by Gary Mihoces:
'Bio-electrical Current' device is popular .
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, sidelined for three NFL games in October by a hamstring injury, says his prevention strategy includes a plug-in device.
"Every morning, I use my ARP machine to loosen my legs up," says Fitzgerald.
The Accelerated Recovery Performance [ARP] trainer, made by a Minnesota company of the same name, is a box-like unit with dials and a timer. Wires are attached to pads placed on the body to deliver what the company says is a "unique bio-electrical current" designed to "reduce injuries and keep athletes fresh."
"It helps loosen my hamstrings, my groin, my back, my quadriceps," Fitzgerald says. "I wasn't using it as much as I should have early in the season, but it's helped me out a lot."
Denis Thompson, an exercise physiologist, says the ARP trainer converts alternating current (AC) from the wall to direct current (DC) in an electrical waveform "harmonious" with the human body.
He says it differs from other electrical stimulation therapy in that it relaxes and elongates muscles instead of shortening them.
"Anything foreign coming into your body, your muscles instantly contract to protect you. This does not send that signal. It is identical to what the body is, so therefore it doesn't send those alarm bells," says Thompson.
He says the devices have been available for three years and that about 290 NFL players have them under agreements for five years. He says pros in other sports use them: about 100 in the NBA, 45-50 in Major League Baseball and about 60 in the NHL.
Thompson says players typically use the devices on their own after hearing about it from other players.
He says some pro teams have them: the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers.
He says his firm has studies in the works to document the effectiveness of the device and that he plans more presentations to pro teams.
"You can argue with how you get the results. You cannot argue with the results," says Thompson.
Thompson says his device also can be used to speed up recovery from injuries.
Tanya Hagen, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Center for Sports Medicine, says the "theory" behind electrical stimulation in general is that it speeds recovery.
"There is really very little evidence for most modalities that we use to stimulate healing," she says. "That doesn't mean it doesn't work. It is just that it is very difficult to prove in the lab."
Hagen adds. "There is some experimental evidence x that repair of an injury can actually be affected by externally providing an electrical field."
She hasn't heard of the ARP machine.
"I'm not familiar with the device," she says. "But obviously anything that closely mimics physiologic potentials (the body's electrical system) is probably going to be more appropriate, probably stimulate healing more adequately and then also pose less risk for injury."