Harvey Dahl at P3

Rehab and Performance: NFL Lineman Harvey Dahl

Too often athletes that suffer traumatic injuries do not focus on improving aspects of performance not limited by injury. At P3, we see an injury as an opportunity for an athlete to get better and direct all focus on aggressively rehabbing while upgrading the rest of their body. Additionally, athletes that practice and play year-round or have a short off-season often times don’t apply themselves to intense physical development (this is not generally the case with American Football players). An injury can be a catalyst for changing this and as we have seen at P3, on a number of occasions, athletes can return to a superior level of play following a big injury if rehab is not the only focus. Based on objective biomechanical and performance data, we are confident that St. Louis Rams’ starting guard, Harvey Dahl, will be the next P3 athlete to do this.

Harvey tore his left bicep tendon in a game vs. the Minnesota Vikings on December 16th, 2012, and came in for his initial rehab and training on 1/10/2013. In addition to supporting our head Physical Therapist, Mike Swan, with Harvey’s rehab needs, the early phase of training focused on improving Harvey’s hip and ankle mobility and imbalances, as well as his work capacity and trunk stability. We were also able to take Harvey through work that improved relaxation, footwork and quickness from the outset.

As the rehab progressed, we increasingly pushed on lower body strength and overall hypertrophy – that had been lost as a result of the injury. A month and a half into rehab and training at P3, we were able to take Harvey through a series of max-effort jump tests off our force plates. While displaying solid power and strength numbers during testing, we knew he had room to improve as this was just the start of Harvey ‘s more intense strength and power work, at P3.

Less than two months after initial force plate testing and almost three months after he began his rehab and training at P3, Harvey retested.  Work that focused on improving Harvey’s hip mobility, ankle mobility and overall hypertrophy and increasing lower extremity power allowed Harvey to make massive gains in functional mobility, ability to manage eccentric loads and in lower body power as indicated by our force plate data. Here are a few examples that illustrate his tremendous lower body power gains.

With 6 more lbs of lean mass, Harvey was able to jump 5.5 inches higher in the drop to vertical jump with less ground contact time, 3.5 inches higher in the squat jump test with a 32% increase in rate of force development (This movement, when done correctly, minimizes the stretch shortening cycle and is very relevant to an offensive lineman as they need to be able to fire off the ball from a static position with a great deal of force and velocity) and 2.5 inches higher with a quicker time to peak force in the counter movement or standing vertical jump test. In the one-off force plate skater test, Harvey increased his peak horizontal force by 10% and rate of horizontal force development by 24% on the left and peak horizontal force by 9% and horizontal rate of force development by 12% on the right side respectively. Additionally, his rate of horizontal force development in both directions were almost identical. Much like the squat jump test, this movement is remarkably sports specific for an offensive lineman, as they need to be able to able to explode laterally in both directions with great balance and power.

The testing results and condition of Harvey’s bicep tendon rehab, as determined by our head PT, indicated to us that he was ready to compete at a high level on the gridiron. Further, the testing results confirmed what we already knew, in-that, even a highly-trained professional athlete rehabbing from a major injury can make massive gains in performance.

After follow-up testing, in April, Harvey still had two months to prepare for NFL training camp. He made great use of this time both at the St. Louis Rams OTAs, where he was able to put on 8 more lbs of lean mass, and at P3. Throughout his final weeks at P3, we placed heavy emphasis on improving Harvey’s ability to get more hip contribution and extension during ballistic lower body power-based movements. During off-season exit testing, Harvey again showed remarkable strength and power, exceeding his previous performance and biomechanical testing metrics, most notably in the squat jump test, where he now sets the bar at P3, when it comes to rapidly generating force from a static position.

When we first started working with Harvey, in December (only a few weeks after major surgery), our stated goal was to aggressively train physical systems not affected by injury with great precision and care, while providing him with optimal rehabilitation. We expected his repaired bicep to step back into a body that worked better than ever and that is exactly what has happened.

In addition to massive gains in functional mobility, raw strength and power, Harvey going into his 9th NFL season, reports feeling better than ever.

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