The Making Of A Multi-Million Dollar Player - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

The Making Of A Multi-Million Dollar Player

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ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - The Indianapolis Colts finished two and 14 this football season, and with stats like that it's hard to believe their quarterback is paid the highest salary in the NFL. Peyton Manning will take home $23 million for a season he didn't even play. Neck injuries sidelined him. That's why the pros are working so hard to engineer a better athlete, one who runs faster, throws farther and is hit with fewer injuries.

What was once just Sci-fi is turning young competitors into better, stronger, faster athletes. And although many strive for it, few make it to an elite athlete, engineered to be one of the best in the world.

Devin Goda wants to be one of them, at six foot five and 225 pounds, Devin is a big man with huge aspirations.

"That's definitely my top priority and dream to make it to the NFL," Devin Goda, a wide receiver at Slippery Rock University, told Ivanhoe.

During the past two seasons at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Goda's time in the forty yard dash has dropped from 4.75 to 4.38. That fraction of a second saved puts him on par with the best wide receivers in the game. How did he do it? By improving one step and one movement at a time.

Ron Deangelo is an expert in sports biomechanics at the University of Pittsburgh, but top performers are those who maximize those movements. Deangelo and his colleagues train athletes to move in the most efficient way possible.

"Filming through the computer we can watch the athlete, whether it is sprint technique, Olympic lifting technique, plyometric technique, it provides the athlete with instant visual feedback," Tim Griesser, performance coach at UPMC sports, said.

Specialized computer software analyzes performance. Trainers can tell instantly whether athletes are right on the mark.

The same breakthrough technology is also keeping the pros on the field longer and with fewer injuries. The Atlanta Falcons, a high performance team with one of the lowest injury rates in the NFL, never underestimate the power of motion.

"You have to look at the movement. It's so much bigger than just is this player strong, is this player fast," Jeff Fish, director of athletic performance for the Atlanta Falcons, explained.

Several times a year, every Falcons player undergoes functional movement screening. Seven specialized tests, scored zero to three, identify limitations in strength and motion from left to right, head to toe, before they cause injuries.

"Over the course of a 16 week season if you do have an asymmetry, if you do have a restriction that's going to eventually break down," Fish said.

To prevent that breakdown, customized therapies target each player's unique risk factors. The healthy movement score becomes a benchmark for healing.

"I can use that objective data that was generated before the athlete was injured to help me evaluate the athlete at the time of return to play," Spero G. Karas, M.D., head team physician for the Atlanta Falcons, said.

This advanced performance science is keeping players in the game for the long haul.

"We want our players to be healthy and durable and be able to contribute to our success through the course of the whole season," Fish said.

Better mechanics, sharper science and breakthrough technology fast-tracking players to their dreams.

"I'm gonna come out of nowhere, coming out of a small school. Not too many people know about me. I'm going to turn some heads," Goda said.

Motion analysis isn't just for professional athletes. Movement screening is now available through certified personal trainers all over the country to allow weekend warriors and fitness enthusiasts to test their own efficiency of motion, and improve performance.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

SPORTS BIOMECANICS: Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of the methods of "mechanics.", which is the branch of physics involving analysis of the actions of forces. Within "mechanics" there are two sub-fields of study: (1) statics, which is the study of systems that are in a state of constant motion either at rest (with no motion) or moving with a constant velocity; and (2) dynamics, which is the study of systems in motion in which acceleration is present, which may involve kinematics (i.e., the study of the motion of bodies with respect to time, displacement, velocity, and speed of movement either in a straight line or in a rotary direction) and kinetics (the study of the forces associated with motion, including forces causing motion and forces resulting from motion). (Source: exercisephysiologists.com)

FMS:  Functional movement screening (FMS) is a musculoskeletal assessment method that incorporates seven movements and yields an overall score based on movement quality (Source: .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).

IMPROVING PERFORMANCE:  New technology called movement screening is making athletes perform at their max.  This computer technology is making athletes stronger, better, and faster while preventing injuries from happening.  The professionals train athletes by filming them while they perform and provide visual feedback on their techniques.  The computer software analyzes the athletes and the trainer can tell whether the athlete is right on the mark.  The trainers critic the athletes one movement at a time and then the athlete corrects one movement at a time.  Also the technology can identify limitations in strength and motion before an injury could occur. 

What it does exactly:

  • Evaluates.   The software identifies asymmetries and limitations in the athletes' performance, making more analysis and testing unnecessary.
  • Keep's standards rising.  The software keeps track of the athlete's improvement.  It records progress and keeps working towards perfection.
  • Safety.   The software identifies movement that is dangerous and quickly addresses the problem. 
  • Corrects Strategies.  The software can be used on any fitness level.  It applies corrective strategies on various movement issues.  The software can also identify specific exercises based on the individual's score to create customized plans of action (Source: functionalmovement.com).

INTERVIEW

Jeff Fish, Director of Athletic Performance for the Atlanta Falcons, talks about athletic performance and innovations to prevent sports injuries.

What is the challenge you face every year with all these high end athletes trying to keep everything together for the season and having a successful season?

Jeff Fish: I would say the biggest challenge is getting to know each one of them in terms of their strengths; their weaknesses; their movement quality, things that they do very well and one things that's out there is even though they are the best football players in the world, there are still movement deficiencies, there are still imbalances and things that are injury risks. Not all of them that come into the NFL are perfect in terms of their strength, their power, their speed there are still many variables to look at and work through when you add all of those guys that you have on a roster that's a big plate.

Tell me about your strategy, how do you optimize a performance out of everybody?

