Does your favorite NFL player use acupuncture?

James Harrison during an acupuncture treatment often sports upwards of 200 needles.

James Harrison during an acupuncture treatment often sports upwards of 200 needles.

Once again, it is that time of year.  The time when large, burly men don layers of gear to then hurl themselves at each other trying to move a leather ball up and down a field.  And now we are only days away from that pinnacle of American style football, the Super Bowl.  In such a bruising and physically demanding sport, it is common that players come to the end of the season with considerable wear and tear.  The two teams to actually survive to the Super Bowl often have a sizable roster of players sidelined or listed as "questionable" due to injury.   

In the last decade or so, these big players are being helped by the tiniest of tools, the acupuncture needle.  Acupuncture is playing a growing role in the recovery from injury and continued fitness of football players across the league.  Acupuncture can help with a whole host of problems in athletes of any sport (including the weekend warriors who will be watching the upcoming Super Bowl).   These benefits include reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, relaxing tight or spasmed muscles and speeding overall recovery, all without significant side effects.  (Author's Note: It is important to differentiate acupuncture by trained and licensed practitioners from a technique called "dry needling" typically performed by physical therapists who have undergone a weekend training workshop.  While this is a subject for a much longer discussion, suffice it to say better results can be expected when the needling is part of a comprehensive treatment performed by a licensed acupuncturist who has had a minimum of three years of training in the use of needles than someone who has only had 2 days of training.)    

Some players who have been reported to use acupuncture (and this is by no means comprehensive as many NFL teams now employ acupuncturists as part of their support staff):

  • James Harrison of the Cincinnati Bengals has an especially extreme preference for his acupuncture treatments, requesting more than 200 needles in a treatment.  
  • Former Patriots defensive linebacker Dominique Easley was turned onto acupuncture to treat a knee injury by his sister Destiny who suffers from fibromyalgia and has used acupuncture to alleviate her pain.
  • Jordan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles has regular visits with his acupuncturist to help him through the season and to help recover from recent back and ankle injuries.
  • Ben Tate of the Pittsburgh Steelers used acupuncture to help heal ribs fractured in a 2013 game playing for the Texans.  
  • Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has thanked his acupuncturist openly for helping him to recover from injury and stay in top form.
  • Other current and former NFL players who have reported using acupuncture as part of their training arsenal include Chris Ivory of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, Michael Strahan and James Farrior.

So, this weekend, who knows which team will reign supreme (as a New Englander I am bound to root for the Patriots.  Go Pats!).  Be assured that behind these giant athletes there are some tiny needles helping them to do what they do.