Recovery is the new fitness science

The Jaguars are using a device called the "Firefly" for player recovery

By Sam Kouvaris - Sports Director
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - “Exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids.”

Everybody’s heard that advice about staying healthy.  As regular exercise became part of professional advice for living longer, more productive lives, the science of fitness found all kinds of “secrets” to being fit.  It started with the number of reps, duration and amount of time between exercise, moved on to the intensity and then to the nutrition and hydration necessary to be at peak performance. It seems like everybody is wearing some kind of fitness “tracker.”

“Most of the exercise science in the last few years has been focused on recovery,” Jaguars Physical Therapist and Associate Athletic Trainer Robby Hoenshel explained in the Jaguars training room on Tuesday. 

While Tuesday is generally a “day off” for NFL players, the training room was full of Jaguars players rehabilitating injuries and getting their bodies ready for the physical demands of a Sunday game.

Looking for a way to help players begin their recovery quicker, the Jaguars and other professional sports teams have started using a new technology called “Firefly.”

“Cold tubs, massage, Normatec therapy, all of those work and are part of the routine, but the Firefly technology helps us start our players toward recovery immediately after the game,” Hoenshel explained. “Designed to be both portable and affordable, post-game, on a flight, resting and recovering, it’s a good time to get that in.”

On their website, Firefly says it’s an, “innovative, neuromuscular electro-stimulation (NMES) device, intended for the stimulation of healthy muscles to improve or facilitate muscle performance.”  From a small strap that sends an electrical impulse to a nerve (peroneal) just outside the knee to stimulate blood flow in the lower leg.  Originally designed as a way to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in patients and for passengers on long flights, Firefly has been found to have sports recovery applications.”

Their website goes on to say it  “gently activate muscles in the lower leg that return blood towards the heart. This increase in blood circulation emulates that of active recovery without an athlete having to move or exert energy.”

Particularly after a road game in any professional sport, players sit on the airplane to fly home and like everybody else, sometimes get stiff and sore.  This keeps that from happening in their lower legs.  The Jaguars put Firefly on all 22 starters and any other players who ask for them.  “We’ve had good success and guys are starting to ask for them,” Hoenshel added.

“Everyone knows it’s a long season so we’re looking for the quickest way to recover, “ Allen Hurns said as the Firefly was applied just below both of his knees.  “It’s a jump start to the week, right after the game.”

“Coming back from London I had these on and was still able to get a lot of rest,” Hurns explained.  “You feel little twitches but nothing that keeps you away from your sleep.”

While professional teams and athletes are seeing the benefits for immediate recovery, weekend athletes can also use the Firefly to stave off the soreness that comes from a hard workout. Anybody who’s given max effort at some point knows the feeling of “delayed onset muscle soreness” or “DOMS.”  Keeping the blood flowing in your leg can keep that soreness from happening.

“Any weekend athlete will benefit from this, “ Jaguars team physician Dr. Kevin Kaplan told me has he attached the Firefly to my leg. “There are a lot of things that go into recovery a lot of pieces to the puzzle. After one of your long bike rides this is an excellent device to start your healing quicker.”

“As we all work out we know we’re tearing muscle and creating byproducts of exercise. Everybody feels great when they leave the gym,” “Dr. Kaplan explained,” “But the next day you get that delayed muscle soreness and fatigue.  You want to get rid of those byproducts that build up in your muscles to speed up recovery.”

Backing up the science, I can tell you that putting the Firefly on for a couple of hours while I was working at my desk kept my normal post-workout soreness to a minimum.

A pair of Firefly straps is about $30 and they say they last for 30 hours of intermittent use.  You can find out more about it at fireflyrecovery.us.
 

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