Sports medicine has come a long way from “Ice it, heat it, drink a Gatorade.”
“Things are ever-evolving,” South Carolina associate athletics director for sports medicine John Kasik said. “It’s what we’re here for.”
A new technology titled “MuscleSound” has helped USC football and basketball players achieve their peak performances over the past year. An ultrasound measures glycogen around muscles, giving trainers and athletes an energy level they want to sustain throughout a season. That leads to better nutrition and a decrease in risk of soft tissue injury.
Medically, it’s a way of maintaining energy by discovering levels at rest and high-level stress, then coming up with ways to keep energy at the same high level from quarter to quarter and game to game for an entire season.
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In layman’s terms, it’s keeping the gas tank full.
“Glycogen is like your energy stores and fuel stores for your muscles,” Kasik said. “Somebody’s baseline level is 70, let’s say, and what you do from there is measure them after a workout, then you make sure they’re back to their normal level before they compete again in the next event.”
USC signed onto MuscleSound a year ago. Kasik liked the science and research behind it and decided to do it for a year. The results were enough that he wants to keep doing it.
“We did it a little bit in football, not as much as I would have liked, but used it on the basketball team for sure,” Kasik said. “It’s a little expensive, but if you’re getting good results and able to equate them to help your student-athletes perform better, you need to keep doing it. I think there’s a good chance we’ll keep doing it.”
An athlete receives an ultrasound around twice a week for football, perhaps three or four times per week for basketball. It’s a non-invasive procedure – electrodes are attached to the calf and quadriceps of the dominant leg (for a right-handed shooter, the left leg) for 20-30 seconds each.
“Everybody’s readout is different based on muscle quality,” said Mark Rodger, the trainer for the USC men’s basketball team. “There are different makeups and fibers and ages. It’s not a cookbook approach.
“The number helps set rest and nutrition regimens, and if it’s low, it’s a yellow flag that they may need to consume a little more carbohydrates, they may need a little more rest.”
“You just educate them. You show it to them in black and white,” Kasik said. “You tell them, ‘Here’s where you are in quad and hamstring strength, this one’s weaker or stronger than the other.’
“When someone can see it, rather than you just talking theory, you’re a little bit more successful. Then they start making sure they eat healthy and train and hydrate so they have enough to finish at the end.”
Basketball, like most other sports, has nearly a minute-by-minute plan for every day, especially during the season. Putting in a new activity, even one designed to help, can sometimes cause groans and eye-rolls.
Rodger said that wasn’t the case with MuscleSound. Once the basketball players found out how quickly it could be performed – and how quickly it could define what they needed to do to be at peak performance – they couldn’t wait to try it.
“They were enthusiastic, because at the end of the day, it’s something that will benefit them,” Rodger said. “It’s immediate feedback, from a rest and nutritional standpoint. The scan doesn’t take long, and you can get immediate results.”
Like Kasik, Rodger hopes USC continues to work with MuscleSound.
“The thing I liked about it is it puts stuff on the guys as well, from an accountability standpoint,” Rodger said. “One thing I always found is if you’re a competitive person, you may be a little low, but if you do what you’re supposed to do, there’s no reason not to perform at a high level.
“I think it definitely helps. There’s no more excuse not to get the appropriate amounts of carbs and protein.”
Player safety and preparation for life beyond the field coincide with keeping players as healthy as possible while on it. Nothing can truly prevent an injury, but technology continues to find ways to avoid it as much as possible.
“You have to stay current,” Kasik said. “Sports medicine and athletic training is helping the student-athlete. We’re doing it to help them, which in turn helps us be more successful.”
HOW IT WORKS
The three steps of the MuscleSound process:
MuscleSound generates measurements of glycogen (energy) content levels using an ultrasound scan of muscles.
Nutrition recommendations can be made based on the amount of carbohydrates necessary to restore glycogen content.
By consuming the recommended carbohydrates, glycogen content can be restored for optimal performance.