Sep 13, 2018
Many the Miles

For the football team at the United States Naval Academy, the 2018-19 season started with a flight from Maryland to Hawaii. Thirteen games later, it will end with a road trip to Philadelphia. Between, the Midshipmen will log 26,496 miles on the road — the most miles of any mainland program in the U.S., and more than five times as many as rival University of Memphis, which is picked to win Navy’s division in the American Athletic Conference.

But for Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo, making the miles an excuse is not an option.

“If we lose, nobody cares,” Niumatalolo told the The Washington Post in a recent article. “They won’t say, ‘Oh, poor guys, they have to travel so far.’ I’ve come to realize you just have to find a way.”

And finding a way is exactly what the team’s sports medicine and strength and conditioning staffs have been doing. They’ve been working on creative approaches to keeping players healthy throughout the grueling travel.

For instance, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Football Bryan Fitzpatrick, CSCS, USAW, started making adjustments during the offseason, implementing a tougher program with more lifting than usual.

“We want [the players] to make gains throughout the season so we can finish. That was the big emphasis this offseason,” he said.

However, Fitzpatrick added that the extra lifting is a balancing act.

“It’s about not pushing them too far past the breaking point, not pushing them to the level where they can’t play football,” he said. “Keep them healthy — that’s the first and most important part.”

Along with adjustments to strength and conditioning, the sports medicine staff has created “recovery packs,” an innovation designed to help players survive the miles spent on planes. Handed out as players board for road trips, the packs contain circulation-enhancing compression socks — think grandma’s compression socks

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