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Insights from the NFL: Optimising Performance through Individualisation and Innovation

The NFL sets the stage for the pinnacle of athletic performance, requiring players and coaches to continuously refine their training and recovery strategies for the demanding in-season. In our discussion, we talked with Casey Toohill, formerly of the Washington Commanders and now a Defensive End for the Buffalo Bills, alongside Ryan Vermilion Jr., an Assistant Strength and Athletic Performance Coach with the Washington Commanders. Together, they provided invaluable insights into the intricate world of NFL performance optimisation.

Casey Toohill signing for Buffalo Bills

There is an evolving landscape of athlete engagement, with a growing trend towards curiosity and inquiry among players. Ryan shared: “Everybody wants to know why… everyone’s more in tune with their body,”. This shift reflects a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between training methodologies and on-field performance and is certainly the approach Casey takes toward his own development. 


“At our level, you’re doing so much volume, especially in season, that you kind of just feel not great, like the whole time,” the athlete mused. This sentiment encapsulates the paradox of elite training—pushing boundaries while ensuring the body remains resilient. Casey emphasised the significance of recovery science and products, not only for pro athletes but for everyday individuals seeking enhanced well-being. “I like to test a lot of the recovery stuff off-season before I use it in-season,” he shared. This cautious approach highlights his commitment to self-study. By fine-tuning his recovery regime during periods of lower stress, he can gauge its efficacy and then, if effective, seamlessly integrate it into the competitive season. 


With a wide range of recovery modalities to choose from, Casey gravitates towards those that offer tangible benefits beyond temporary relief. “I think a lot of what I like about BFR is it incorporates doing some activity. I’ve always found the very sedentary types of recovery make you feel better for a little bit, but they really don’t help you recover long-term,” he noted. Unlike sedentary recovery methods, Blood Flow Restriction facilitates active recovery, promoting physiological adaptations that support long-term performance. 


When it comes to assessing recovery, Casey acknowledges the limitations of getting specific data. While wearables provide insights, subjective feelings are usually more important. Casey explained: “I just look for feeling better afterward, and then how I feel the next day. BFR helps me to kickstart the recovery process making me feel better straight after, whilst also carrying some effects over to the next day.”  


Hytro understands that athlete preference is now a huge factor in recovery programming, often hearing this from coaches who usually offer a menu of recovery modalities for their athletes to choose from. Casey confirms that individual preference is a crucial aspect that goes beyond just choosing a modality based on scientific findings.  


While scientific studies importantly inform the efficacy of certain recovery modalities, Casey astutely points out the importance of subjective experience. “What if someone hates that? I love dry needling, I love BFR, I like cold here and there, but some people can’t stand being cold,” he comments. “And if they hate it, they aren’t going to do it and aren’t going to recover”, he adds. The notion of a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery is naïve, but the alternative doesn’t have to be complicated. Hytro BFR wearables enable timesaving by accessing BFR in combination with other modalities such as cold-water immersion, or heat as demonstrated in recent studies with Oxford United FC and Gloucester Rugby. By embracing a diverse range of modalities and respecting individual preferences, athletes can cultivate a recovery regime that not only enhances physical well-being but also promotes psychological benefits. 


Individuality is integral in athletic development and enables coaches and athletes to find that edge in performance when personalised insights and scientific principles are used in collaboration. Casey commended his previous team, the Commanders, and his ex-coach Ryan, stating: “They want to work with you, with your lifestyle and equip players with the ability to ask questions, but then also providing excellent resources so we can take it a step further.” 


Striving for individualised athlete development is high on Ryan’s agenda, as is the integration of cutting-edge technologies and data-driven insights. “Our world’s turning into very much individualised,” he noted. From 3D kinematic screenings to customized nutrition plans based on comprehensive blood work panels, every aspect of training is meticulously tailored to the unique needs of each footballer. 


The conversation turned to the offseason routine, Casey revealed a balance between rest and activity: “I usually take a few weeks off running and focus on recovery, rebuilding through slow eccentrics or isometrics for tendon health for example, using BFR two or three times a week at just very low load for tendon health and easy hypertrophy. I’ll maybe surf a little, keep moving, and play some other sports too.”  


This perpetual drive for movement highlights Casey’s intrinsic connection to athleticism and motivation to continue progressing. “It’s all about the most minute little details that help me get a jump on some technical, strength, and mobility areas,” he emphasised. Each offseason presents an opportunity to identify weaknesses and implement targeted strategies for improvement. 


For Ryan, the focus for this offseason is educating more of the squad on the use of Performance BFR. He shared, “I’m focussing on getting more players knowledgeable about what we can do with BFR, get them bought into it so when the in-season comes, we’re ready.” Player acceptance of new modalities is integral to their effectiveness, and Ryan’s approach has been to use the Hytro BFR Performance Shorts himself to set an example to the players and talk genuinely about the benefits. Ryan adds, “They’re willing to buy in if they know that it’s going to help them because, at the end of the day, their bodies are their careers. Those who have been using it in the run-up to game day, or after for recovery, have loved it.” 


In the world of the NFL, a fusion of dedication, intuition, and innovation drives the search for excellence. Athletes and coaches are constantly striving to push the boundaries of human potential, seeking every advantage to elevate the team’s performance. Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions such as Hytro BFR, squad-wide preparation, training, and recovery reach new heights, meaning teams can harness the power of incremental gains to push the limits of this exhilarating sport. 


To learn more about how Hytro BFR wearables are being used within American Football then read how the Nebraska Huskers are integrating it into their programming.

Or check out a recent podcast with Aaron Borgmann, Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, and Founder of Borgmann Rehab Solutions, just click below.

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