How Sleep Impacts Injuries

  By Sarah Westgreen at Tuck Sleep

When you don’t sleep enough, you’re not at the top of your game. Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to injuries — and make it more difficult to recover from existing injuries.

Sleep and Injury Prevention

Sleep deprivation makes physical and mental activities more difficult to complete, as your cognitive and motor skills are diminished. When you’re short on sleep, your muscles don’t respond as quickly as they would if you were well-rested, and your concentration and attention suffer. Sleep deprivation can affect your balance and motor skills. A lack of sleep can lead to injuries, as you aren’t physically or mentally prepared to perform at your best.

According to a recent study of adolescent athletes, when athletes slept enough each night (eight or more hours), they had a 68 percent lower risk of injury than sleep-deprived athletes. The decreased likelihood of injury was significantly associated with the number of hours of sleep per night. Rest was a greater factor than how many sports the athletes played, whether the athletes played year-round, and the trend toward athletes specializing in a particular sport.

💤💤💤 and Injury Recovery

Skeletal muscles can regenerate after a muscular injury, but your body needs support to do so. Sleep is an integral part of the process of regeneration, and when you’re sleep-deprived, your ability to repair and regenerate muscle tissue is weakened.

A recent study suggests that sleep has a permissive role in damaged muscle tissue regeneration and that sleep loss impairs recovery from muscular injuries. Subjects who were sleep-deprived showed lower indications of muscle repair and indicated deficits during recovery.

Injury Rehabilitation and Prevention

Sleep is one of the most effective tools for supporting athletic wellness. When you get enough sleep, you’re less likely to become injured during athletic activity, and you support better recovery from existing injuries. Athletes should always get the recommended amount of sleep each night: generally, adults need about seven hours of sleep. However, during intense training or recovery periods, up to 10 hours of shuteye may be beneficial. Adolescents typically need about nine to 10 hours of rest every night.

Use these tips to maximize your recovery and reduce the likelihood of sports injuries with sleep:

  • Prioritize Your Rest – Sleep is a more significant factor in preventing injuries than the number of practice hours. Don’t sacrifice sleep for training. Plan ahead and make sure you have enough time each night to get the sleep you need. Figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning, and count backward to determine your bedtime.

  • Mattress Meeting Your Needs – Choosing a mattress that supports your preferred sleeping position can help you sleep better and feel better when you wake up. With the right bed, you’ll be well supported and take the pressure off of pain points on your body. Some mattresses offer features that may reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery.

  • Avoid Late Night Exercise – Exercise is generally beneficial for sleep, but when you exercise late at night, you may feel too energized to get to sleep. It’s best if you finish activities at least a few hours before bedtime.

  • Practice Healthy Habits – Good sleep hygiene can help you make the most of your sleep hours. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, and make your bedroom a healthy sleep environment that’s cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Avoid pitfalls that can interfere with quality sleep, such as late-night caffeine, eating heavy meals before bed, and using electronic screens in bed.

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health, and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and organizations across the web.

Avoid Sports Injuries With 1 Simple Question

I flipped a giant tire today during my Spartan workout.  Flipped, as in singular.  One.  Uno.  Eins.  Once was enough. I’m allergic to sports injuries.

I didn’t need to flip it a second or a third time for both the physical therapist and the athlete in me to know the risk of an injury with this exercise was way too high.  I had plenty of other safer leg and low back strengthening exercises in my daily workout routine.  Checking my ego at the door while keeping my body injury-free was a much smarter plan than trying to keep pace with the impressively tough athletes I workout with, many of which are half my age.

“Fun”-ctional Fitness?

I quickly dropped my butt low and aggressively dug my fingers under the black beast as it angrily tried to anchor itself to the humid Florida asphalt. I hadn’t flipped a 400 lbs tire in about 15 years but I was ready!  Under the eager watch of my Spartan Race buddies, I pried the rubber behemoth from its nest with a loud groan and awkwardly wrestled it upward.  My low back creaked, my hips moaned and my knees griped as the round monster slowly rose to its tread.  As I thrust the dominated creature onto it’s back as it moaned a hollow “thud”, I convincingly announced: “….last #*@% time I’ll do THAT!”

