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Florida using new blood-flow restriction therapy to help athletes recover from injury

Being the first school in the country to try something new could have its advantages.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida is the first school in the nation to begin using blood-flow restriction (BFR) to help athletes recover from injury, according to a Scott Carter piece at GatorZone describing the practice, and how Florida came to use it.

Carter tells the story in the context of Florida trainer Paul Silvestri using it to help a player recuperate from a leg injury. While Carter avoids naming the athlete in the written piece, the video accompaniment makes clear that the player in question is Keanu Neal, held out of recent practices thanks to a leg injury sustained in last Friday's second scrimmage.

In the video, Neal exercises on a training table, flexing his calf into the air to lift a weight wrapped around his ankle, while his upper thigh is constricted by a "personalized tourniquet system."

As Carter tells it, at the NFL Combine this spring, a Florida team physician met with Johnny Owens, who serves as Chief of Human Performance Optimization at the Center for the Intrepid, a San Antonio-based rehabilitation clinic for service personnel who served in military action in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade and became amputees and burn victims over the course of their service. Owens is now also the head and face of Owens Recovery Science, which appears to exist to proselytize for (and profit off of) the spread of BFR, and he apparently persuaded that doctor of its merits to the extent that Florida brought him to Gainesville to explain the procedure to the Gators' training staff (and likely certify them in the practice).

ESPN's Hannah Storm spotlighted Owens and BFR last fall during a trip to the Center for the Intrepid, calling the procedure "revolutionary." And Owens counts "12 NBA and NFL teams" as clients, Carter writes; most notable among them is the Houston Texans, who became the first NFL team to employ the procedure back in February, and have apparently used it extensively to help rehabilitiate Jadeveon Clowney, who had multiple knee surgeries in 2014.

I am not a doctor. I have read no research on BFR. And so I'm skeptical about the value of the procedures without knowing more of the science.

But the adoption of the procedure in big-time sports seems to be proceeding at a staggering rate, given that Owens seems to only have begun marketing it to the public last fall. It probably doesn't hurt, no pun intended, for Florida to be at the vanguard of such a seemingly promising treatment.