Rehab Goes Virtual

July 11, 2017

The athletic training staff for the University of Alabama football team has a new tool in their rehab arsenal—virtual reality. The 3-D games that are available through virtual reality are now changing how players work on rehab exercises.

“What we’ve been doing as a medical staff is trying to figure out a way that we can take those virtual reality games and incorporate different rehab exercises into those games that focus on balance, vision, and reaction time,” Jeff Allen, MS, ATC, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer, told WBRC-FOX 6 News in Birmingham, Ala.

 

Getting started with virtual reality took months. After getting the idea, the medical staff spent time with testing before launching its virtual reality rehab.

“One thing that drew us to virtual reality was Coach [Nick] Saban’s attitude, wanting to be on the cutting edge in everything we do in every area,” said Allen. “So we were thinking, ‘What can we do differently to change the game a little bit in relation to rehab?’”

So far, the virtual reality technology is still new to the Alabama football staff, but already they believe they are ahead of the game when it comes to rehab.

“We started using it about two or three weeks ago,” said Allen. “There are a lot of schools that are using virtual reality for performance training, but I don’t know of any other schools that are using it in rehab.”

One of its advantages seems to be an added layer of interest from the student-athletes.

“This allows us to take away their focus on whatever body part they’ve injured or are rehabbing and [turn] it into something else to focus on, so when we transition to the game, they can focus on what they have to do as a football player,” said Jeremy Gsell, MA, LAT, ATC, Assistant Athletic Trainer and Director of Football Rehabilitation.

Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton is one of the first members of the Tide to use 3-D games in his rehab. Hamilton tore his ACL in the 2016 Southeastern Conference Championship game and is expected to return to play in the fall.

“It’s definitely helping me,” said Hamilton. “I mean, like I said, trusting it is everything, and this is one thing that’s been implemented that’s helped me build trust back in my leg again.”

 
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