Painful Hindsight

How many times have you injured yourself only to regretfully say: “What was I thinking?”  It’s a frustrating predicament and, as we age and hopefully we get wiser, it’s a situation we eagerly try to avoid.

Avoiding Sports Injuries Start With One Question

My solution: Before engaging in a new exercise, activity or event I ask myself one powerful question:

“Is the RISK worth the REWARD?”

It’s that simple.  Only you can answer the question because only you have to live with the outcome.  For me, the reward of flipping a tire was minimal because the risk of an injury was at way too high of a cost.  It was an easy answer for me.

Reward Outweigh Your Risk of a Sports Injury?

Looking back at previous injuries in your life, how would you have answered the Risk – Reward question prior to the injury?  With some overuse injuries or freak accidents there is no way to predict something in your body was going to tweak, pop or tear.  But more times than not, we do have an opportunity to alter our path to the doctor’s office.

Ask the Question

By no means am I trying to divert any of us away from cross training workouts to avoid all risk.  Lord knows most couches in today’s society have reached their seating capacity!  My message is to think before you blindly jump into new exercises or workouts to help reduce your risk of an injury.  Asking yourself the powerful Risk – Reward question before you start will help you avoid careless injuries as you gain strength and conditioning while you enhance your health.

Smart Exercises

Maximizing the long-term benefits of your workouts starts with avoiding sports injuries.  As you increase the volume of your workout routines, it’s wise to substitute lower risk activities for higher risk exercises such as tire flipping.

Here are some smarter alternatives for athletes interested in reducing the risk of more aggressive exercises:

   Higher Risk     >>     Lower Risk

Tire Flipping   >>   Body Squats, Kettle Bell Swings, Med Ball Wall Throws

Box Jumps   >>   Lunges, Burpees, Star Jumps, One-Legged Box Squats

Dead Lifts   >>   Wall Sits, Dumbbell Cleans, Bear Crawls

Hanging Knee Tucks   >>   Crunches, Leg Flutters, Med Ball Throws

The Bottom Line

Asking yourself the question “Is the RISK worth the REWARD?” before major changes in your workout and your life can help you avoid sports injuries and heartache.  It’s a simple way to help you to stay in the game of life by saving you pain, $$, stress, downtime and sleep.   MDR

Thanks for sharing this blog with active friends like you!

Smart Start With CrossFit

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

I did my first CrossFit workout (at CrossFit Pablo Beach in Jax Beach) this weekend….and my ass and hamstrings are killing me!

New to CrossFit

As a devoted cross trainer, I’m very comfortable with my old friends; running, biking, TRX, body-weight exercises, weight lifting, aggressive core work, swimming, trail running and such, but now doing power lifts such as dead lifts, clean & jerks and squats haven’t been part of my workout routine since I was racing as a miler in college.

Fit and/or Healthy?

Enhancing our fitness is a quest for most of us while not getting injured is a key goal for all of us. Avoiding injures is not a passive process.  It’s an active, conscious process which pays off in a big way by keeping you in the game.

I want to show you how easy it is to minimize the risk of injury so you can maintain an active at ANY age. I’ll use myself as an example with my new workout plan. The steps below are exactly what I did to help accelerate my recovery.

Avoiding Injuries: The Appetizer for Injury Prevention

Going into my first CrossFit workout I knew I’d be doing different types exercises which would significantly stress my muscles, tendons, joints, fascia and ego in a new way. I thoroughly reviewed the warm-up, strength exercises and workout of the day (WOD) beforehand.  These are the steps I took to help me avoid an injury:

Pre-Workout Steps

  • Be Real – Understand the newness of the workouts so check your ego at the door.
  • Break a Sweat – Warm-up the muscles and joints from your ankles to your neck with dynamic stretches, shadow boxing, arm circles,…etc. to start the sweating process.
  • Rolling – I’m a big fan of soft tissue rollers. Using a roller on your legs, back, chest and shoulders needs be a part of your warm-up.

