. It improves medical care.

Earlier this year, Allen was walking into Alabama’s practice when someone asked how sales of his new invention were doing.

“Still taping ankles,” he said, smiling.

Then he walked into practice.

Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.

College and University

Remembering Alabama’s Sang Lyda

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Serving as an athletics manager and trainer for Alabama for 34 years, Henry “Sang” Lyda devoted almost half of his life to the University of Alabama. Lyda passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 75, and the amount in which he influenced student-athletes over the decades is immeasurable.

“Sang never met a stranger,” Gary White said. “He could be around someone for a minute, and when he left they would be friends.”

White was the head football manager from 1959-61 under Coach Bear Bryant and retired as associate athletic director of the university in 1995. White attended high school with Lyda in Gadsden and brought him to Tuscaloosa in 1959, beginning his involvement as assistant football manager.

“He helped do it all because they didn’t have trainers for every sport back then,” White said. “He had the student-athletes best interests at heart. The players believed in his ability to help mend them.”

While at UA, Lyda was a part of six football national championships, four SEC basketball titles and five SEC basketball tournament titles. He served as a trainer during 13 NCAA basketball tournaments including six “Sweet 16” teams and two teams that reached the Final Four in 1973 and 1978. He retired in 1995 and was inducted into the Alabama Athletic Trainer’s Association Hall of Fame in 1998.

After retirement, he moved to Orange Beach where he enjoyed his life for the past 20 years and returned to Tuscaloosa regularly for reunions and athletic events.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Sang at one of our letterman reunion events last summer and was looking forward to getting to know him,” Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson said. “Sang worked under the likes of C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson, and was a valuable key to the success of our men’s basketball program during those years.”

Sanderson was an assistant coach at Alabama from 1961-81 and head coach from 1981-92, working closely with Lyda ever since he was a student.

“He was a friend to all the players,” Sanderson said. He decided whether they could play or not, and wouldn’t play them unless they were well enough to play. He was a guy that the players loved and respected and he enjoyed working with them. He set a great example, and he’ll truly be missed.”

College and University

Alabama’s Sideline Tent

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When a player gets injured in a football game, they are typically brought to a trainer’s table on the sideline where a medical evaluation is done in front of 100,000 people and a television camera capturing every moment of pain and emotion. Short of taking a player back to the locker room, which presents its own logistical challenges, holding up towels is the only way to shield something from view.

Jeff Allen, who oversees the sports medicine training staff for Alabama’s athletic department, had long believed there was a better way.

“I think everybody recognizes it’s a difficult space to do a medical evaluation,” Allen said. “The first 10 minutes or so after an injury are critical in terms of getting an accurate diagnosis, and that type of environment presents some challenges, plus there’s a component of just medical privacy for the athlete.”

If you’ve watched an Alabama football game this season, you may have noticed a small collapsible tent at times on the sideline, where Allen and his team evaluate injured players. It will be there Monday night in Glendale, Ariz., when Alabama plays Clemson for the College Football Playoff title. Nobody else has anything like it.

But the tent is more than just a trinket to signify the opulence of Alabama football or the paranoia of a program that shields most of its inner-workings from public view. With four senior-level mechanical engineering students at Alabama bringing Allen’s idea to life, they have invented something that will likely be on just about every sideline in college football and perhaps the NFL in the next few years.

“We’ve definitely been pulling a thread, and it’s unraveled something we never would have been able to see in our wildest dreams a year ago,” said Jared Cassity, one of the co-inventors who graduated from Alabama in December with a mechanical engineering degree.  “It almost seems too simple. You look at it and think, ‘Why didn’t we have this before?’ ”

It turned out so well, in fact, that Alabama helped them file for a patent on the design before they revealed it to the world on Sept. 12 in a game against Middle Tennessee. Now, after countless inquiries from training staffs at other schools, Cassity along with Allen and another recent graduate, Patrick Powell, have gone into business together with a plan to market and sell the product to every level of football, from high schools and junior colleges all the way to the NFL.

It could be to Alabama football what Gatorade was to Florida.

“It’s really important we do our due diligence to capitalize on the opportunity,” Powell said. “There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done. We’ve only made one. It’s just a prototype. It’s hard to say you’re hitting home runs every time when you’ve only made one. But it does have potential, and that’s exciting.”

In some ways, it’s a story that could only be possible at a school like Alabama where football is so central to the campus experience that the the College of Engineering frequently works with Allen to come up with student-driven projects that could benefit the athletic department.

