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Doctor Pointing At Acupoints On Human Model

New Study to Help Treat Pain in Football Players

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Keeping professional football players healthy and in the game is an area of key focus for coaches and their trainers. But in the physically demanding game of football, injuries are very common.

To help gather data on one particular method to treat physical injuries, known as “dry needling,” the research team at the Ochsner Sports Medicine Institute completed and presented a study to the National Football League and its Physician Society at their Annual Scientific Meeting, which is held in conjunction with the NFL National Scouting Combine and attended by medical personnel from all NFL teams.

The study—“Survey of Dry Needling Practices in the National Football League”—was lead by Deryk Jones, MD, head orthopedist for the New Orleans Saints.

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is similar to acupuncture, but instead of inserting the needles into body meridians or energy channels in the body, needles are inserted into pressure trigger points in muscles. Dry needling can help to relieve pain, which is a common complaint from NFL football players, and could be a possible treatment option.

Goal of the Research Study

During the course of the study, the team, which also includes Misty Suri, MD and Scott Montgomery, MD, could find no published literature providing an overview of the use and occurrence of dry needling in the NFL. So they developed an anonymous online survey and asked medical personnel (team physicians, chiropractors, athletic trainers and physical therapists) from all NFL teams to participate. The goal of the survey study was to provide baseline documentation for future studies about the effectiveness of dry needling.

"Dry needling has been effective in resolving contraction or tightening in leg muscles,” Dr. Jones said. “Further research is required to determine whether this prevents problems such as muscle strains or tears.”

Research Study Findings

One of the study’s findings is that state law seems to play a big part of whether or not teams use dry needling. Some states do not allow certain personnel to break the skin. In Louisiana, the New Orleans Saints’ physical therapist is trained in dry needling and performs it on Saints players, but the law requires a doctor to be present during the procedure.

"Dry needling has shown some preliminary effectiveness in speeding up the recovery from minor muscle injuries in the NFL players that I have treated through the New Orleans Saints organization,” Dr. Jones commented. “More detailed evaluations are being undertaken to determine whether these improvements are statistically significant."