During the Workout

  • Keeping it Real – It’s an entirely new workout so the stresses and loads on your body will be very different. Focus on great technique while you learn the details of the workout while keeping the weights low.
  • Listen to Your Body – Trust your body, listen to your body. If something is wrong, your body will know it.
  • Compete With Yourself – This is a perfect example of when you should compete with yourself with every exercise not the dude beside you.  He/she is probably a seasoned CrossFitter so don’t risk an injury as a rookie trying to match up against Joe Muscle!


  • Slow the Train – A 5-10 minute cool down doesn’t sound exciting but it important and it should be a part of every workout.
  • Fuel the Train – Replacing fluids, carbs and protein within 30 minutes after a workout will help your recover and your future performances.
  • Drain the Legs – Lay down and elevate your legs while continuing to bend your knees and pump your ankles. It’s a simple way to quickly reduce the lactic acid and waste products from your hard-working leg muscles.

The Day After

  • Get Moving – Get out, move and get more blood into and out of those recovering muscles. Easy cardio, agility and stretching should be part of your routine the day after a workout. If you want a day off, do it 2 days after the hard workout.
  • Repeat the Movements Minus the Load – Repeating a few reps of some of the exercises you did the day before with minimal, if any, weights. As I like to say: “If you want to get rid of soreness, do what made you sore.”
  • Freeze the Spots – If any areas are overly sore, ice those areas to reduce the pain. Less medicine and more ice is typically a smart plan.

 In closing, it’s as simple as planning ahead, be smart, progress slowly and recover aggressively.

Taking the Brakes Off For Great Health

IMG_2896I’m in Atlanta preparing for our last preseason game against the Falcons. We’re just ending our press-season training camp which includes living in the hotel away from our families for about five weeks,  17 hour workdays and up to 90 players on our roster.

I went for a great run this morning with one of my coworkers Brandon Roth. As I finish my 7 mile run and watched the sunrise, I was overwhelmed with the reality of how truly fortunate I am to be able to run like I do. Just as I entered my hotel room, I received a phone call from a colleague and friend. When I told him I just got back from a run you could hear a sigh of disappointment on his end of the phone. He shared with me his recent extensive orthopedic issues and difficulties he’s been going through over the last two and half months.

He’s an avid runner with a very impressive running resume’. As I listened to his story I couldn’t help but reflect upon my thoughts 10 minutes earlier of how blessed I am to be as active as I am. I turned 50 years old this year and I’m committed to staying very active for as long as I’m alive.

Knowing What You Have

Like the old quote:  “You never know you have until it’s gone“, it’s never been more true than when we’re talking about our health.  When our health worsens and life’s daily activities becomes painful and/or difficult to perform, that’s when we truly appreciate our bodies.

Why do we take our bodies, our health and our fitness for granted?

We, myself included, are guilty of doing so.  When we do, it’s a grave mistake. If you don’t believe that just ask anyone you know who’s in chronic pain “What would give to be pain-free?”  After asking such a question listen to what they say and look into their eyes. Their dismay and frustration will be obvious.

Taking Care of Business

There are a few things we all need to do if we want to enhance our health and preserve an active lifestyle.  Both of these are very important to me and I hope they are a high priority for you as well.

Take the Brakes Off –  Stop limiting yourself because of your age, your schedule or your health. It can be as simple as thinking like a 15-year-old in setting a goal that is grand. “Take the brakes off” of your mind and your body and have some fun with it!

Count Your Blessings –  Look yourself in the eyes (not your belly or figure) in the mirror and realize what you have. From your health to your family to your friends to the quality of your lifestyle, you probably have more than 95% of all the people in this world. It’s time to do something to protect those gifts by making them better.

Learn to Move, Then Move –  Stop waiting for a great reason to be more active. Joining a gym or simply getting out for walk 1 to 3 times a day can change your body and your life. It doesn’t have to be a fitness plan, sometimes it’s simply the act of moving and moving some more. Stop making a complicated and just move.

