By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Midway through last season, the Redskins Park training room was filled with players nursing sore hamstrings and the like. Some played through the nagging pain, albeit in a diminished capacity. Others missed games entirely, triggering a sense of alarm.
"They sure get your attention," Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, said of the rash of hamstring injuries. "And we gave it our attention."
Aware of the spike in muscle strains and their tendency to linger, concern drifted down from the organization's highest levels. Even before the season ended, owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, executive vice president of football operations, called for action in hopes of preventing future outbreaks.
A year later, Redskins officials said they have made progress.
Washington hardly has been exempt from injuries, as several players have trudged through nagging ailments this season. Players, coaches and trainers alike concede they are part of the game. But they also agree the impact made by nagging injuries -- such as hamstrings -- have not been as debilitating as last season.
Members of the athletic training staff said the changes made in response to last year's outbreak might be playing a part in making the difference.
"We think that's helping us," said Larry Hess, the Redskins' director of rehabilitation. "It's not a cure-all, and nothing will be with these guys because it's football. You're going to have injuries. But if we prevent that one hamstring that keeps the star player out, we've accomplished a great deal here."
Since the midpoint of last season, the Redskins have reorganized the athletic training department, while the strength and conditioning staff has developed new stretches and exercises designed to help cut down on injuries.
"It's made a tremendous impact," Coach Jim Zorn said. "We've had excellent communication between trainers and coaches, doctors, players and coaches."
The biggest change was the addition of first-year assistant athletic trainer Elliott Jermyn. Tyer said it became clear the training staff needed another staffer capable of providing manual therapy.
The addition, he said, has freed up staffers to focus on other duties, including working to keep players on the field who may already be fighting injuries.
"You've only got so many minutes in the day to work with these guys," Tyer said.
With Jermyn on board, Hess said the Redskins have been able to respond more quickly to injuries that have the potential to linger. Hess said response time can make a big difference in recovery time.
With the extra help, Hess said he has been able to devote more time to developing detailed rehabilitation plans. He also has been able to better supervise players going through the rehab process.
"Guys respond better to hands-on therapy rather than just coming in and putting a hot pack on them, or getting on a bike and going out there," Hess said. "If you get your hands on [them] for a couple of minutes, they appreciate that, and they know we're doing something the help them out. They respond to the treatment."
Running back Ladell Betts, who has missed time with a knee injury this season, said he has noticed the training staff's ability to provide more individual attention. He called Jermyn "a great addition."
"Whenever you're injured, or you've got something that's tweaked, you need that one-on-one, somebody to really help you get what you need to get back on the field," Betts said.
Another major change came with the help of the team's strength and conditioning staff, which instituted active stretches. The new method calls for players to incorporate other movements, designed to help engage muscles, while stretching.
For instance, groin stretches, which used to be executed with a player's feet planted on the ground, now calls for players to move side to side. Hamstring warmups, which also used to be done in a stationary position, now include walking high leg kicks that make the Redskins look like an old Cold War army on the march.
"We're spending the extra time," running back Rock Cartwright said. "The warmup really helps. Getting the blood flowing, kind of like getting the oil in the car. We definitely need that, and so far it's helped. We still have a little bit of injuries, but they're not as nagging."