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BFR and Rehabilitation; The ‘Human First’ Advantages on the Body and Mind

Sarah Payne, footballer and Strength and Conditioning Coach, shares how BFR and the Hytro wearables have transformed her ACL rehab journey, offering both mental and physical benefits that align with her commitment to the ‘human first’ approach.

Sarah Payne strapping into Hytro BFR Performance Shorts whilst sitting down

The Bigger Picture

If you’ve experienced an injury, then you’ll know that doing whatever you can to get back to playing your sport is your priority for the rehab process. Often, we focus on the physical recovery without considering the mental challenge that it provokes and how eventually, confidently returning to your sport depends on how much you trust your mind AND body. This requires a holistic process. Whilst studying for my MA in Music Therapy, I suffered from ankle injuries, so learning about trauma and mental health prompted me to explore the body-mind connection and its relevancy to successful rehab more so than perhaps your average injured player.

 

The awareness I gained was substantial and led to implementing more proactive habits in my training, fitness, and general life balance in the years to come. The importance of embedding Strength and Conditioning as a lifestyle alongside my football became evident, and I have continued to dedicate thousands of hours of hard work, both on and off the football pitch. Seven years of dedication have now led me to pursue formal training as a Level 4 Strength and Conditioning Coach.

 

The Silver Lining 

So why is this relevant? This season I signed for my hometown team, Stevenage, and was raring to go, feeling in great shape and excited for the season ahead.  However, in my second game in September, I experienced the dreaded ACL (and meniscus tear) that is becoming increasingly common in women’s football (a whole other topic I’d love to cover). Amidst the uncertainty of surgery and treatment, I rediscovered Hytro, a company I had encountered at the UKSCA annual conference in 2022. Out of an awful moment, comes a new opportunity.

 

I had conversations that would have otherwise not been possible, and I am forever thankful to Dr Warren Bradley, Dan Howells, and the wider team for their support. So why has Hytro been so transformative for my prehab, rehab, and mindset? Simply, a game changer.

 

Sarah Payne playing football for Stevenage FC

Credit: Edward Payne Photography

 

Control the Controllable

In my experience, the most effective way of managing the rehab process is through awareness, acceptance, empowerment, and controlling the controllable, alongside a robust support network. The Hytro BFR Performance Shorts emerged as an integral tool in my holistic rehab process.

The Hytro shorts provide a controllable means to enhance training effects with lighter loads and so reducing stress on joints. After being introduced to the protocols of BFR by Dan Howells, I confidently independently applied both the active and passive approach for 6 of the 12 weeks of prehab at home or in the gym. This autonomy offered flexibility, enabling me to adapt it to my needs and schedule, rather than going into clinic to use BFR under supervision.

This enabled me to target muscle activation without imposing heavy loads and alleviated concerns about aggravating my injury in a way that suited my needs best. I used them almost daily and integrated them into my sessions whether through ‘active’ protocol with movements like squats and cycling, or ‘passive’ use for recovery where I just chilled, usually watching Netflix with a cup of tea!

 

Sarah Payne in Hytro BFR Performance Shorts whilst performing goblet squats

 

Implementing an intervention that I had complete control over and knowing it was giving me a physical advantage whilst I prepared for surgery, was truly a game changer. This gave me a crucial mental boost and helped keep feelings of frustration and stagnation at bay. I went into my surgery on 5th December feeling really good, I had done everything possible to maintain quad strength to benefit my outcome post-op. This reduced my anxiety around the procedure – I had done as much as I could over 12 weeks to prepare, and now it was time to trust the professionals to fix my knee.

 

Mindset

Surgery was successful and marked the beginning of the healing journey, where mindset gets truly tested due to the limitations of healing from knee surgery. Speaking with other players who had experienced this injury, highlighted that everyone progresses at different rates and there is not much certainty, except for working on getting your full extension!

BFR has enabled me to maintain a sense of control and progress. It’s also been great to use alongside other passive interventions such as red-light therapy and e-stim.

 

S Payne in Hytro BFR Performance Shorts with light therapy

 

Being conditioned to the use of BFR pre-surgery, I could use my shorts from day 4 in a passive capacity, progressing to more locomotion and flexion/extension in weeks 3-4.  Being able to feel like you’re progressing when you’re still limited in so many ways has been extremely empowering and has helped me keep a positive mindset. Of course, there have been down days, but BFR has helped to manage these, as I had something I could do for myself.

 

 Making Progress

Playing again is a long way off, but the lengthy rehab offers me an opportunity to learn more about my body and be proactive with both my recovery and injury reduction. BFR offers one of the biggest benefits, helping me to stay mentally connected to a training routine. Routine provides structure, structure provides predictability and predictability makes discipline easier to maintain and reduces anxiety and stress.

 

BFR means I can engage in purposeful exercises even when I can’t even use a Wattbike or go to the gym. I can have a tangible sense of progress even when I can’t walk. I can boost my confidence and motivation even when I feel I’m not making progress or that time is going so slowly.

 

It’s been really motivating to experience the adaptations like improvements in muscle strength and size from using BFR. My surgeon commented, “You probably won’t lose much quad size due to the hard work you’ve put in pre-op.”

Sarah Payne in Hytro BFR Performance Shorts

 

Holistic Toolbox Essential

It is no secret that experiencing an injury can be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Every injury will have physical rehab challenges that are addressed in the clinic, gym, or training facility with a specialist. But we are our own specialists when it comes to our body-mind connection. Injuries are holistic, and so the healing and recovery must be too. We are not just our injuries and with interventions like Hytro, progress is always possible on the journey back to peak performance.

 

The Hytro BFR Performance Shorts have been a crucial resource in my box of holistic rehab tools and approaches, and I look forward to using them in the rest of my rehab, and beyond when I return to play!

 

Get in touch with Sarah to talk Hytro, rehab, or more on her ‘human first’ philosophy, at @thehumanfirstmethod on Instagram or LinkedIn.

 

Read how Hytro BFR is used in football, learn more about BFR for rehabilitation or shop the Women’s Hytro BFR Performance Shorts.

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