Stretch Something –  Flexibility may not be as sexy as lifting heavy weights or running a three-hour marathon. As we age our muscles and tendons tighten and it’s our job to keep them loose. Stretching tight areas, be it your hamstrings or your hips or your shoulders or your ankles will make you feel better and allow you to move with much less effort.

Set Three Activity Goals –  Set three goals to accomplish in the next three months that involves some type of physical activity. Doesn’t matter what they are or how difficult they may be, just do it.

Find A Healthy Mentor –  Why reinvent the wheel when you have smart and healthy people around you doing what you want to do? Find a friend or coworker who seems to understand what to eat and what to do to stay healthy. Asking for help and support is all you need to do. You may  not be able to do everything they do but having them as a mentor will help you improve your diet, your workout routine and, most importantly, your compliance with both of these.

In closing… Today is the best day we all need to truly appreciate what we have and to take daily steps to showing our gratefulness by improving both our bodies and our minds for whatever tomorrow brings us!

NFL Players’ Access to Certified Athletic Trainers in High Schools

_HFS4211I often talk to our Jacksonville Jaguars players about their past experience with injuries and sports medicine care.  From their days playing ball in midget football to the NFL, they’ve had wide-ranging sports medicine experiences from the outstanding treatment to bizarre home remedies.

Fellow Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) members and I collected the statistics on almost 1200 current NFL players’ exposure to certified athletic trainers (ATC) from when the players were in high schools.  I found it interesting how varied their experiences were when it came to the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of sports related injuries during their teenage years.

The Structure

We made the determination that players 25 years old or under to be the “younger” grouping and 26 years old or more to be the “older” players.

Next, within those two age groupings, we surveyed the NFL players to see how many of them had exposure to a certified athletic trainer, part-time or full-time, for their high school practices and/or games.

The Numbers

The Total number of players surveyed:     1161

Players age 26 or higher:     529 or 45.6%

Players age 25 or younger:     632 or 54.4%

Total players who had a high school ATC:     79.7%

Total players who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     20.3%


Players age 26 or higher who had a high school ATC:     383 or 33.0%

Players age 26 or higher who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     146 or 12.6%

Players age 25 or younger who had a high school ATC:     542 or 46.7%

Players age 25 or younger who DID NOT have a high school ATC:     90 or 7.8%

The Questions

This project created some interesting questions when it comes to the impact of a certified athletic trainer on both the short-term and long-term success of an athlete.  These are some of the main questions which arose with this survey and I look forward to hearing the comments on these questions from my readers.

  1. Does the involvement of a certified athletic trainer in the care of a young athlete enhance the long-term success of that athlete?
  2. How beneficial is a certified athletic trainer in preventing injuries that may have otherwise limited the athlete’s ability to earn a scholarship and continue their athletic career to the next level?
  3. How many young athletes, who had no exposure to a certified athletic trainer, had preventable injuries which derailed their ability to reach their potential as an athlete?
  4. How much did the involvement of a certified athletic trainer positively impact the lives and careers of our present NFL players?  In other words, how much did an early exposure to an ATC educate these NFL players on topics such as nutrition, proper strengthening techniques, heat & hydration, staph infections, sports psychology, injury prevention, athletic taping, and injury management contribute to their success?

The Summary

I was not surprised to see that almost 80% of our athletes had a certified athletic trainer in high school.  I did find it interesting that 85.8% of the younger NFL players compared to only 72.4% of the older players had an ATC in high school.

Beyond the numbers and the stats, the best part to come out of this project was the words of overwhelming support, admiration, gratitude and sincere respect these professional athletes had for their high school certified athletic trainers.  They shared stories of how their high school ATC’s changed their lives for the better with their skills, knowledge and compassion.

The stories of these world-class athletes’ beginnings reinforces why so many of us decided to become a certified athletic trainer: to positively enhance the lives of athletes.   To the thousands of ATC’s who have touched the lives of these NFL players:  Mission Accomplished!

Upcoming Sports Medicine Tips!

