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Kicking-off rehabilitation: How Game Changer Performance is using Hytro BFR to benefit football’s top talent

Game Changer Performance works with elite footballers to enhance their rehabilitation and maximise their physical performance, helping them to return to the pitch as quickly – and safely – as possible. Increasingly integral to these aspects is Hytro BFR so we caught up with some of the team to learn more.

Lead Physical Performance Coach Callum Williams coaching an elite athlete at St. Georges Park, home to England's Football Teams

Based at the home of the English national football team, St George’s Park, Game Changer Performance works closely with the Professional Footballers’ Association in particular, typically taking between 6-8 footballers each week and providing physical profiling, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning work, and pitch-based conditioning. Head Physio Peter Talbot, Lead Physical Performance Coach Callum Williams, and Sports Therapist Lizzie Read share insight into how they work and how Hytro BFR can be used for a range of modalities from preparation to recovery.


“We take athletes from all sports, but predominantly football,” said Peter. “Often, we find ourselves working with players who have suffered complex injuries. We take those players through an assessment of their injury, then guide them through their rehabilitation. This covers the medical side of their rehab, and the strength and conditioning side.”


Head Physio Peter Talbot coaching an elite athlete at St. George's Park, England


Though BFR has been around as a concept since the 1960s, it is only now gaining traction in elite sports – and at GCP. “I first came across BFR around eight years ago, when I was working with Notts County,” said Lizzie. “We had a player with an ACL injury who was load-compromised. We wanted to achieve hypertrophy with the affected side, so we used BFR cuffs to help do that. Back then the cuffs were quite cumbersome, and I remember having to use a lot of tape to maintain the pressure!”


“When applied properly, BFR is an effective way to achieve hypertrophy throughout rehabilitation, and especially with load-compromised players,” added Callum. “When they’re unable to load the injured limb, BFR allows them to still make gains. It’s a way for them to bridge the gap.”


Lead Physical Performance Coach Callum Williams wearing Hytro BFR Recovery Shorts at St. Georges Park, home to England's Football Teams


Traditionally, BFR has been used in a rehabilitation setting. However, such use has been limited due to the need for specialist oversight, expensive equipment, and time demands. That, according to the staff at GCP, is where Hytro BFR differs.


“Hytro makes BFR more accessible because of how practical it is,” said Peter. “The occlusion pressures are written for you, so you know exactly what you’re going to get. We’ve used it for strength, hypertrophy, recovery, rehabilitation, and preparation. Before Hytro BFR, the practitioner had to lead BFR sessions because of the safety implications, whereas now players just put on the shorts or the t-shirt, find their pressure, and crack on.”


Sports Therapist Lizzie Read coaching an elite athlete at St. George's Park, home to England's Football Teams


“I like to make sure that anything I administer to players has been rigorously tested,” said Lizzie. “Not just in the lab, but also in real life. Subjective feedback is just as important as data from research. The fact that Hytro has been the subject of so much research and feedback, proving that it’s safe to use independently, makes it one of the best methods of blood occlusion.”


With players no longer having to pump up cuffs, or work with the oversight of specialist coaches, Hytro BFR has enabled GCP to use BFR much more frequently, ultimately allowing players to rehab more efficiently. Thanks to its ability to aid recovery, increase strength and improve aerobic conditioning, players are using BFR in a variety of ways. “A coach may use BFR for hypertrophy, occluding the area of the limb they want to target. The user can then work at a higher intensity with a lower load, ensuring that they still get strength gains,” said Peter. “We’ve also been using it to prepare our athletes for the session ahead. Occluding the limb while warming up helps to increase the temperature of the muscle quicker and also increases the amount of oxygen-rich blood going to the muscles. The more prepared an athlete is, the more they’re going to get from their workout.”


Man wearing Hytro BFR Recovery Shorts at Game Changers Performance at St. George's Park


“In an injury-specific context, such preparation is important for their confidence,” said Callum. “That way, they can apply themselves fully in the session ahead.”


“And we use it in a recovery setting,” said Lizzie. “Recovery is such an important part of an athlete’s strength and conditioning programme. It’s often very neglected, yet it’s an area that allows a lot of improvements and adaptations in the body. Better recovery then enables the athlete to put their all into every session.”


Players that visit the facility at St George’s Park may be using BFR for the first time. Given this, the staff at GCP often explain the practice they’re about to administer. “I tell them it may not be a pleasant feeling,” said Lizzie. “It can be tight and feel as if there’s a build-up of pressure in the occluded limb. But when they unstrap, there may be a weird sense of release and almost a tingling sensation as the blood comes back into the area.”


Footballer wearing undergoing coaching at Game Changers Performance at St. George's Park, home to England's football teams


“Whatever work they’re doing costs a lot of energy and stresses the body more than if there was normal blood flow,” added Callum. “I explain that is why they don’t need to use much load: because the body is already under external stress from the occlusion. Around 70% of the players just strap in without asking questions, but I always like the 30% who want to know more. Once they begin their BFR, the player initially finds the exercise challenging. If I don’t explain the mechanics at this point, it can have a negative impact and really affect buy-in. After using Hytro BFR a few times, players tend to like what they’re doing and understand how it can benefit them.”


Such buy-in and willingness to do the extras, the staff at GCP believe, is what tends to separate the great athletes from the good athletes. “A good athlete tends to know what they need to do to reach the top but doesn’t execute it on a daily basis,” said Peter. “A great athlete, meanwhile, will do whatever it takes to reach the top on a 24/7 basis.”


“Their desire and dedication to give absolutely everything to achieve is what makes the difference,” agreed Lizzie.


Head Physio Peter Talbot coaching an elite athlete at St. George's Park, home to England's Football Teams


GCP would certainly know. Given their clientele, they’ve helped some of the country’s top talents back to their best. They’ve seen the dedication and desire first hand. Now, with Hytro BFR a firm part of their toolkit, they aim to continue unlocking the ultimate performance potential ahead of the 2023/24 season.


Discover more ways that elite sport is using Hytro BFR to optimise performance. If you’re looking to add Hytro BFR to your schedule, contact us below to book a demo.

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