A secret experiment has allowed Brisbane Broncos players to approach their games with fresher legs, as the club strives to become Australia’s most scientifically advanced football team.
The NRL title aspirants worked with University of Queensland School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences researchers, led by Vince Kelly, to test the effects of an external counter pulsation (ECP) device on recovery.
The ECP device, which looks like a recovery bed with pressure cuffs that are placed around the calves, thighs and buttocks, has previously been used to treat cardiac patients via compression of the lower extremities.
“To our knowledge the Broncos are one of the only sporting teams in the world to have trialled this,” Mr Kelly said.
“Their squad has used the ECP device as a form of recovery in a variety of settings and the results have been encouraging.
“Perceptions of player soreness and wellbeing were significantly better over a four-week period, particularly for the upper body, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.
“In another study, power output and stress hormone levels were improved when players used ECP the same day as a high-intensity conditioning session.”
A separate UQ research team is also trialling ECP as a way of assisting diabetes II sufferers who are receiving insufficient exercise.
The Broncos have been using the method since last year, but kept their experimentation under wraps as they looked to gain an advantage over their NRL opponents.
“It produced favourable outcomes when compared to using ice baths in isolation as a means of recovery,” Mr Kelly said.
“There has been so much concentration in previous decades around training to get faster or stronger or fitter, that recovery has perhaps been overlooked to an extent.
“The NRL is extremely demanding on the human body and games are often decided in the final minutes, so a team which recovers better than their opponents could find the winning edge.
“The next step from here will be individualising recovery, by combining specific ECP recommendations with other forms of recovery.”
The Broncos are also set to focus their sights on better understanding the hormonal indicators of recovery, and have research projects underway regarding sleep recovery and performance nutrition.