Sports medicine logo 27I stopped by Home Depot on the way home from work last night.  This time of the year in the NFL, I have to do most of my home project shopping at night.  I ran into a friend of mine who was in obvious pain.  He had low back pain that was hurting him 24/7.  He asked for my help to decrease his lumbar pain.

I showed with him 2 quick sports medicine tips while standing in the “Electrical Supply” section of Home Depot.  The first tip was to increase his pain-free low back range of motion and the second low back technique is specifically designed to decrease his lumbar pain.  Bill’s pain quickly decreased “a ton” and he gratefully thank me.  It’s always very satisfying to me to help those in pain regain their lives back!

My friend Bill called me early the next morning enthusiastically bragging about how much better he felt.  This is the best part of my job, when I see someone healthy and happy after being so debilitated.  All it took was about 5 minutes of my time to share simple sports medicine techniques that my staff and I use each and every day with our NFL players.

“I knew you were good at what you do, Mike” he said respectfully, “but I was truly amazed how simple your techniques were and how quickly I felt 70% better”.  He went on to say: “You need to tell more people about your physical therapy tricks like I did last night to help them to get better like that” he said snapping his fingers.

I receive about 3-5 sports medicine questions a day from friends, coworkers, friends of friends,…etc via phone, in person, text or email.  I view it as an honor that so many trust my medical opinion and I love helping their efforts to be healthy again.  It takes little time yet the rewards for both sides of the problem are huge.  That’s always been my motivation to create and build

What Am I Going to Do About It?

My friend was right.  I need to expand my Personal Mission Statement: To Enhance the Health of Others by going SMALL.

Starting today, I will be Tweeting and posting on my FaceBook page short and effective sports medicine tips.  These Tweets will obviously be 140 characters or less so they will be simple and to the point to help you get back to being an athlete again ASAP.  I’m excited to share with you quick weekly #SportsMedTip that are designed in the MikeRyanFitness manner:  They are easy to understand,  simple to apply & provide fast result!

I Need Your Help

My goal is to positive influence 2,000,000 people by the end of 2013.  If you like my sports medicine posts and you think they can help others, please take a couple of minutes to share them with others.  By doing so, you’re helping me to help others.

Please keep the questions and comments coming.  The feedback from you the moms and the dads, the athletes young and old, the runners and the basketball players,…etc that help me to provide you the type of sports medicine advice to keep you in the game.

Thank you!     MDR

Paying the Price for Fitness

When someone has the opportunity to spend time in an NFL athletic training room, they usually come away saying the same thing: “I never realized how hard these guys work to stay in shape!”  They see the players’ dedication to the maintenance of injuries just to stay healthy enough to play the game of football.  Like almost every professions, there’s much more work going on behind the scenes than anyone can see from the vantage point of the fans.

Be it the multimillionaire professional athlete or the weekend warrior, my theory is simple:

There’s a price for fitness & it’s always a winning investment!

Staying on Top of the Maintenance

Professional athletes have had to work extremely hard to get to where they are.  Overcoming fierce competition, weathering critical scouting hurdles and managing injuries are common-place to simply get a shot to taste the NFL life.  For those who are talented enough to play at this leve of the sport, it’s the injuries that pose the most challenges obstacle for the gifted athletes.

I have a great deal of respect for my Jaguars’ players for their dedication, sweat and tears to get better every day.  90% of them aren’t on the injury report but that doesn’t mean they don’t have extra work to do to address physical issues to be at their best.  They come in to see our athletic trainers for assistance with sports medicine needs such as decreasing pain, increasing muscle mobility, improving core strength, increasing flexibility and accelerating their recovery.

It’s common for professional athletes to spend 3-4 hours per day “paying the price for fitness” with maintenance work!  They realize the importance of investing in their health for today and tomorrow.

How much of an effort are YOU putting into your health?

Take Home Points

You may not be signing a multi-million dollar professional contract anytime soon but if you want to significantly enhance the likelihood of being healthy and active when you’re in your 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, NOW is the time to develop a physical maintenance plan.

