Sports medicine is a fast growing field. The opportunity to work for a professional sports team and not only interact, but care for sports stars is pretty enticing. Although the life of an NFL trainer is rough, there are many that love their jobs. Trainers are responsible for educating athletes on injury prevention, advising athletes on proper recovery techniques, and how to maintain a healthy body for the long haul. We’ve got the inside scoop on all of these and more.
How Sports Medicine Facilities are Designed for Injury Prevention
Stepping inside the athletic training headquarters of any NFL team is sure to cause physical therapists everywhere to salivate. Facilities like the newly renovated Green Bay Packers building includes an expanded treatment area, functional rehabilitation area, recovery room, examination rooms, GE iDXA body scan room, digital X-ray room, 4 Athletic Trainer offices, conference room, hydrotherapy room with 2 walk-in hot tubs and a walk-in 4 x 16 cold tub, and a SwimEx rehabilitation pool, 2-level workroom stocked full of supplies as well as an array of travel trunks, ice machine, and cooler storage room – all surrounded by 11-foot tall walls of glass. This major addition was added to the already impressive 10,000-square-foot weight room and regulation width indoor 35-yard in-filled field.
But the facilities would be nothing without the expertise and watchful eyes of the injury-preventing athletic trainers.
One of the major injury prevention methods encouraged by NFL trainers is the use of proper pads. All told, football players wear eight different pads, nine if you count the helmet:
- Two knee pads
- Two thigh pads
- Two hip pads
- One tailbone pad
- One set of shoulder pads
As of 2013 knee and thigh pads were added to the mandatory list of pads that all players must wear in order to be eligible for play.
NFL uniform inspectors roam the fields making sure every player is in compliance with the uniform rules. Players caught violating the regulations are not allowed on the field until every offense is rectified.
Former Giants running back, current NFL uniform inspector, and safety advocate Joe Morris, says, “This is a good rule. It’s sensible. It’s trying to protect the players. My job is to make sure that every player in violation of the rules is aware of it and has an opportunity to correct it.” He’ll talk directly to players and, a half-hour before kickoff, he’ll meet with a team representative to report problems. That employee must bring any player spotted with a violation back to the inspector for clearance before kickoff.
Tape Up & Loosen Up
Can you identify people be their feet? NFL trainers likely can. Mike Ryan, sports trainer for the Minnesota Vikings and his team wrap 80+ ankles before each game. Many players feel more comfortable with wrapped ankles hoping to prevent rolling or spraining the area.
Additionally, Mike says that we “aggressively preparing the players with massage, manual therapy techniques to increase joint range of motions, soft tissue treatment to enhance muscle and fascia blood flow, and flexibility drills to promote movement patterns”.
Teaching Athletes to Recover
Recovery is one of the most important aspects of training and injury prevention but is so often overlooked. NFL trainers know the importance of education their athletes about the following:
Proper Nutrition: Pro football players need an excessive amount of calories to sustain them during long workouts and even longer games. Playing well requires higher amounts of protein to build and repair fast-twitch muscle fibers, as well as a constant supply of good, complex carbohydrates to refuel the body’s glycogen stores.
Vitamins: The body uses vitamins to restore, rebuild, and renew every aspect of body function. Vitamins, whether absorbed from food or supplementation are essential for peak performance.
Hydration: Not enough can be said about the need for proper hydration. Trainer Mike Ryan is constantly advising his team to “hyper-hydrate”. For as some say, muscles without water are skeletons.
Sleep: Sleep in the bodies way of repairing the damage. Adequate sleep habits dictate that 8 hours of solid rest gives your body time to recover. If your body is rested and any minor injuries healed, the chance of further injury is reduced or eliminated altogether.
Athletic Trainers contribute significantly to making football safer, but it is inherently a collision sport. We cannot eliminate injuries. People say to me, “Keep ‘em healthy.” I respond, “That’s God’s work; I just do the helping,’” says T. Pepper Burruss, the Director of Sports Medicine Administration and Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist for the Green Bay Packers. While you may not be an NFL star, you deserve an athletic trainer/ physical therapist all the same. You may not put your body through the rigors that a pro athlete does, but you may be looking to heal old or new sports injuries so you can return to your active self.
At Arrowhead Health Centers we have some of the best sports medicine treatments in the business. Our caring and professional team is ready to help. Visits us online today.