BYU: Treadmill Helps Keep Cougs Afloat
The Salt Lake Tribune
BYU: Treadmill helps keep Cougs afloat
Underwater device allows Brigham Young athletes to work out despite injuries
By Rhiannon Potkey
PROVO – Harvey Unga churned out a ton of yards. Austin Collie ran the equivalent of nearly 100 routes.
But the two Brigham Young football players never set foot on a field last week. They did their work underwater.
A crucial rehabilitative tool in its athletic training facility, BYU’s underwater treadmill has kept many key players in the lineup this season.
By taking stress off their injured extremities, it has enabled them to continue working out rather than just watching practice from the sidelines. The tread received a lot of wear the last few days. Presented with an unexpected bye when the San Diego State game was postponed, several Cougars with gimpy ankles donned swim trunks and aqua shoes instead of practice jerseys and cleats.
Joining Unga and Collie in the pool were Matt Allen and Dallas Reynolds. The offensive quartet were hoping to return to nearly full strength by Saturday.
“It has helped out a lot,” said Collie, who injured his ankle Sept. 15. “I think my biggest jumps in terms of feeling better was after I used the treadmill. It works on flexion and lets you get your running motion back down.”
BYU is one of only two Mountain West Conference schools and one of only two state schools to have an underwater treadmill on its campus. New Mexico and Utah State also have them.
The treadmills are gradually gaining popularity across the country. Most professional athletic organizations have at least one, as do many major college programs like LSU, Texas and Ohio State.
BYU head football trainer Kevin Morris made a big push to have BYU’s Hydroworx 1000 Series pool installed when the school built its athletic complex four years ago because he knew the benefits.
“Physiologically, I don’t think it makes players heal any quicker, but they are able to perform running mechanics and functional activities quicker, which allows them to return to the field quicker,” Morris said. “Before, you would just put them on a bike. But biking and running are two completely different things.”
The underwater treadmill is not just for football at BYU. There is a waiting list hours long posted on the door every day with athletes from every sport wanting to use it.
The treadmill reaches speeds up to 7 1/2 miles per hour, and because of their buoyancy in the water, athletes are supporting only 10-25 percent of their normal body weight.
Having less stress placed on an injury allows the athletes to stride normally, and the compression of the water reduces swelling in the joint.
Trainers can make players perform most of the same athletic movements they would on the field, and jets in the pool can provide resistance training.
Two underwater cameras capture every move and display the images on two monitors nearby.
Utah State athletic trainer Dale Mildenberger visited BYU last year to look at its underwater treadmill, and the Aggies purchased two for their new athletic training facility, which opened Aug. 20.
They even one-upped the Cougars. Along with a Hydroworx 1000, they purchased a Hydroworx 2000. The 2000 model is the Rolls Royce of underwater treadmills. It has an adjustable floor and can train multiple athletes at the same time.
“I think the more we learn to use it and the more experience we have with it, the more things we will discover we can do,” Mildenberger said. “The 2000 model is a very useful piece of equipment, and to be quite honest, I expect there will be several sold because we got one.”
But the treadmills don’t come cheap. The Hydroworx 1000 costs about $80000, while the 2000 is around $200000.
But Morris believes BYU has received a huge return on its investment. In fact, the Cougars may have paid it off last season alone.
Former quarterback John Beck suffered a high ankle sprain early in the season, and could have been sidelined four to six weeks. But with the help of the underwater treadmill, he only missed the Utah State game and led BYU to a conference title and bowl victory
“I don’t think you can put a number on how valuable it is,” Morris said. “It’s really hard to imagine what we did before we had one here. We use it so much.”
Unga could be this year’s valued prize. The redshirt freshman injured his ankle during the Air Force game last month, but has stayed on the field and produced a string of career outputs.
“Our school is really fortunate to have the treadmill,” Unga said. “It helps get flexibility back in the ankle and takes the pressure off. And for me, the water is relaxing while still getting a good workout.”
Morris hopes to add a wrinkle to the workouts next season. He has talked to the Hydroworx representatives about having the belt on BYU’s treadmill go backwards. They said they would come to Provo in a few months for a test run.
“We will have the first one in the country that will do that as long as we provide feedback and case studies,” Morris said. “There would be no problem doing that here.”