The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Web Extra

November 12, 2013

Why do pro athletes recover before you do?

WASHINGTON — It's a mystery: When we twist our ankle playing tennis, it can take weeks to heal, but when a pro athlete does it, he often misses barely a beat.

Take an NBA game last season between the L.A. Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks. Kobe Bryant was pushed in midair, and he landed with a thud on the court. He clutched his ankle and writhed in pain. A few hours later - after X-rays found no broken bones - his coaches announced he was out indefinitely with a bad sprain.

Bryant sent out a tweet about his recuperation and how he was going to spend his time watching movies and sleeping: "Compression. Ice. Django. Zero Dark Thirty. This is Forty and 1 hour of sleep."

Yet 36 hours later, Bryant was back on the court.

Did he have a miraculous recovery? Not necessarily. While professional athletes are in terrific shape, which helps when they get injured, they also have advantages rarely available to the weekend warrior: an instant medical response and a physical therapy regimen that kicks in quickly, that operates practically around the clock and that continues even after the athlete is back in the game.

"Most of the time, the pros get a prompt assessment and treatment by experienced trainers, and what may take a recreational athlete weeks to recover [from] may take a pro only a matter of days," said Benjamin Shaffer, an orthopedic surgeon in Bethesda, Md., who is head team physician for the Washington Capitals and assistant team physician for the Washington Wizards.

Granted, some professional athletes speed their return to competition by overusing painkillers, anti-inflammatories and other prescription drugs and by succumbing to pressure from teams to play through injuries, as The Washington Post reported in a series of stories last spring.

But for many pros, it is the hours of intensive daily attention from highly experienced physical therapists, along with specialized rehabilitation equipment and exercises, that make their rehab and yours quite different.

A cadre of professionals uses electric stimulation, compression sleeves, anti-gravity treadmills and individually tailored exercises to speed the repair of the body. These techniques and devices can mean the difference between an early return or weeks on the bench, Shaffer said.

While physicians and trainers involved with professional teams avoid talking about injuries to specific players, here's a look at what they do to get an athlete up and running again.

Text Only
Web Extra
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 22, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 22, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 18, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 18, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: New story emerges about Texas children locked in hot car

    After footage showed Texas shoppers breaking the windows of a hot car to rescue children trapped inside, additional witnesses have come forward to correct the story behind what has become a viral video.

    July 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.16.48 AM.png VIDEO: Comcast apologizes after customer service call goes viral

    Comcast issued an apology after one of its representatives kept a customer captive on the phone for nearly 20 minutes, demanding to know why he was choosing another cable provider.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo