There’s currently a dispute over how long the average career is for a player in theNational Football League. TheNFL Players Associationargues the above figures is only over three years. League officers repudiate the above figures, stating it’s closer to six seasons. Pick sides, split the difference, process it however you want and the answer is basically the same: a career in the NFL does not last long.
No matter which figure you decide to accept, Marques Colstonis an outlier. Selected by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh and final round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Colston has been a contributor at broad receiver for a decade. He’s never switched teams, and has never missed more than five games in a season.
He has been the definition of consistency, but he got there because he made a change.
About five years ago, at a point where most NFL careers are approaching or have already reached an end, Colston decided to change his approach to training by embracing technology. He looked for new solutions to the old problems footballers have faced in some form since the inception of the athletic, which includes everything from career-ending injuries to general wear and tear that can result in damage over time.
“It’s truly more just about being proactive with your body and trying to create ways to prevent traumata as opposed to always trying to mend on the backend, ” Colston tells the Daily Dot. “Just taking that approach has led me down this path to consider what tools are out there to help me do that, and stay in front of some of these traumata and see if I can prevent.”
The most recent find for Colston isEnerskin, a company offering new takes on compression gear by utilizing the principles of therapeutic videotapeing to squeeze out improved performance from the wearer.
“Some of the compression tights and the gear marketed as compression tightsthere’s a difference between just having tight-fitting clothes and compression, ” Colston said.
Enerskin uses medical-grade silicone to create the effect of therapeutic taping that is said to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and joints, as well as improve performance and reduce common sports injuries. Colston explained that it “assists the muscles that are going to be activated at any given point, ” and said that it “creates a friction with the skin that mimics thatkinesio tapephilosophy.”
It sounds like a sort of miracle drug in wearable sort, appearing too good to be true, and to some degree it might be. Both of the concepts utilized by Enerskincompression clothing and therapeutic tapinghave become popular in recent years. The popularity of compression has beenattributedto its use in the National Basketball Association, particularly by Allen Iverson, while kinesio taping gained traction afterwide useduring the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
There isn’t a real scientific consensus on the concepts; clinicalstudiesfrom Enerskin prove the product to be more effective than challengers, but most examines of compressing and kinesio videotape as separate entities have proven inconclusive.
If there is a type of athlete who would find a post in performance from either option, it would be a professional like Colston. Areviewof more than 30 analyses on the effects of compression clothes in athletics performance and recovery found that the gear works in specific instances. Areas where outcomes were noticeable included short-duration sprints, horizontal jumping height, and extending is high time to exhaustion.
That essentially describes the job of a wide receiver to a T.
The compression gear indicated to have additional benefits when it came to strength and power recovery and and reductions in muscle swelling and perceived muscle paina necessity for anyone who’s job description includes holding onto a ball while absorbing potential impacts of brutal, high speed collisions.
While the social sciences might still be out when it comes to the benefits of compressing and kinesio videotape for the average athlete, Colston swears by the results he’s get from it.
“I think it made a really good impact, only being able to stay fresher throughout the week, employing it in practice, ” he said. “Playing football, you’re always going to get nicked up and have certain injuries that don’t inevitably keep you off the field. It helps to recover from those.”
He saw research results good enough to put his fund where his mouth is and announced aninvestmentin the company in December. He’s not alone in his notion in the product, either; a handful of Colston’s teammates wore it throughout the 2015 -2 016 season, and his former teammate and current Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles is a user andinvestorin the company as well.
The embrace of the technology-centric Enerskin by Saints former and current isn’t much of a astonish given the franchise’s forward-thinking attitude in recent years. New Orleans was one of the first teams toadoptthe shoulder pad-embeddedRFID chipsfrom Zebra Technologies. Colston said the team has been using the technology for three years now, primarily to monitor player workload.
“I think it’s has enabled them manage reps for certain guys who may be dealing with an injury or might be a little older, so I believe from that standpoint, it’s been effective, ” he said.
According to datarecordedby Football Outsiders, the Saints suffered heavily from injury, recording 71.3 Adjusted Games Lost( AGL) a metric that takes into account games missed by starters and reduced performance by players who are injured but still suit up. The next season, with a year of experience with the RFID chips under their belt, the team recorded 58.0 AGL, marking a significant improvement that moved the team into the top 10 for squads least impacted by injuries.
Football is generally considered to be a reasonably primitive sport, and that’s an image it has a hard time shaking in part because of its violent nature and the embrace of unquantifiable ideas like “grit” and “willpower” being pushed in favor of actual, measurable information.
There’s still a distinct split between players who are more “old school” as Colston calls them, and players who are more willing to embrace technological solutions that might extend their career. That’s the primary reason Colston, by any definition a veteran player, has espoused.
