Travel Plan

January 30, 2018

Working around a travel schedule to accommodate athletes’ rest and recovery is a challenge, especially for pro teams that are constantly on the go. To adapt, many teams in the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL have developed systems to make the best of being on the road.

The Daily Mail reports that along with getting enough rest, dealing with injuries on the road is a priority. This is especially true while flying, which can add a layer of risk. 

“If [players] have an injury, they should expect increased swelling along with increased pain with air travel,” Alejandro Gonzalez Della Valle, MD, Surgeon at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, said. “With swelling, there is more tension in the muscular components of the extremities, but if there is an associated injury, the patient will be more aware of it.”

Along with swelling, athletes are at an elevated risk of developing blood clots on flights. This happens because the veins relax and more blood flows through them.

Using compression garments can help mitigate this risk. This is one thing that helps New York Rangers All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“The long flights, you wear compression pants, shirts,” Lundqvist said. “I know when we’re on the long flights I drink more water … Other than that, I eat the same and sleep the same.”

Teams may also turn to innovative advances to get the most out of traveling. As an example, Nike and Reebok have helped tech companies with developing new-age cabin configurations for airplanes.

The offerings include seat sensors to detect physiological changes—including oxygen saturation with a pulse oximeter—a “smart toilet” to measure hydration levels, and a biomedical couch to allow athletes to undergo a cryotherapy or lymphatic drainage session. Although teams haven’t adopted these innovations yet, many have taken steps to book charter flights with business class seating to provide athletes with maximum comfort.

“The planes are made for our size, and it’s pretty comfortable to travel like that,” said Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3-inch power forward/center for the New York Knicks.

To help athletes get enough rest while on the road, many teams have started adding a day on their travel schedules. Rather than flying out right after a game, they will go back to the hotel and spend the night to get more quality sleep. Many squads follow a similar practice when traveling to a new time zone.

“We go out two days early, so we’re always ready to go by the time the game comes,” New York Rangers left winger J.T. Miller said. “I think that’s important because the first day you’re out there it’s like five or six in the morning [when you arrive]. You’re just not really ready to roll yet. When we got out a day early, we get used to it and adapt.”

The team equipment managers also help out. In the past, when the Vancouver Canucks were on the road, the equipment staff for the home team would help the visitors pack so they could get out of the arena more quickly. At home, the Canucks staff returned the favor.

“After the [final] whistle went on a game, within an hour, they had gone through changes, press interviews, security, gone to the bus, and it was wheels off on the plane,” said Pat Byrne, MSc, a sleep and fatigue expert who used to consult with the Canucks.

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