More and more the focus of the game isn't on the points or the performance, it's on the health of the athlete.
"We want to reduce the injuries. We want to give these kids, athletes, every chance to stay on the field as long as possible," said former professional athlete and Traction athletic facility owner Ryan Theriot.
That attitude is what is behind the Traction athletic training facility. Trainers there work with professional athletes as well as student athletes, focusing on injury prevention first and performance second.
"You want to balance out the athlete before you can actually get them to perform," said Theriot.
Balance is where a piece of equipment called the Optojump comes in. The Optojump was developed nearly two decades ago to measure movement in real time. It is made up of two strips that are laid on the floor. Throughout the strip are hundreds of beams of light that can sense and record movement. By walking, running or jumping through a series of tests, the Optojump can instantly measure speed, agility, balance and more. That data can then be used to evaluate an athlete's strengths and weaknesses.
"What happens with asymmetry left to right side is that it creates dysfunction. Now the body has to struggle," said Optojump developer and president of Microgate USA Peter Gorman.
Over the last year, the Optojump's developers have come up with new programs and tests that can also be used to help determine if an athlete is ready to return to play after a concussion. Concussions can be assessed in two ways, neurologically and with balance. While a doctor and medical tests can see whether the brain has physically healed, data from the Optojump can show if the body has recovered as well.
"We precisely look at coordination and say, this is who you were before the injury. This is who you are now, and I'm not going to return you to play until your data returns to where it was before the injury," explained Gorman.
Theriot says his facility is one of the only in the nation to have the Optojump, joining the likes of the Navy SEALs and the US Olympic Committee. His hope to help all local athletes.
"We can identify it [injury] early and then put in the correct protocol to fix it," said Theriot.
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