Red­skins re­cov­ery methods aim to re­duce in­juries

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press

ASHBURN, Va. — Sun­glasses shield your eyes from the in­frared lights that give oxy­gen to your body’s cells. Uggs boots, rub­ber gloves and shorts are the only pro­tec­tion from freez­ing tem­per­a­tures as cold as mi­nus 200 de­grees. Then comes the sen­sory de­pri­va­tion of floating pitch black in 1,000 pounds of Ep­som salt while med­i­ta­tion mu­sic plays.

And that’s just at work. At home is a cus­tom-made mat­tress de­signed to get just the right about of sleep.

Massage ta­bles, zero grav­ity chairs, a laserther­apy table that looks like a tan­ning bed, a cryother­apy cham­ber and gi­ant float pods make up the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ sta­teof-the-art rest and re­cov­ery room. Com­bined with ad­vanced mat­tress and pil­low tech­nol­ogy, it’s all part of Wash­ing­ton’s pur­suit of bet­ter in­jury preven­tion and re­cov­ery af­ter no NFL team put more play­ers on sea­so­nend­ing in­jured re­serve over the past two years com­bined.

“It’s more like restora­tion,” head ath­letic trainer Larry Hess told The As­so­ci­ated Press dur­ing a re­cent visit to the re­cov­ery room. “There’s things in here that are set­ting their body up to per­form bet­ter in the weight room, to per­form bet­ter in their meet­ings men­tally. Men­tal pre­pared­ness. That’s where our ad­van­tage is.”

Pro­fes­sional and col­lege sports teams are al­ways look­ing for the next edge, and the Red­skins hope they’re on the right track by ze­ro­ing in on rest and re­lax­ation as a way to keep play­ers health­ier and more fo­cused. The idea came from Hess and owner Dan Sny­der vis­it­ing English Pre­mier League soc­cer clubs and dis­cov­er­ing af­ter nutri­tion and player track­ing, they con­sid­ered sleep the next great fron­tier.

Hess and player re­cov­ery di­rec­tor Hutch Call struck up a part­ner­ship early last sea­son with Bedgear , which works closely with Mark Cuban’s Dal­las Mav­er­icks and pro­vides Red­skins play­ers, coaches and staff with mat­tresses, pil­lows, sheets and blan­kets op­ti­mized for their needs. Call said fo­cus gleaned from the right amount of sleep could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween a re­ceiver catch­ing a ball and bring­ing it down and get­ting it knocked out of his hands, plus there are more prac­ti­cal el­e­ments.

“Our bod­ies go through a restora­tion process while we sleep, do­ing im­por­tant things like bal­anc­ing hor­mones re­lated to tis­sue growth, stress con­trol, ap­petite and weight man­age­ment,” MIT re­search sci­en­tist and Bedgear sleep sci­en­tist and bio­met­rics ex­pert Lorenzo Turic­chia said. “When a per­son does not get the right amount of sleep, their bod­ies will not be able to ad­e­quately re­pair dam­aged tis­sues, thus pro­long­ing the heal­ing time. When a player has an in­jury, the dam­aged tis­sues need ex­tra time to re­pair and heal.”

Red­skins play­ers have re­quired plenty of heal­ing. The team led the league with 27 play­ers on in­jured re­serve last sea­son and put 19 play­ers on in 2017 .

Late in the 2017 sea­son, since-re­leased safety D.J. Swearinger crit­i­cized some team­mates for not tak­ing care of their bod­ies well enough to limit pre­ventable in­juries, which con­trib­uted to miss­ing the play­offs.

“You’re not sup­posed to wait till some­thing hap­pens to you to get treat­ment,” Swearinger said at the time. “You’re sup­posed to do stuff to pre­vent in­juries, and I don’t think as a group we did that as much as other teams I’ve been on . ... Some in­juries are freak in­juries. You can’t con­trol them. But

pulls and strains and stuff like that, you can sort of con­trol those things.”

De­spite the lengthy in­jured list, Hess said the team re­duced soft-tis­sue in­juries — such as sprains, strains, ten­dini­tis and dam­age to mus­cles, ten­dons and lig­a­ments — by over 50 per­cent last sea­son. He hopes that progress will con­tinue now that play­ers have a full off­sea­son to take ad­van­tage of the re­cov­ery room at the prac­tice fa­cil­ity.

Af­ter a typ­i­cal Sun­day game, massage ther­a­pists and a chi­ro­prac­tor are avail­able for play­ers on Mon­day and then again Fri­day. The re­cov­ery room is al­ways open and some­times is the lo­ca­tion of meet­ings to help a player re­lax and not hunch over a desk while watch­ing film.

The three-step restora­tion process starts with a min­i­mum of 12 min­utes in­side a pho­to­biomod­u­la­tion bed that re­sem­bles a tan­ning booth and uses three types of in­frared light to help re­pair cells all over the body. Hess said it’s good for re­cov­ery and stud­ies have shown it im­proves strength on lifts in the weight room.

The next step is three fin­ger-tin­gling min­utes in­side the cryother­apy cham­ber, where it feels dif­fi­cult to breathe be­cause the ex­treme cold tricks the body into rush­ing blood to ma­jor or­gans to sur­vive. It’s dif­fer­ent than get­ting in a cold tub full of ice or putting an ice bag on be­cause the sec­onds and min­utes af­ter cryothe­r­a­phy come with an en­dor­phin re­lease ca­pa­ble of wak­ing up a groggy player.

“Your core body tem­per­a­ture shoots up be­cause of the fight-or-flight,” Call said. “You just had ev­ery­thing (go) to your ma­jor or­gans. Now it’s just shoot­ing back out in your blood­stream.”

The coup de grace is up to an hour latched in­side one of three Su­pe­rior float tanks de­signed to take away all the senses and that can ac­tu­ally make play­ers fall asleep. Hess said it’s sup­posed to repli­cate the weight­less feel­ing of a baby in a womb, and it feels sim­i­lar to floating in the Dead Sea.

“It’s an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Hess said. “Our goal is to get them to that presleep state to shut their body down. It will lower their heart rate. The tem­per­a­ture of the water repli­cates your body tem­per­a­ture. Re­ally we’re tak­ing all sen­sa­tion out.”

A player show­ers and puts on lo­tion to keep the salt from dam­ag­ing skin, and then a lot of times it’s off to bed to rest up for the next gru­el­ing day. Quar­ter­back Colt Mccoy has been big on giv­ing feed­back on bed­ding tech­nol­ogy, and Bedgear is work­ing to de­velop an­kle pil­lows to help ath­letes el­e­vate their feet af­ter the stress of a game or prac­tice.

“It’s a prob­lem that a lot of the play­ers have when they’re on their feet for hours dur­ing a game and they’re get­ting sort of this com­pres­sion and swelling in their lower limbs,” Bedgear vice pres­i­dent of strat­egy Shana Roche­leau said. “They just kind of hodge­podge things to­gether today to put their feet up and try to get the blood flow­ing.”

Coach Jay Gru­den said play­ers choose how much of the re­cov­ery tech­niques they want to get in­volved with, and that varies through­out the ros­ter. He has tried out the re­cov­ery room de­vices him­self, thinks they’re pretty cool and most im­por­tantly be­lieves they’ll make a dif­fer­ence on the in­jury front.

“Give these guys just an­other way to help them re­cover,” Gru­den said. “The play­ers, even if it gives them a men­tal state of mind where, ‘Hey, I feel pretty good,’ then let’s give them ev­ery av­enue to feel that way.”

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