Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2016

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EVERY year, top agents send their top athletes to Villani to prepare them for the NFL Combine, where a fraction of a second in the 40-yard dash can cause a player's position in the draft to skyrocket or plummet. Villani is known as the "speed guru" to many in the NFL, and it's his job to help these elite college athletes perform at a higher level than they ever have before. "Most of these guys have trained their whole lives in how to be football players," says XPE's lead massage therapist and strength trainer Don Stanley. "It's a very different type of training getting ready for the Combine." "We call it running on the razor's edge," Villani says. "You're running the fastest you've ever run in your life. Your muscles are working more powerfully than they ever have and usually at a heavier body weight than you've ever been in your life. So you're on that razor's edge, where you're trying to run faster than you ever have, without pulling a muscle." Kevin Christie, a chiropractic physician and certified strength and conditioning specialist, is XPE's sports chiropractor. He says, "The reality of Combine training is that you're pushing the envelope with football players, basically trying to turn them into track stars, and we have to do it in a short period of time." Soft-tissue injuries—pulled hamstrings and the like—are common occurrences at this level of training. A similar problem faced massage therapist Kousaleos in 2011, when he was asked to develop a sports bodywork therapy team to work with the Florida State University (FSU) football team. In crafting a strategy, Kousaleos, a former student of sports massage legend Benny Vaughn, drew on the experience he gained as general manager of the British Olympic Association's sports massage team during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and as the co-director of the Health Services International sports massage team at the 2004 games in Athens. "During the 1996 games, we designed a program of modified myofascial therapy for the athletes who were in intensive training," Kousaleos says. "We made it slightly lighter, but still comfortably deep, to work with the athletes during their Olympic competitions, and the British team responded to it incredibly well." Using the protocols he developed during those Olympic games, Kousaleos was able to significantly lower the soft- tissue injury rate among football athletes at FSU. 1 Jake Pfeil, MS, LAT, ATC, the associate director of sports medicine and head football athletic trainer at FSU, says, "One of the secrets to Florida State's successful 2012 football season was the implementation of massage therapy for all players." That year marked FSU's first conference title since 2005. In 2013, with Kousaleos's bodywork program in full swing, FSU's football team won the national championship while enjoying something it had never experienced before: no season-ending injuries for any of their starters. MEETING OF THE MINDS The partnership between Villani's XPE Sports Academy and Kousaleos's CORE Institute began with an introduction by Stanley, a massage therapist 54 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 6 In addition to massage, XPE's trainers incorporate frequent yoga sessions to improve athletes' flexibility and mobility. Photos by Patty Kousaleos. who worked with Kousaleos two decades ago during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Largely as a result of the experience he gained working with Kousaleos, Stanley designed his subsequent career around structural integration and myofascial therapy for athletes. He also became a certified strength and conditioning coach and physical trainer, reaching an elite level in the field and working with some of the world's best athletes over his 20-year career. Stanley came to work with Villani at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Florida, as a trainer and therapist five years ago. Kousaleos says, "Don Stanley brought Tony Villani and me together this past June, and said, 'You two are my mentors. Can we put something together where we work as a team and build a camp, much like we did for the British team at the Olympics? But this time, we'll do it during the NFL Combine training.'"

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