Laser used to help with healing

Amadeus Smith

Kyle Rutledge, athletic training graduate assistant, demonstrates the use of a heating laser on Dan Durante, a junior physical education major. .who tore his ACL during training camp. Durante is a tight end on the Kent State football team. DAVID ANTHONY

Credit: Jason Hall

Various cells race toward a knee injury ready to eat. They aren’t necessarily hungry, but they are ready to chomp on scar tissue like Pac-Man.

Students in the School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport work with deep-heating lasers that help the body heal.

The laser itself doesn’t heal wounds through heat. Assistant Athletic Director John Faulstick said that a common misconception about athletic training is that the equipment heals the body, but they actually assist the body to heal itself.

Kim Peer, athletic training education program coordinator, said the heat from the laser increases blood flow. The blood flow carries cells to an injury to consume the material left from scar tissue that can suffocate cells.

“The cells do a Pac-Man to the cellular soup and eat it,” Peer said.

The machine is still relatively new. It arrived in late July and is still going through testing. Faulstick said, for him, it is only an additional step in the recovery process.

Another new piece of equipment students in the school have been using is a Biodex machine. Faulstick said there has been a form of isokinetic equipment like the Biodex machine for about 30 years.

The machine measures things such as strength and endurance at a functional speed.

“It’s like with pitching,” Peer said. “When you’re training with a therapy band, you move at a slow speed. You don’t throw at a slow speed.”

Peer added that the machine measures and compares different muscle groups such as external and internal rotators. This helps pinpoint the specific injury affecting pitching.

The machine maintains a stable amount of resistance while athletes train. Faulstick said the machine accommodates for resistance that is usually lost in standard weight training.

Students can also print the strength and endurance information.

“The printed information motivates athletes to work hard to improve before their next tests in about four or six weeks,” Peer said.

Graduate students use more traditional equipment in their field work as well. Graduate assistant Sonia Wehrlin works with an ultrasound and E-Stim at Southeast High School in Ravenna.

Both machines are used to reduce swelling and manage pain. The E-Stim unit uses four electrodes and a cross wire to reduce swelling.

“With a knee injury, we’ll place the four pads around the knee and send an electric current over the knee,” Wehrlin said. “The current pulses to pump the swelling out.”

Wehrlin places one pad over and one pad under the knee to treat pain. She adjusts the intensity of the current depending on the pain.

She often uses a Russian current to treat pain and build muscle. These currents can reach an intensity level that allows them to move an unaligned spine back into place.

“It can be painful because of how strong it is,” she said.

The ultrasound can also reduce swelling and pain, and it can determine if a bone is broken. The machine sends sound waves into the body, and the waves can shake the broken bones. Wehrlin said that the broken bones will hit each other, causing a good amount of pain for the patient.

“The athlete will usually jump. It’s pretty painful,” she said.

The machines can also be used together. Athletic trainers can use the E-Stim for about 15 minutes and follow it with five minutes of ultrasound. She said one could also apply a pad near an injury while moving the ultrasound head over it. The machines don’t affect each other when the are used at the same time.

Students learn more about the equipment than just how to operate it. Before operating the equipment, students take courses as undergraduates to understand the functions of the equipment.

“I think it’s necessary to learn the background of the equipment so you don’t hurt the athlete,” Wehrlin said.

Contact School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport reporter Amadeus Smith at [email protected].