Here are some tips to help you invest in your body and mind for a healthy tomorrow:

Do Something – “Paralysis by Analysis” is a common problem with those looking for the “perfect” workout plan or the dream diet.  Getting out and moving while eating very little fat and sweets and drinking more water will enhance the health of all of us quickly and safely.

Lengthen What’s Tight – Stretching will improve posture, increase blood flow, decrease pain and promote the body’s natural endorphins.  Find where you’re tight and simply stretch it….that’s an overly simplified statement but I’m sure you understand the concept.

Only the Strong Survive….to Live Better – Nowhere in my medical journals can I find a statement that says: “weakening your body will help you live longer”.  We all need stronger muscles, bones, tendons and joints.  Adding exercise that improves our overall strength at any age is a good….no, a GREAT thing.

Ice What Hurts – – You know my thoughts on ice:  It’s our best friend.  Sure it hurts for a few minutes but it can help decrease real pain for hours.  Toughen up and ice the joints and soft tissue that’s limiting your lifestyle.

Ask for Help – Google “health tips” and you get 1.12 billion links.  Don’t try to figure it all out on your own.  Seek the assistance of those who can help you get healthy for the long run.  It will prove to be time and money spent wisely.

Make 2012 the year when you turned your health around by taking an active role in determining the path of your health.  It’s your body and it’s the only one you’ll get.  If you know more about your iPhone, wardrobe and FaceBook page than you do your own body, it’s time to change your priorities! MikeRyanFitness is here to help make it easy and fun for you.

Key to Olympics & NFL Training Camp Success: Rapid Recovery

I received great questions on from Carl in Texas and Maria’ in France related to how world-class athletes recovery so effectively.  Recovery is one of my favorite sports medicine topics.

I was talking to our defensive back Aaron Ross a couple of days ago at our Jaguars’ practice about his speedster wife and Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross.  He was bragging about her, for very good reason, and how she was racing against the best runners in the world almost every day for over a week.  Although the final races get all the hype, each event has preliminary heats that need to be successfully completed for an athlete to qualify for the “big events” in the Olympics.

It got me to thinking how similar that schedule is for high-level athletes in the NFL, in college and on courts around the world.  Lots of preparing, training, competing, recovering and repeating it all over again.  All it takes is to look at the hectic race swimming schedule of Olympic phenom Missy Franklin to appreciate why the recovery is so important for athletes focussed on performing at a very high level while avoiding injuries.

In an NFL training camp, the 90 players on each roster will practice twice a day for as much as 4 hours per day in extreme heat wearing full football gear, lift weights 3-4 days per week, attend 3-4 hours of classroom meetings per day, study their playbook 3 hours per night and spend 3-4 hours per day warming-up and recovering.  I have a huge amount of respect for these players and their dedication to the game of football!

Sports Medicine Applied

Bigger, faster and strong is the goal for most of us.  Elite athletes recognize that sports medicine techniques emphasize the RECOVERY to make it all happen faster.  Recovery is not as sexy as running up a mountain or lifting 300 lbs but its necessary for successful athletes at any age.

Recovery in the NFL

I’d like to show you how NFL athletes recover so quickly and effectively.  These are some of the tools commonly used by elite athletes to maximize their recovery:

  • Cryotherapy – Cold whirlpools, ice baths, ice massage and ice bags to decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Rollers – To loosen the body and extremities.
  • Elevation – Raising the legs after a workout to promote blood flow out of the legs and speed the recovery process.
  • Contrast Baths/Showers – Alternating hot & cold baths or showers to flush the body’s waste products from the muscles.
  • Compression – To maintain tissue temperature while minimizing extremity bloating and blood pooling.
  • Flexibility Exercises – To lengthen the body’s muscles and enhance one’s blood flow.
  • Manual Therapy – Soft tissue mobilization, massage, myofascial techniques and biomechanical therapy.
  • Cardio Exercise – To improve increase muscle temperature and blood flow while enhancing the ridding of the body’s waste products.