Jeff Fish: Well I think at this level and with any sport you have to look at the movement, it's so much bigger than just is this player strong; is this player fast cause we can have fast players that move through compensatory patterns that can move fast for short periods of time, but if you ask them to be able to endure the demands and the stresses of this game over the course of a 16 week season, if you do have an asymmetry-if you do have a restriction, that's going to eventually break down and the name of this game is to stay healthy and to be able to help contribute to your team for 16 weeks. So first and foremost, we want to look at movement and if we move well then we know that everything else is probably okay, whereas vice versa we can be strong and not move well.

How unique is what you're doing with the Falcons and what is kind of the lynch pin of it – what are you actually doing?

Jeff Fish: I think from a uniqueness standpoint, I think it's fairly unique in this industry, in the NFL I think there's been several teams that have kind of dabbled in it but to really look at what the functional movement screen gives us in terms of information and how we incorporate that into building individual programs, how we use in terms of rehabilitation, how we use it to identify risk and really go beyond just okay we did the screen-here's a list of risk factors – then we're done. But what do you really do with the risk factors in terms of practice-in terms of soft tissue massage-in terms of corrective exercise-in terms of strength training and how do you correct those risk factors and that's something that's unique for the NFL.

So in the beginning of the year what do you do with these guys and how does that collar everything you do through the course of the season?

Jeff Fish: That's a good question. The thing that we look at when we screen our players is finding periods of time throughout the year that we want to screen before the workload is demanded out of the player. So basically, whenever a player has been inactive or we're getting ready to increase his workload, we want to do a screen because we want to know before we start asking him to move more – what are those risk factors. So what we periodically do, is before they start their off season program, they've been away from us for several weeks, every guy is kinda doing their own thing at that time so first day back on campus so to speak we're going to screen. We're also going to screen right before we go on the field and start into our OTA's, which is basically the NFL's version of spring practice. So now we're getting ready to increase our work load from just running and lifting now we're gonna practice, we want to screen and we use that to compare the first screen to the second. Players will leave in June through the month of July be off about 4 to 5 weeks they'll come back for training camp. Where in the old rules is used to be 2 a day practices, there again work load has increased we will want to screen before that time period and typically about half way through the season we'll want to do one last screen. That's on a general point of view with healthy players we screen 3 to 4 times a year.

When you say screen, give me an overview of what you do – what constitutes the screen, tell me about that.

Jeff Fish: We use a tool called the functional movement screen developed by Greg Cook back in the late 1990's. It's a fantastic tool in being able to establish and have a source of communication to determine what is healthy functional movement is. It gives us a baseline. What this does is, I can talk to our sports rehabilitation specialist and be able to talk and communicate and he knows exactly where there is restriction, asymmetry and we always can go back to those numbers and compare. Are we getting better? – the numbers kind of guide us through that as opposed to just throwing our opinion on it.

Tell me how crucial this becomes when a player does get hurt

Jeff Fish: It's very important because there again it gives us information to help guide us in choosing how we strategically want to help this player get back to normal. It gives us somewhat of a roadmap to put him back on his feet, try to beat a traditional deadline that says its going to take 4 weeks, but we also want to a take a very specialized approach in the injury. Maybe it's an ankle injury but we also want to look the overall body, the overall ability to move and the ankle injury itself will affect other areas throughout the body in terms of overall movement, so it helps us re-check ourselves and make sure we didn't spend too much time on the problem and not realize other areas have developed a limp, which is a survival mechanism and now the functionality of the overall system of movement has changed. We do not want to put somebody back on the field with more risk of injury even though the ankle is okay now.

And it sort of tells you if you do a baseline, you test the asymmetry and then know that's there 2 on one side and 3 on the other, that maybe they're more prone to screen?

Jeff Fish: Absolutely, if we look at a screen and one thing of risk factors that we look for is there's been a change in the score there could be different restrictions that show up on one side of the body and something on the other side, we want to know that, we want to know that one side of the body is working differently than the other because when you add speed and power and long practices in a long season to that formula, eventually the machine will break. When we get our first screen on players obviously they're healthy at that time and that helps us in 2 ways. No. 1 is it helps us develop a strategy to help that player immediately; No. 2 it helps us that when that player does have an injury, now we're able to go back to that baseline of movement and check ourselves at the end of our rehab. If that player score is maintained through that rehabilitation process then we know we can put him back on the field and be able to say with 100% certainty that he's where he was before injury. We obviously push very hard and most of the time improve that score before he goes back on the field and its one of our criterion, if that score is less than, then it's our responsibility to say – you can't put somebody back on the field to play at a greater risk after injury than he was before.

It kind of takes some of the guess work out knowing when somebody is ready to play or not doesn't it?

Jeff Fish: Absolutely, they hold us accountable; you know it's very easy when you work with dozens and dozens of injured guys throughout the years and you gain experience; it's easy to kinda sit back and generalize and say oh well that's a high ankle sprain – this is what's going to happen because a former player 3 years ago went through it. We try not to categorize guys as "an ankle"; "a knee"; "a hamstring". We look at that player as an individual, all the individual variables that are going on with that player, all of his blueprint for movement which is basically screen and some of the other assessments we do and we work on the recovery from that injury based on that data not somebody else's.

What has this been able for you to do in terms of injury and injury prevention and how your understanding in the NFL as far as you with ranking injuries on the team during the course of the season?

Jeff Fish: We track injuries very closely; we track them from one year to the next within our own organization, we also use the league wide information that's available to compare us with other teams, and over the past 2 years we've been very low and that's something we take a lot of pride in and we want our players to be healthy and durable, and to be able to contribute to our success for the course of the whole season not just maybe for the first 4 games.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Spero G. Karas, MD  
Head Team Physician- Atlanta Falcons
Associate Professor of Orthopedics
Emory Healthcare Sports Medicine
skaras@emory.edu

Ron Deangelo
University of Pittsburgh
(412) 432-3871
deangelors@upmc.edu.

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