“The way I came in the league put me on high alert that it can be over at any given time, so just finding ways to invest back into my bodythis is my business right now, ” Colston said. “It just made sense.”
That doesn’t mean Colston and other players don’t have reason to be skeptical. One of the primary issues surrounding the developing nature of sports technology is that there’s just so much new information and not a lot of time to decipher it all.
For players, performance matters, but it has to be a discernible change. Placebo effect improvements might stimulate them feel better but won’t actually make muscles return to full strength faster.
“You feel like there’s a new product came to see you every day, ” Colston said, but expects that the tools that provide a true benefit will unavoidably get adopted. In a league full of players looking for every advantage, it’s nearly impossible to keep it a secret when something is helpingeven the hold outs who revel in the more brutal parts of the sport.
“I suppose guys get in front of more equipment that they’re having really good experiences with will at least bring more guys to the middle of that conversation, ” Colston explained. “I do ensure the trend growing as we move forward.”
The adaptation of technology isn’t simply happening at a player level; organizations are, one by one, beginning to realize the benefits of a more scientific approach to the game.
“The last three or four years, there’s been a huge emphasis on analytics, ” Colston said. “I suppose more and more squads are buying into the fact that having these numbers and having this technology play a part is making a positive impact.”
In Philadelphia, former head coach-and-four Chip Kelly wentall inon data, equipping players with fitness trackers of just about every kind imaginable. Monitors from Catapult measured agility and acceleration, heart rate monitors were used to produce provides information on post-workout recovery rates, and sleep monitors were used to make sure players got a good night’s rest before a game.
All of those data points can be used to create a much fuller picture of a player’s performance and what might be effecting it, presuming it’s applied properly. Kelly’s approach ran wonders for one year, butreportsof players losing their patience with some of the moreinvasivetrackers began to crop up, gaining more momentum as loss mounted.
Kelly eventually lost his job , not inevitably because of the increasing quantity of technology that he was strapping on his players but for a failure to take that information and apply it in a way that resulted in wins. The Eagle missed the playoffs last year, and Kelly determined himself without a position in Philadelphia, though he was quickly scooped up by the San Francisco 49 ers.
He’ll take with him the same preoccupation with information with him, but it has alreadystarted spreadingacross the league regardless.
“I think it’s inevitable, ” Colston said, but pointed out that it will only be useful if squads can figure out how to induce the most of the information they’re collecting.
“One of the issues with a motion like this, that’s going more towards analytics is you need people who can analyze that data and can churn it out into useful information. I guess only having somebody in-house that can do that and not get bogged down with other responsibilities, I think you’ll see that tendency continue.”
Colston said he considers a staff position that acts as a “go-between with the athletic train staff and the strength and conditioning coaches, because that’s where the two intersect.”
With the wealth of information those staffers will have access to, players will want to know they have their best interests at heart. After years of disagreement surrounding under- and unreported injuries that have led to life-altering injury andshortened lifespansfor NFL players, there’s a considerable amount of distrust between players and doctors employed by teams.
According to areportfrom the Associated Press, many players believe the doctors treating them have more motivation to make decisions that benefit the team instead of the player. Fewer than half of the players surveyed said they guess the teams, coaches, and doctors have the their best interests at heart when it is necessary to health and safety. That figure only get lower the longer a player has been in the league.
Denver Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith, who has only missed one game in his 12 year career, toldthe AP that his health was because he decided to search out health solutions himself.
Youve got to get yourself a good system. Chiropractor, massage therapist, stretch therapist. A lot of guys are doing IVs now, Smithsaid. Take care of your body. Youve got to do that. If the team doesnt furnish it, you spend the money.
Until squads decide to take full advantage of technology and science available, players will have to continue to optimize their performance on their own. Colston expressed interest in exploring sleep tracking, and has embraced some monitoring gear for his own employ. During the 2015 -1 6 season, he began utilizing equipment from company called Athos that gauges muscle activity in real-time and can be monitored through a corresponding mobile app.
“As athletes we’re always fighting against our bodiessometimes your body isn’t necessarily made to do the things that you’re is necessary to do, ” Colston said.
Injuries are almost entirely unavoidable in the NFLColston said the sport is “based on the principle” of pushing one’s body through painbut new tools that track and monitor performance and gear like Enerskin can mitigate some of the traumata and long term impacts caused by not fully recovering from them. “What information like this does is it constructs that subjective decision making process more objective, ” Colston said.
Colston attributed his longevity to his decision to incorporate data and technology into his train. As more of that information is folded into the day-to-day activities of athletes and organizations, players will hopefully be able to extend their day on the field without compromising their life off it.
Photo via Enerskin