In Closing

If you only remember one thing, it’s recovery is a simple process that every athlete should implement to stay healthy.  It doesn’t require expensive equipment or time-consuming efforts.  Make it part of your routine and you’ll be feeling like a champ!

Foot Orthotics – Are They Worth the $?

I’m often asked about orthotics and the questions usually involve two basic issues:

     1.  Do orthotics really work?

     2. Why are orthotics so expensive?

I find it ironic that most people asking these questions own orthotics.  If they are wearing orthotics and they have to ask if they work, it must mean the orthotics are not doing their job.  No one seems to ask such questions about contact lenses or glasses.  If they’re wearing contacts and they question their effectiveness, the contacts probably aren’t the right lenses for that person.

Orthotics are no different.

As for the price, in many cases I think orthotics are grossly over-priced.  Sure there is tons of science and detail installed into a properly fitted pair of orthotics but there is little reason why someone needs to charged $600 for any shoe insert that isn’t covered in gold and diamonds!

I’m a fan of orthotics if fitted properly….for the right reasons and for the right price.  Approximately 40% of my athletes presently wear orthotics.  I owe a great deal of my knowledge about the lower kinetic chain and orthotics to David Tiberio, professor and friend from one of my alma maters, the University of Connecticut.  He’s a brilliant physical therapist and I appreciate him sharing his amazing insight with me over the past 25+ years.

What is an orthotic?

An orthotic is a specifically designed shoe insert which is custom-made to correct a biomechanical abnormality by correcting the poor alignment and enhancing the body’s ability to move.

How Do Orthotics Work?

As I tell my pro football players: “Orthotics bring the ground up to the foot.”  The foot is the base of support of the entire body and it starts the movement pattern when the foot is in contact with the ground during standing, walking or running.

If you were to put a smaller wheel on the front left side of your car, the car will still be driveable and get you to where you want to go.  It will be slower, it will be harder to drive, other parts of the car will be stressed more, the other tires will wear-out faster and the appearance of your car will change.  Poor foot alignment is no different.

To get that car alignment corrected without changing the tire, it can be done two ways.  1.  The car can be driven without the front left tire ever touching the road – not likely to happen or  2. The road can be brought up to the tire as if that tire was now riding on the curb.  This is a simple example of how an orthotic functions.

The Benefits of Orthotics

There are many reasons why orthotics are used.  Those reasons include leg length discrepancy, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, ankle sprains, tendonitis, arch pain, shin splints, foot pain, stress fractures, low back pain, muscle pain/injury, neuromas, bursitis, and sciatica. The influence of an orthotic, as with the base of support of any structure, can reach from the bottom to the top of that structure.

There is much discussion related to the best manner to create the orthotic and it goes well beyond the scope of this sports medicine blog posting.  Weight bearing status, casting, laser, standing, sitting, laying prone, hard orthotics, half-length, orthotic material, where to stabilize the arch,…etc. are just some of the factors related to orthotics.

The Truth About “Perfect Alignment”

The mechanics of the human body are amazing and a big reason why I love doing what I do as an athletic trainer and physical therapist in the NFL.  Every joint in the body has a three-dimensional movement pattern.  Unlike the hinges on your door that moves in only one plane of motion, the human body joints have what is called accessory movements.  These are subtle movements of a joint are necessary for full range of motions to occur.

I like to restore “proper alignment” because there is no such thing as “perfect alignment”.  This normal three-dimensional movement means that an orthotic must bring the ground up to the foot to allow for this normal movement pattern to happen naturally.  In other words, orthotics allow the body to do its job by moving naturally without pain.

I tell my players that the only time they will have bilateral symmetry on the football field is during the National Anthem.  It’s true.  Think about it: the field is never level and they are always changing direction throughout the game.

The A Factor

As for the athletes (A) themselves, one leg is usually longer than the other, injuries change joint motions over the years, flexibilities vary from side to side, the wear pattern of the shoe alters the mechanics of the foot, muscle weakness alters the running sequence and their joint laxity/arthritis changes how that athlete moves.

