Remember the movie Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise works for a futuristic police department and can stop crimes before they happen by getting a glimpse into the future? Injury Armored, a new athletic testing facility founded by Dr. Mark Turner in Aurora, Ill., aims to do something similar with sports injuries.
A former collegiate and professional athlete, Turner has spent more than 20 years researching sports rehab.
"It started bothering me more and more over the years that a lot of the injuries we are seeing could have been identified and prevented," Turner said.
What stood out to Turner were the similar patterns of weaknesses he found occurring in athletes who suffered non-traumatic injuries—the type that aren't caused by something uncontrollable like a tackle or a crash. Turner estimates this type accounts for up to 70 percent of sports injuries.
Whether it's a football player who tears his anterior cruciate ligament while making a cut, or a pitcher who tears his rotator cuff when launching a fastball, Turner observed that the muscle weakness behind such injuries was easily recognizable. So he began prescribing exercises to athletes recovering from surgery to fix those weaknesses, to prevent the athletes from injuring themselves again.
After experiencing success, Turner wanted to go bigger. "I thought that I could do it more to the masses if I wrote it down or if I told other people how to do it. We could also specialize per sport," he said.
That led Turner to open Injury Armored and assemble a team of physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and athletic trainers who specialize in specific sports.
"We have a team of eight who are readily available at all times," Turner said. "A team of eight can evaluate 70 to 100 athletes in a day."
Athletes within driving distance of the Aurora facility can receive help directly at Injury Armored, but Turner's team also travels to help athletes in other locations, including the University of Illinois and Miami University (Ohio).
A typical evaluation consists of a series of four tests—a static test, an orthopedic test, a functional test and a computerized muscle test. Each test is analyzed individually. Then, when the results are compiled together, the athlete is classified as green (little or no risk of injury), yellow (low to moderate risk), or red (moderate to high risk of injury). Turner and his team then recommend exercises and workouts based on their findings.
"We're providing information through the program to athletes and parents that they didn't have, and it's up to the athlete, a training staff, or a team strength staff to incorporate the recommendations," Turner said.
Turner and his staff work with athletes from the high school level to the pros. Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall credits Injury Armored with helping him fix an ailing hip that had been operated on three times during his eight-year career. Marshall hasn't missed a game due to injury this season, and he's racked up 540 receiving yards and five touchdowns in seven games to date.
"Injury Armored gave me the knowledge I needed to maximize my body's potential," Marshall said.
Turner is moving full steam ahead to get his techniques to the masses. So far, he says, a handful of hospitals plan to incorporate his methods into their rehab programs. He's also been approved by several universities to work with their orthopedic staffs. Turner hopes this outreach will help more athletes gain a better understanding of their bodies, so they can stay healthy and on the field.
Turner says his team faces a challenge reaching some athletes—especially young players, who can see themselves as invincible—but he believes the on-field benefits of a strong, balanced body may be a draw.
"As a young athlete, when someone told me that flexibility would reduce my risk of injury, it didn't really strike home to me, because I never thought I was going to get injured," Turner said. "If somebody would have told me that my performance would improve—that I would be able to jump higher, run faster, or get stronger—I probably would have paid more attention."
For more information, visit injuryarmored.com.
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