ARPwave News

by Marina Brown, Special to the Democrat:

The Olympics is over, but images of athletes performing at their peak remain indelible in our minds - especially when one of those Olympians is from Tallahassee. Walter Dix, bronze-medal winner in both the 100- and 200-meter Olympic sprints, seems to vaporize on the track. His muscles, tendons and nerves propel him down the curving track with sheer power.

From the starting block to, seconds later, the finish line, Dix materializes arms up and smiling.

But powerful muscles hitting the hard track can create potentially dangerous forces. And that is how the 23-year-old Dix severely injured his hamstring just months before the Olympic trials.

Terry Long, the Olympian's exclusive personal trainer and head track coach for FSU men and women from 1985-2003, said that Dix had been injured for most of the spring season.

"We'd pretty much tried all the traditional ways of healing-up a hamstring injury," he said. "We'd used ice, ice and heat, stretching, intermittent electric stimulation . . . nothing worked, and finally we told him to just stop running for six weeks . . . the injury had become chronic by this time."

Long says that the decision was made that their star sprinter would miss the NCAA Regional meets because his injury had made him unable to qualify through earlier races. Instead, he'd be shelved, try to recover and maybe be ready for a try at an Olympic spot. The odds weren't promising.

But, enter Tim Russell from Triumph Health and Fitness at Gold's Gym, and his partner, chiropractor Dr. Cal Melton.

Russell, 30 and from Wales, looks every inch his former profession -; rugby player with his shaved head, muscular body, and the special intensity seen in men who play competitive sports at a high level.

"I truly believed we could get Walt in shape to compete, not only for the Olympics, but the NCAA Regionals as well . . . and Walt was willing to work like the devil for it," he said.

What Russell and Dix put their faith and efforts into was a bread-box-sized machine called the ARP -; Accelerated Recovery Performance - and a careful chiropractic assessment of Dix's nervous system and kinetic performance.

The first step was for Melton to determined whether there were "structural, chemical, or neurological blocks to Walt's performance," said Russell.

"Such an assessment may involve X-rays or blood work, but very likely a chiropractic adjustment. We refer to it as applied kinesiology."

Russell said the idea is to make sure that "neurons are adequately able to communicate with muscles."

Next, the team addresses the inflammation that comes from a chronic injury. Russell said that the ARP machine can "find the inflammation," which "often is not where the patient is feeling the pain."

Through 3-by-5-inch rubber pads strategically positioned on the muscles, increasing levels of direct, rather than intermittent, current are applied while the patient performs the movements that create pain.

Russell said this type of current is "harmonious with the body's own muscular contractions."

The final stage of the regimen is strength training.

"Up to 80 percent of the . . . (contracting) strength of a muscle can be lost with an injury," said Russell. Regaining that strength and keeping the muscles and tendons flexible and toned will enable them to absorb the force that comes with athletic performance, he added.

So, was it worth the discomfort and commitment for Dix?

"All I can say is that after two treatments a day for four days, he was pain-free. Six more treatments, and he ran full out at the NCAA trials. At the NCAA finals, Walt came in fourth in the 100 meters and won the 200 meters. In the Olympic trials a few weeks later, he got a second in the 100-meter race."

Even Russell sounds impressed.

"Walt thinks so much of the ARP that he's bought his own machine and took it to Beijing."

Dix isn't the only one who's a believer. Michael Ray Garvin, track whiz and quarterback at FSU, says he's bought a machine, and like Dix, uses it before and after workouts.

"I couldn't run the 200 meters without pain, even on meds," said Garvin. After trying Dix's ARP, he says, he ran his fastest 200 of the season.

Russell acknowledges the ARP machine sounds pretty magical. But he points to research being done at the University of Hawaii and the University of Milan that have shown accelerated healing of ligament tears and hamstring injuries with the device.

Others aren't so sure it's not just the placebo effect in action.

Chad Gray, physical therapist at the Center for Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, who hasn't treated Dix, said that electrical stimulation and ultra-sound wave therapies have been used for years to treat injured muscles.

"However many professional journals have published recent studies showing no scientific evidence for the benefit of these therapies. There may be a soothing effect on a symptom, but research-backed evidence just doesn't support a decrease in healing time with electrical stimulation," he said.

"I guess the proof is in the pudding," smiled Russell. And a couple of bronze medals around Dix's neck seem good enough for this trainer and his Olympian patient.