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UNC and Duke Athletics inspired the development of STARwrap

UNC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Team

UNC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Team

Duke Track and Field

Duke Track and Field

I’m a sports massage therapist and back in 2007 I was working with college D-1 athletes at UNC and Duke, yes, I had to switch shirts going from one team to another. Normally I would have ½ hour of bodywork with each athlete to undue tension and muscle tightness. Understand these athletes were training between 10-15 hours per week and had extremely busy schedules as NCAA student athletes. This was a challenge to make a difference in the state of these athletes muscle tissue. I’d perform my work on the tissue, and give them some corrective exercises, stretches, and different recovery strategies to help continue restoring muscle tissue health on their own. However, the next week the tissue was often the same due to all the tension and training. I would recommend tennis balls, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, sticks, anything I could find that would help support my athletes. What I found was that most of these products lacked specificity. Additionally, they required use of both hands to apply the necessary force. This required time, a commodity these athletes didn't have.

I wanted to recommend a tool that would get the result of restoring muscle tissue and that a busy, physically active athlete could integrate into their lifestyle. I wanted to create a tool that could be worn and be specific enough to challenge tissue at the depth it needs without adding much time to their schedule.

The problem I found is two-fold. One, not enough time is put into active recovery.  By active recovery I refer to ways to help your muscles recover from stress. This can be rest, proper nutrition, stretching, light exercise, hydration. What I have found is that athletes, most people for that matter, don't spend enough time in this endeavor. Many times the muscles related to your mobility and sport have over time become bundled and have lost a great deal of blood flow to the tissue. What we want to do is provide a precise, consistent, positive stimulus that will challenge these muscles and restore blood flow directly to these areas where stretching, movement, and rest are not sufficient.

Often times the tissue isn’t stimulated accurately and sufficiently to transform and shift from a bundled tight state, to a more fully contracting state. Certain areas of the body ex:(gluteus medius and minimus and muscles around the hip) are difficult to stretch. These areas respond well to direct pressure.  I do not suggest stopping any stretching or movement practices. Any blood flow to an area is needed and beneficial. What I do suggest is moving your attention deeper into the different layers of your muscle fibers.  The SAID Principle is from the study of human physiology and it means Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. Your body always adapts to exactly what it does and the stimulus you place on it. Take foam rolling as an example. Have you been foam rolling for a while and it feels like its’ not doing anything? If so, that’s because that stimulus is no longer effectively challenging your tissue. 

 Another thing to consider is how much time are you spending in your recovery efforts? I recommend getting your recovery time to be half as much as you spend in training and sport endeavors. In my research I’ve found the body requires substantial amounts of blood flow to adapt to a stimulus and transform. Think in terms of hours, not minutes. 

Lastly, understanding and identifying your specific weak links and how to stimulate the tissue to support those joints is the key. This is a journey of self-discovery. The body is a beautifully, complicated structure that we can learn to tune into and listen to. The goal is to initiate a healing cascade that will transform the way we move in our bodies.

Thank you to all the athletes I've been fortunate to work with for all you taught me and for providing the inspiration for the STARwrap!