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St. Charles Sports Therapists Are First to Bring Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training to Suffolk County Athletes

September 27, 2019

Sports therapists at St. Charles are the first in Suffolk certified to administer Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training, (PBFR) a leading-edge therapeutic approach that could mean a shorter recovery period and faster return to play for athletes who undergo rehabilitation following an injury or surgery.

“We are always working to provide athletes the most advanced rehabilitation techniques so that they are healed and back to play as quickly as possible without any further risk. Introducing PBPR to our athletes is just one more way we can accomplish that goal,’ said John Ebinger PT, DPT, a Sports Therapy Clinical Coordinator at St. Charles who is certified in PBFR by Owens Recovery Science.

During PBFR, athletes perform low-load exercises, like walking or lifting an arm, while wearing the only FDA-listed Class 1 device--a tourniquet cuff--on their effected limb. The St. Charles therapists set the cuff to greatly reduce the blood flow to the injured muscle and occlude blood flowing away from that muscle.

“If I take a high level athlete, put the cuff on them, and make them do some low-level activity, like peddling a bike with no resistance, they will have a significant uptick in heart rate and start sweating. Because no blood is returning to the heart, their heart works harder, just like it would in High Intensity Training (HIIT),’ explained Ebinger. “Replicating HIIT during rehabilitation may shorten return to play.”

PBFR also prompts cellular activity which is believed to benefit the injured muscle. Studies show that PBFR causes muscular lactate to rise, which in turn releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Insulin Growth Factor 1. This is known as a hormonal cascade and it is partially responsible for increasing the muscle’s strength and volume. The technique may also reduce the impact of the body’s natural scarring mechanism and decrease muscle atrophy, which can occur when an athlete fails to use a muscle, or uses a muscle significantly less, following surgery or injury.

“In addition to the physiological changes occurring during PBFR, studies show that PBRF participants report less pain immediately following rehabilitative exercises, a key factor in keeping them motivated during sessions,” explains Keith Levinson, PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, CSCS, a Sports Therapy Clinical Coordinator who, like Ebinger, is certified to administer PBFR.

Despite such promising results, St. Charles Sports Therapists caution that PBFR is not appropriate for every athlete, nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution. “There is a screening process to be eligible for this kind of therapy and the amount of blood flow restriction needed for each patient varies based on the patient’s blood pressure, limb circumference, limb density, cuff width and cuff location,” said Levinson.

At this time St. Charles employs PBFR for rehabilitation. However, Ebinger and Levinson are optimistic about its ability to maximize recovery and performance in athletes who have no injuries. Learn more about applications of PBFR for athletes with no injuries.

For more information, call (631) 474-6797.