Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep the human body healthy or even what to do if you have had a significant injury? I recently sat down with Dr. Rob Pomahac, a former professional hockey player and the founder of MaxHealth, to see just how strenuous it can be to maintain a healthy body especially in the sports world.
Being a former athlete myself, nowhere near the professional ranks however, it’s fascinating to know how hard athletes go above and beyond to keep themselves in the best condition possible.
How difficult was it to give up playing professional hockey that you loved so much?
It was really tough. I started playing hockey at the age of six. Growing up in Canada, it’s every boy’s dream to play in the NHL and play for the cup. My talents brought me to Europe, where I learned a lot about being a professional and realized that my long-term future laid elsewhere. It was by far the hardest decision I had to make. It was even harder because I knew that it was over and that my dreams of one day raising the Stanley Cup would never come true
How did MaxHealth become a vision? Was this an area of expertise and interest before retiring from professional hockey?
I was unlucky enough to spend way too much time in doctor’s offices recuperating from hockey injuries. So spending time in Physical Therapy over the years, I learned that health and fitness were an integral part of being able to play hockey at the highest level.
Back when I played, there was no real emphasis on proper offseason training. Weights and sports performance training was something you did on your own. Now it’s become common. As I got further along in my medical career, I realized there were a whole array of things athletes were still missing. That’s why I formed Max Health, to fit those needs, and helping them improve all facets of their structural, physiological, neurological and muscular systems.
Does MaxHealth currently treat any current athletes at the professional level?
Yes, I work with NFL players while they are in between their off season and the beginning
of training camp. I also work with numerous UFC fighters. Southern California has become a mecca for players to get ahead of their training before they enter their team camps and I’ve been fortunate enough to have players recommend me to teammates and friends.
Out of all the services provided at MaxHealth which has the highest success rate?
We provide evidence-based chiropractic where we are able to analyze and determine what factors are contributing to your health issues. Measuring physiology doesn’t lie. We provide our players with proof that they can visually see and understand. When you are able to provide scientific data and the player is able to comprehend the factors to their problems, they feel empowered to be able to take control of their health and follow body-specific guidelines that will contribute to their overall improvement.
Being an expert on injuries in hockey, how much more damage does playing with existing injuries impact the body’s ability to properly heal? I.E. during the Stanley Cup last season Patrice Berergon of the Boston Bruins played with a punctured lung, torn rib cartilage and a separated shoulder, how does that affect his career moving forward?
Hockey is a brutal sport. And there are no free lunches. The continual damage that hockey players get a result of years of playing at such an intense level plays a major factor in how gracefully they age. Physiologically, there is a healing process. And if you don’t allow the time for the body to heal properly, then there will be consequential long-term side effects.
The injuries that Patrice sustained over the course of this last season will affect his potential to play at the same level he has grown accustomed to. However, he has the capacity to overcome the affects of his injuries by using alternative forms of health care. Such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and making sure that his overall body strength and flexibility are top notch. The more injuries you sustain, the more rehab you need to do. It’s all about working smarter and listening more closely to your body.
Speaking of the Stanley Cup, how can one stay healthy after a grueling 82 game season or are the majority of the players playing with some form of injury?
Prevention is the key. Regular therapy is a must for today’s NHLer. Making sure that players incorporate a combination of eastern and western philosophies in the new approach to survive the grueling 82 game season. Plus, nutrition is vitally important. Knowing which foods work for your genetic makeup can improve recuperation and reduce inflammation.
It seems each year there are an increasing amount of concussions, groin and hamstring injuries in sports what can be done to limit these kinds of injuries?
A concussion is very similar to a whiplash injury. You have to examine the damage to both the brain and the spine in order to fully treat a concussion. Spinal analysis is key here and many times this part of the concussion treatment is not evaluated. They just evaluate the brain without due diligence to injury the spine may have sustained.
As for hamstring and groin injuries, once again a full body approach is the key. A muscle begins and ends at a bone. And if those bones are not properly aligned, then the muscle will constantly be in an un-natural state of stress, increasing the risk of injury.
What kind of training, the use of different equipment, or other techniques can be used to limit injuries?
Players have to go out of their comfort zone and incorporate different forms of training. But the bottom line is knowing your physiology. Knowing how your structure, nervous and muscle systems all work together. Health is about knowing what is happening inside and then proving the athlete with an individualized plan. Gone are the days of general training programs. At every level, it’s not one size fits all, but it especially can’t be at the highest levels. Yet, that is still happening. Science and technology need to be incorporated to make sure that the training protocol is the most and effective and efficient it can be. Some teams have really been on the cutting edge of this – you’ll see their players will be healthier and fresher over a full season.
After each season players continue their rigorous training to stay in shape is there a specific time-frame that is recommended before preparing for the next season?
It all depends. But there are ways to speed up the healing process. Proper nutrition. Infrared sauna. Cryotherapy. Massage. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. Improving overall body flexibility. Understanding body neutral. Introducing new ways to prepare for the upcoming season need to be addressed. The saying these days is that there is no off-season. And I think players need to make sure that they have an individualized plan to make sure they don’t over train.
How long does it take the body to recover from an average season?
There isn’t a blanket answer here. Every player goes through different injuries, bumps, Not only do you have to allow your body to heal, but you also need to allow your brain to heal. Emotional, chemical and physical stressors all need to be examined and dealt with before you get back into the swing of things. I would recommend taking your mind and your body off of hockey for at least two weeks. Meditation is a vital part in getting ready for the tough road ahead.
Lastly, now that the Stanley Cup is in full swing any predictions on who will win the Cup?
Well, I’m a Leafs fan…. And I’m not holding by breath. I’ve been living in LA for over 15 years now. I love how the city and the people have fallen in love with the Kings. It‘s great to see people who know next to nothing about hockey getting excited and learning about hockey. It helps with the youth movement on the west coast. The Kings have a great organization and core group of players that will make them contenders for a long stretch.
And who doesn’t like coach Sutter’s interview skills?
Dr. Rob Pomahac is the founder and owner of MaxHealth Centers in Los Angeles. A former professional hockey player and bodybuilder, Rob’s practice has attracted dozens of professional athletes. Learn more at www.maxhealthla.com or follow Rob at @DrRob_Maxhealth on Twitter.