Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs turn to cryotherapy to diminish wear and tear

TAMPA — The Bucs certainly hope to be better in the fall under first-year coach Dirk Koetter. They might be smarter, stronger and faster.

And already, at least in brief moments, they are much, much colder.

After any practice during training camp, players are lined up outside a converted storage room in the corner of a training area at One Buc Place. Inside are three silver cylinders, each 7 feet tall, with digital readouts and nitrogen gas spilling out from the top, suggesting perhaps time travel or maybe teleportation.

In truth, it's a little of both. They're cryotherapy chambers, and the Bucs are ahead of the rest of the NFL in embracing a new technology that saves time from players' busy schedules and, they believe, gets them to a healthier place recovering from the trauma of a grueling practice as the team tries to limit injuries.

"When we hired Dirk, we had several meetings with ownership, and we stressed, especially Dirk, the importance of recovery," general manager Jason Licht said. "Our owners are awesome in respect to giving us the resources we need for anything, particularly player health. There are very few things more important."

The Bucs also added a "recovery bar" with postpractice shakes that are key to recovery. They have moved practice to mornings for cooler temperatures. And, in that storage room, far lower temperatures as a line of players are willing to subject themselves to 2½ minutes of air cooled to around minus 220 degrees Fahrenheit by liquid nitrogen.

"It's like you're standing there in your boxer shorts with socks and gloves on and you walked outside in Green Bay, Wis., on the coldest day of the year for three minutes," said Koetter, who has tried it himself.

The science behind it is that your body can't process the idea of something that cold and rushes blood to your central organs in full survival mode. When a player steps out, the extremities are flush with oxygen-rich blood to help with recovery.

So 150 seconds replaces what has long been 20 to 25 minutes in a "cold tub" of ice water, not necessarily a comfortable experience itself. Players must be dry — any water or sweat would freeze instantly, as would any jewelry. Players slowly rotate themselves in the cylinder, trying not to think about the temperature shown behind them in big, red numbers.

"You get a feeling like you can't keep doing it," tackle Gosder Cherilus said, barely a minute after such a session. "But as you keep going you realize it's not that cold. They ask me to keep spinning, because you don't want it to hit one spot. It's a good way to take care of yourself."

A year ago, Bucs team dietician Kevin Luhrs was skeptical about cryo, seeing a few players, including defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, paying out of pocket to use the cryo chamber at a private facility run by Tommy Rhee, the team's chiropractor. Luhrs finally tried it himself after a workout and was impressed.

"One hundred percent, I'm sore the next day," said Luhrs, who closely monitors each session now. "The one time I wasn't sore was right after the cryo. Immediately, the next day, I was like, 'This works.' I said, 'I'm going to look into this.' I did my research and said, 'We've got to find a place to put these.' "

The Bucs have bought into the benefits of cryo, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cites it as unproven, so the agency hasn't approved any devices. Its concerns include the risk of asphyxiation or injury, though players are monitored closely and constantly during their sessions.

Luhrs scoured the Bucs' 145,000-square-foot facility, found a storage room and tore down a wall to make room for the three units. Tampa Bay is now one of only three NFL teams with a cryo chamber in its facility, and the only one with three.

"A lot of times coaches talk about recovery and mention it, but I don't think any coach I've had took the steps Dirk has taken," said safety Keith Tandy, a regular with the cryo treatments.

Licht, long removed from the cold tubs of his football days in college, also tried the cryo himself and was quickly a believer, like Luhrs.

"It's invigorating," he said. "I don't work out as hard as these players, but I did it, and the next day, I didn't have the soreness like I normally do, and I get sore a lot. … You come out, you've got fresh blood and it feels awesome."

The buy-in has been strong among Bucs players — as many as 40 players will rotate into the cryos after a practice. Licht said it was a "significant" investment from the Glazer family, which owns the team, but one that players have noticed.

"They were jacked up," Licht said of the initial response. "They see that we care about their health."

Other NFL teams have reached out to the Bucs, asking about the cryo chambers and how they can implement them in their facilities. Before they do, the Bucs hope to see improved health this season, which could help them in some small way go from leading the league in technology to leading in the standings.

"More importantly, to get ahead of the curve on wins," Licht said.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Hall of Fame Game canceled

A poor playing surface halts Sunday's Packers-Colts game. 9C


Bucs shake things up

TAMPA — As the Bucs' sports dietician, Kevin Luhrs is on call 24 hours a day, often getting a text picture from a player of his plate at a restaurant — "Is this okay? — or more preemptively, of a menu: "What's best to order?"

He has added something new to his own menu at One Buc Place: a recovery bar, which is literally on a player's path from practice to the locker room, offering custom-made shakes to help in their postpractice recovery.

"They're all assigned a specific shake, according to their meal plan and their goals," said Luhrs, who has three assigned calorie counts — 300, 500 and 850 — depending on a player's needs. "Carbohydrates, protein, fluid: those are the three big things right there. Carbo­hydrates for energy, protein for not only muscle regeneration but other things made up of protein: ligaments, tendons, bones."

Luhrs measures players in a "bod pod" to generate exact caloric needs, and players can flavor their shakes from an assortment of healthy options — spinach, even — so it has been well-received.

"You can add whatever you want," said safety Keith Tandy, enjoying a purple concoction that has blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kale, vanilla and proteins. "Every day."

Bucs turn to cryotherapy to diminish wear and tear 08/06/16 [Last modified: Sunday, August 7, 2016 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL Week 7: What we learned


    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  2. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  3. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17


    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.

  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series


    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]