Head athletic trainer Larry Hess has worked for the Redskins for 12 seasons. During his tenure, he has directed and implemented the team’s rehabilitation program, ensuring athletes’ healthy return to the playing field and preventing further injury. Hess recently spoke with lead writer Brian Tinsman on an array of health topics.
Remember that for specific advice, always consult with a medical professional.
Redskins.com: Do you change your plans and preparation following a season where several athletes suffer the same type of injury?
Larry Hess: "I think you look at it on all ends. One year when I was here we had a high [number] of hamstring injuries. It’s crucial for the athletic trainers and the strength and conditioning coaches to get together and take a look that the offseason program and in-season management, and be on the same page together.
"Sometimes it’s just chance that those injuries happen, but our job is to really figure out what we can do to prevent it. Not only do we treat injuries but the bigger part of our job is preventing them. Being on the same page together and working as a team, that’s where we are able to reduce those injuries.
"If we see a recurring injury, it could just be one of those years where you see more than others—that’s just football. It doesn’t have to do with how the guys prepared and how we trained them."
Redskins.com: What is the best way to prevent ACL injuries?
Larry Hess: "People debate this, but there are preventive programs out there for all ages and demographics. I think in our realm, a lot of ACL injuries happen in noncontact situations. I think the way we prevent not just ACL injuries, is through a functional approach.
"We look at how the body is moving and we try to pick up those imbalances, whether it’s strengths imbalances or flexibility imbalances. We design specific programs for that player and hopefully prevents injuries, no matter what it is."
Redskins.com: How closely does your staff follow recovery projections for different injuries?
Larry Hess: "With any injury, whether you’re repairing ligaments or tendons, you have to respect Mother Nature and what the surgeon did. A lot of people say, ‘Hey, that professional athlete will rehab and come back stronger,’ and that’s true. But in the back of my mind, I still need to respect the anatomy and Mother Nature early on.
"Down the road during rehabilitation, all injuries seem the same. The goal is getting their performance back, and that’s months and months down the road, depending on injuries. I think initially, like a non-professional football player, you’ve got to respect the tissue healing."
Redskins.com: With spring right around the corner, how do you prepare yourself for outdoors activity after a winter on the couch?
Larry Hess: "If you live in a northern climate, you’re not going to be as aggressive in your training during the winter. When the weather breaks, you want to get outside, and you get the ‘weekend warriors’ out there. I think right now during this time of year, you’ve got to plan ahead for that and you don’t just jump right into it. If you haven’t been doing anything over the winter months, you’ve got to develop a program where 20-30 minutes a day, you start out slow.
"If you go into a gym and you haven’t been in the gym in a while and you beat yourself up on the first day, you’re not going to want to go in there a second day. You’re going to be too sore or you’re going to do it for about a week and then it’s going to die off. When you do that, you’re most susceptible to getting injured.
"The other thing I like to tell people is change it up with your workouts. When you start off, if you’re a long distance runner and you haven’t been running for a while, run one day for a little bit and then get on a bike the next day. You see a lot of overuse injuries where people are doing the same thing over and over and you see that early on if you’re not used to training."