In other words, the athlete himself isn’t moving the same on both sides of the body.  With this being said, the theory of an orthotic is to help balance the manner in which an athlete moves on both sides of their body.

Back to Orthotics….

Now that we got all the kinesiology and body mechanics out-of-the-way, let’s get back to the orthotics themselves.  I emphasize to my athletes that a properly fitted pair of orthotics should fit like your favorite pair of blue jeans.  They “just fit right”.  No two pair of favorite jeans are the same.  The same is true for orthotics.  A well-fitted orthotic should have no hot spots, no pressure points, no uneasy feeling when they are worn and the athlete should almost forget that they are there.

Think about it this way:  if your orthotics are doing their job properly, the foot and the entire body above it is positioned to do its job.  Those previously noted movements can now happen with ease.  It’s like tucking that napkin under the leg of the wobbly table.  Now the table is both level and stable to do its job of being a table.

Getting the proper orthotic to meet your needs is the key.  The most important factor related to the orthotic is what YOU, the athlete, feel and think.  Speak up and give your medical team the necessary feedback to adjust your orthotics so they “just fit right”.  Don’t forget that it’s your feet and your money!


1st Place Sports Takes Care of Its Customers

1st Place Sports, Jacksonville’s premier running store for over 30 years, demonstrated its commitment to its customers again this week.  Long recognized as one of the top running stores in the country, 1st Place Sports asked me to assist their efforts in keeping their customers and fans healthy and, well, running.

I’ve volunteered to serve as 1st Place Sports’ Sports Medicine Advisor. The exciting opportunities that this role provides are numerous.  This includes being a sports medicine resource to help prevent running injuries while sharing my expertise to enhance an athlete’s ability to recovery from a chronic overuse injury in record time.

“We are very excited to have Mike Ryan as a resource to help our customers, fans, family and friends to stay healthy,” says Doug Alred, Owner of 1st Place Sports.  “Running injuries are a real problem and no one is better qualified than Mike to keep us all injury-free.”

This new partnership with MRF & 1st Place Sports is a first of its kind in sports medicine and the ability to help some many fellow-runners is exciting to me.

The new Mike Ryan’s Sports Medicine Corner will provide elite sports medicine advice normally reserved for professional athletes to help runners, young and old, to stay healthy and active.  As a longtime runner and triathlete, I’ve developed many safe techniques and programs which has allowed me to competing at a very high level while avoiding significant injuries.  Although running injuries are common, they don’t necessarily need to keep you on the sidelines.  My 23+ years as a registered physical therapist and certified athletic trainer in the NFL have helped me develop a sports medicine approach to keep athletes in the game in a safe and timely manner.  Keeping 55+ professional world-class athletes ranging from 170 to 345 pounds healthy is no easy task!

“Plagued by a very painful case of plantar fasciitis a week before this year’s Boston Marathon, I asked Mike Ryan for help.  Not only was he more than happy to help me immediately, he provided me with expert insight into the injury that proved to be priceless as I struggled to understand why my own treatments were not working,” Colleen Clarson explained appreciatively.  “Completely over the phone and online, Mike taught me what I needed to do for myself and gave me a precise and aggressive rehab program through his website,, that reduced my pain by 70% in 1 week!  I had a great race in Boston and I couldn’t have done it with without Mike’s help. Mike has a tremendous first-hand understanding of how to help runners with the myriad of injuries we commonly face. Thank you Mike!”

Providing timely articles and blog posts through, the Sports Medicine Corner on 1st Place Sports homepage will be an easy way to help readers to prevent, treat and rehabilitate common running injuries.  Addressing a common complaint by runners that modern orthopedic care often fails to appreciate the needs of the “mature” runners, the Sports Medicine Corner will help keep runners “in the game”.

I applaud Doug and Jane Alred and the courteous staff managing their four (4) Jacksonville stores.  1st Place Sports has always put their customers first.   By being one of the first running stores in the country to provide free sports medicine advice on their website, they continue to demonstrate why they are the industry’s leader in true customer service!