The Sunday, April 10, edition of Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) will examine the use in pro sports of blood flow restriction training (BFR), a technique that reduces blood flow while exercising targeted muscles without overloading the injured area.
After Dwight Howard struggled with a knee injury last season, the Houston Rockets’ team doctor approached him with the radical idea of using a tourniquet to help him regain strength. ESPN injury analyst and physical therapist Stephania Bell, who interviewed Howard for the OTL piece, spoke with Front Row.
What was it about this technique that you found most interesting?
For anyone who exercises on a regular basis, this concept, at first blush, defies intuitive logic. Imagine someone saying, “We’re going to limit the blood flow to your leg by inflating this tourniquet, then we’re going to ask you to exercise while wearing it. You’ll be lifting a very light weight but you will still make strength gains like you would if you were lifting heavy.” And yet, the basic science literature supports it. I had to learn more.
How did you come across this as an idea for an OTL piece?
When SportsCenter was scouting locations for our Veterans Day coverage in 2014, the producers traveled to the Center for the Intrepid and saw BFR training taking place. They asked me to look into it a bit more and I ended up traveling to San Antonio to research it and to try the tourniquet training myself.
I learned how dramatically it had impacted many of the wounded soldiers, literally changing the rate of amputations and helping members of the elite Special Forces return to action. These soldiers are truly elite athletes so it only made sense professional athletes would also benefit. Now that we’re seeing the rise of BFR training in the sports world, it made sense to bring the story to OTL.
What do you think viewers will find most interesting about this story?
This topic is unfamiliar to most people and it’s natural to have questions, starting with what exactly Blood Flow Restriction training is and its safety. Dwight Howard’s willingness to let us sit in on his actual BFR training session gives the viewer unprecedented access to observe and therefore better understand it. The experts we interviewed address the safety concerns. Viewers have an opportunity to see what some say may be one of the biggest developments in the rehab and sports performance world for years to come.
If the video below does not play on your device, click here.