Sydney’s premier AFL team is hoping revolutionary NASA-based technology using negative and atmospheric pressure, will hasten the recovery of its injured players, writes David Hutchins.
While patients feel the pain and discomfit of wounds and injuries, their hardship can affect their employers who somehow have to manage the resulting interruptions to production and performance.
For an elite, professional football team like the Sydney Swans, wounded or injured team members can impact the organisation’s performance for the entire season, lucrative sponsorships, and even fan loyalty.
With so much riding on the team performing at its peak, its not surprising that the Swans is following the example of South Africa’s Rugby Union Bulls and its national cricket team to treat player injuries with the Vacusport Regeneration System (VRS). The VRS, distributed by Cantley Medical Services (CMS), is a NASA and German Space Academy development for treating orthostatic complications astronauts encounter in the weightlessness of outer space. It acts like a pump, or more precisely, like an external heart for the lower body.
CMS managing director Carolyn Smith says it uses intermittent waves of negative pressure and atmospheric pressure to bring about capillarisation and capillary dilation.
She says increased oxygen and nutrients are sucked into the patient’s extremities during the negative pressure phase, and then, during the atmospheric phase, there is improved lymphatic drainage and venous return, resulting in a clearing of waste products and toxins in the venous blood and lymph system.
While the Swans are the first sporting organisation in Australia to trial the VRS, elite teams around the world are using it to expedite athlete recovery including FC Barcelona, German Olympic team, Mexican Olympic team, Russian Ice Hockey National Team, and Dutch Premier League Holland.
Sydney Swans planning and operations manager, Peter Berbakov, says part of his role is to provide a “high performance environment” that offers an operational edge over the competition.
“When the offer to trial the VRS arose, it was easy to say yes. Being relatively new to Australia and having access to the first machine aids our high performance philosophy and, more importantly, will hopefully aid our players. We need to provide an edge to on-field performance via any means. Clubs therefore focus heavily on sports science, whether it be improving coaching and training methods, or advances within the Club’s Medical department for treatment and recovery, " Berbakov says, acknowledging that player availability is critical to an AFL team’s success.
“Any treatment device, training regime, preventative or recovery method that can minimise injury risks or speed recovery is sought. Within the super competitive AFL competition, one game or one goal can decide a finals appearance, a top 4 chance or a Premiership.
“Maintaining player availability (throughout the season) is critical to achieving the ultimate success for the Swans, and its not just an ability to treat injuries, but from a program that prioritises recovery from games and training."
Berbakov expects trialling the Vacusport system will advance the Swans approach to athlete recovery and aid traditional methods of cell oxygenation and lymphatic drainage via exercise, massage and hot/cold therapy.
“With tests supporting significant capillary dilation and capillarisation, increasing perfusion to cells and the extremities, along with anecdotal evidence from the South African cricket team; we feel there will be real benefit for our players in using the Vacusport to speed recovery from training, games and injury.
“With a large collection of injury history, we will be able to run trials to assess the benefits of the Vacusport on comparative injury rehabilitation times, as well as assessing it’s effect on recovery from games and training via wellness ratings, creatinkinase (sic) testing, and subjective feedback.
“Using the Vacusport for recovery purposes is perhaps where we hope to see the greatest benefit for our players,” he says.