This particular project was hatched last June when Allen and Dr. Charles Karr, dean of the engineering school, were kicking around ideas and discussed the need for a private area on the sideline where a medical evaluation could take place. Allen drew a rough sketch of a tent that could be erected around a training table and then folded back down in a matter of seconds.

Karr said he thought it would be a good opportunity for some senior-level students to work on a project that would take them from the design and engineering phase to building a prototype and eventually production.

“In engineering, it’s always a plus when we can associate ourselves with a world-class organization like Alabama football,” Karr said.

“It’s a really really fertile ground to come up with neat projects the kids can work on and see them implement it, to go through the process of developing intellectual property, applying for a patent on it and do real, live design of something that is sitting in front of millions of people.”

Cassity said the opportunity was presented to students in his senior-level design course to work on a secret project that would allow them to get two credits in one semester, but it would also be at least double the amount of work. Only after he signed up did Cassity — whose parents gave him the middle name “Bryant” after a certain Alabama football coach — find out it would be for the football team.

“We took that concept and fooled around with different ideas, and once we kind of had that base idea we realized, man, we’re really onto something,” he said. “A month later we had our first PVC pipe mock-up strung with cord from Home Depot. We got more and more good feedback, learned lessons, made some design changes. Then it hit us: We’ve got something special here, and there’s nothing else like it. When it got out there on the sideline on the practice field and had it locked onto the training table and saw it go up, I think everybody was kind of speechless how well it turned out.”

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There are several design components that make the tent unique and so practical for football, starting with the fact the frame is actually anchored to and connected with the base of the trainer’s table. The covering expands and collapses like an accordion within 10 seconds and basically is just pulled over the top to erect the tent. It weighs about 70 pounds, making it easy to transport. The synthetic material covering it keeps out rain or other elements but also allows in enough light for doctors and trainers to see. It was designed to be sturdy and stable enough to go on any kind of surface that might be on a sideline — grass, artificial turf, concrete, asphalt, etc. — without needing to be staked or anchored into the ground with heavy weights like your typical tailgate tent. They also tested the height to make sure it doesn’t obstruct the view of fans.

There’s also an added bonus for schools: More advertising space to sell, which Alabama has utilized to display the logos of a local hospital and sports medicine center (for the College Football Playoff, it is using an Alabama-branded look).

Even Alabama players are impressed with it.

“I like it personally, because when someone gets hurt, no matter if it’s serious or not, you can go in there and have them evaluate you without everyone looking or having a bunch of attention on you,” Alabama receiver Richard Mullaney said. “It can be behind the scenes.”

Cassity used the example of Georgia’s Nick Chubb, who suffered a serious knee injury early this year at Tennessee. Television cameras quickly descended on him, discomfort and fear on his face broadcast in front of the entire country.

“It became a spectacle,” he said. “He has his whole career on the line, he might not want to tell the trainers what’s going on. Just being able to have that little bit of fabric between you and 100,000 fans completely changes the demeanor of the players. It’s not quiet, but it’s private and calm.”

Players have also found another, uh, practical use for it.

“If you gotta use the restroom, you can go in there,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “Sometimes you might have to (urinate) in a bottle or something. I’ve heard of guys doing that before. I think it’s cool how it pops up and then pops back down, but most of all it keeps you from having to go all the way to locker room. You can go in there, change, put on (a different piece of equipment) if you have to. It’s very convenient.”

Cassity said they were still working on pricing models for production, but the word has already gotten out among training staffs nationwide. It’s certainly possible it will be available to the masses by next season. Like everything else in college football, Alabama is once again the home of something everybody wants to copy.

“Honestly, it’s been better than we really thought it was going to be when we first started the whole process,” Allen said. “I feel very confident it’s something that will find its way onto just about every sideline.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

 

College and University

John Morr stepping down after fulfilling career at Alabama

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When John Morr was a young boy growing up on a farm in Illinois, his father, perhaps not ready yet for his children to lose some of the magic of childhood, worried when his children began questioning the existence of Santa Claus.

So John’s dad conspired with the Jolly Old Elf himself, devising a plan to erase any doubt.

“That Christmas morning, there was snow on the ground,” John Morr recalled. “We went outside, and we saw deer tracks and sleigh marks in the snow. And there was a Clue game stuck in the snow, like Santa had dropped it or it had fallen out of the sleigh. To this day, there is no doubt in my mind about the existence of Santa. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. He is very real.”

It’s memories like that the longtime University of Alabama Assistant Athletic Trainer wants to create for his and wife Maggie’s own two sons, Will, 11, and Jake, 7. That’s why, on Aug. 31, at the tender age of 51, Morr will officially step away from one of the most demanding, exciting, and fulfilling careers he could have ever dreamed of as that kid growing up in Illinois.

“I don’t think of it as retiring so much as just maybe stepping away and into my other job,” Morr said. “I want my sons to have nice memories of their childhood that they can tell their kids and grandkids when they’re old.”

His sons are at the heart of the career move. Will has Asberger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Morr’s job at Alabama found him, daily, starting work in the Coleman Coliseum training room by 7 a.m. and rarely leaving before 7:30 p.m., often without even leaving for a lunch break. His wife, Dr. Margaret Stewart Morr, is equally busy as a family practitioner in Tuscaloosa.

Morr has been most visible with his work with men’s basketball, the draw that lured him in October of 1996 from his job on the University of Kentucky’s athletic training staff. He was also assigned to the Crimson Tide’s national champion men’s and women’s golf teams and as supervisor to the graduate assistant athletic trainer who works with Alabama’s spirit squads. Over the course of his career at Alabama, Morr has worked with the men’s and women’s tennis teams, gymnastics, baseball and softball.

“I’m sure there will be times I’ll miss it. I won’t miss the hours. But I’m at peace with the decision,” Morr said.

His Alabama career started as a whirlwind and the pace never slowed. The 1986 Eastern Illinois University graduate started his job the same week in October as basketball practice.

“Brian Williams and Eric Washington were the first players I met. They introduced themselves to me and asked me what my nickname was. I told them I didn’t have one. They said, ‘everybody has a nickname.’ I told them in high school they called me ‘J.B.’ Ever since, that’s what all the players call me.”

Walking away from something one loves is never easy. This is such a case.

“We (he and Maggie) had been talking about doing this for a few years, and now, with a new coach,” Morr said of first-year coach Avery Johnson, “it just seemed like, in the grand scheme, this was the time to make the exit. Avery welcomed me with open arms, and trying to tell him I was going to leave was tough. But it’s something I needed to do for my family, and he understands that.”

Morr is leaving a job he loved and one that loved him back.

“In life, you meet a lot of people. Some you forget, some you just can’t forget because of all the memories that you endure,” said Mo Williams, a guard for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers who played at Alabama in 2002 and 2003. “John, enjoy your retirement, my friend. It’s well-deserved.”

Morr’s career at Alabama spanned five head coaches: David Hobbs, Mark Gottfried, interim head coach Philip Pearson, Anthony Grant and now Johnson.

“David Hobbs welcomed me into the basketball family and his family. Mark Gottfried brought Alabama basketball to a level that it hadn’t been to in a while. The memory of the (2004) Elite 8 run was fantastic. Philip Pearson will always be a good friend. I appreciate Coach Grant’s passion and love for people in the community. He’s not a self-promoter. After the (April 2011) tornado, he was out there in the muck, doing all kinds of things to help the community and didn’t let any publicity get out about it. And Avery, I can’t thank him enough for his council and advice. And then there were men like Robert Scott and Kermit Koenig, great guys who passed on during my time here. They were very supportive.”

But it was the athletes who kept Morr coming back to work year after year.

“I didn’t need this job from a financial standpoint. I did it because of them,” Morr said.

“I’ll never forget Kennedy Winston, sitting on the training table while I was taping him, holding Will when he was a baby; playing cards on the road with Jeremy Hays and Travis Stinnett; my room on the road being a gathering point. They’d come in there to get treatment, but it was also where they could come in and be goofy,” Morr said. “Sometimes getting them ready to go somewhere was like herding chickens.”

Each year brought new faces, none, perhaps, more special as a group than the freshman class of 1999-2000 that included Erwin Dudley, Rod Grizzard, Terrance Meade and Kenny Walker.

“They were just fun to be around,” Morr said. “Like every other freshman, they were goofy and silly together, but they were also very talented. That’s one of the special things about that job, seeing the players grow from 18-year-old kids to 22-year-old men.”

He sat courtside on the team bench for hundreds of games, none, he recalls, more exciting than the Stanford and Syracuse wins in the 2004 NCAA tournament.

His duties went far beyond the physical care of the athletes. For basketball, he was also charged with arranging team travel and lodging, itineraries, rooming lists and per diem. That meant, even though basketball took him to Hawaii, Alaska, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, New York City, Boston, Europe and other grand travel destinations, he rarely left the hotel, except to go to practice and games.

Alabama basketball introduced him to his wife, Maggie. They met 13 years ago in the training room when she was in her second year of residency.

“When we were dating, we were watching a basketball game on TV, and he wondered what defense a team was using. I said, ‘I think triangle and two.’ He looked at me like I had three heads,” Dr. Morr said.

“I knew then,” John Morr said, “that she was the one.”

He helped athletes emerge triumphant through some of their darkest hours.

Some events still haunt him.

“Dealing with Ron Steele impacted me. It taught me never to truly trust technology. Trust the athlete, not the image,” Morr said of the former point guard’s knee injury that went undetected on several MRIs. “And the tragedy that Jermareo Davidson went through when he was in a wreck and his girlfriend died. That impacted me a great deal.”

Leaving that life behind will be different, but he looking forward to what lies ahead.

“I’ll miss the game. I’ll miss all the people. But what I’m gaining in return with my family will be priceless.”

 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20150826/NEWS/150829729

College and University

Alabama football experiments with cryotherapy

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The idea is to help recovery time and reduce length of absences from injury

A truck pulling a trailer backed into the loading dock outside Alabama’s football locker room Monday morning. Round 1 of the final two-a-day was just wrapping up, and the pick-up brought help in a new form.

It was Donny Dockery and his cryotherapy chamber was hitched to the back of his truck. The concept has been used by athletes like LeBron James for a few years is being used by Alabama this August.

Inside the trailer is a one-person pod designed to help the players recover by freezing them faster than a popsicle. According to the Cryotherapy of Tuscaloosa website, a nitrogen mist “gently surrounds the body.” Dockery said temperatures dip as low as -166 degrees Fahrenheit.

Players gave it mixed reviews Monday and the verdict is still out for the physical therapy community.

“The science is not clear whether or not it is a game-changer,” Dr. Trent Nessler, national sports medicine director for Physio Corp, told AL.com.

The idea is to help recovery time and reduce length of absences from injury.

“You know, I tried it one time,” smiling Alabama linebacker Denzel Devall said. “I’m just old-fashioned, you know? Put me in the ice tub and I’m good to go. Cryotherapy does not… I like the ice tub, cold tub. That’s me.”

The therapy lasts 2-3 minutes and there are a few rules. You must be completely dry before entering. Gloves and socks must be worn. The idea is to lower the skin temperature from about 90.5 to 32 degrees.

Whether it’s better than a traditional, Devall-style ice bath is still being debated.

“The science behind those is not as solid because there you’re getting a whole-body temperature reduction,” Nessler said. “It’s not like an isolated whirlpool where you’re sticking your leg in … you’re taking your whole body into that. A lot of the science that is typically referenced is typically the science that is associated with cryotherapy in general.”

Devall said he stayed in the chamber for the full session, but a few teammates couldn’t hang.

“Some guys go in there for, like, 45 seconds,” center Ryan Kelly said. “You’re supposed to go in there for a minute and a half, or three minutes, whatever. And some guys couldn’t last 30 seconds.”

Kelly made it two minutes. He knew when it was time to go.

“Some of the side-effects are you start getting light-headed,” Kelly said. “So as soon as I started getting light-headed I walked out.”

Adrenaline is released, Dockery said, along with endorphins. Effects last from six to eight hours, putting players in better shape for the 7:30 p.m. Monday practice after the first one ended a little before noon.

“As you know, in sports, it is also for the athlete’s psyche,” Nessler said. “And that, sometimes, can be just as powerful as what it does from a science perspective. If an athlete walks into there and sees something different, there’s a little bit of a wow-factor and they get in saying ‘it really did something for me’ … It’s like the placebo effect.”

For Alabama, it’s another tool in the ongoing effort to gain an edge and help the recovery process.

“Coach Saban has placed a big emphasis on recovery from practice to practice, so our players can be at their best,” Alabama head football trainer Jeff Allen said in a statement to AL.com. “We felt that it was another tool to utilize to help our guys perform every day. Whole body cryotherapy is a great technique to assist in recovery and help improve performance.”

Dockery opened his business eight months ago and said it’s going well so far. It’s popular among cross-fit athletes and people coming off surgery dealing with swelling and inflammation. It doesn’t come cheap, though. A single shot in the chamber costs $35 with packages of five for $150, eight for $230 and up to 20 for $425.

After purchasing the equipment, Dockery said he had a week and a half of training to get comfortable with running the unit.

“It’s really getting used to the equipment and working with people and finding what’s comfortable for them,” he said.

But the old-school Devall is sticking with the traditional methods for now.

“I just feel like the cold tub gets me right, I guess,” he said with a grin.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2015/08/alabama_football_experiments_w.html