What looked to be a giant white egg in a corner of a room in Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center cracked open the other morning, a soft-blue light shining forth before linebacker Craig Fada arose from within and stepped out. He had just spent 30 minutes in the sensory-deprivation device, a tub whose shallow pool of water contains about 35 percent Epsom salt, allowing one to float effortlessly.
What looked to be a giant white egg in a corner of a room in Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center cracked open the other morning, a soft-blue light shining forth before linebacker Craig Fada arose from within and stepped out.
He had just spent 30 minutes in the sensory-deprivation device, a tub whose shallow pool of water contains about 35 percent Epsom salt, allowing one to float effortlessly.
"It gives you the sense of relaxation that you can't get anywhere besides here," Fada said. "When you step out, you feel healed, rejuvenated and energized."
It's not new technology, but its implementation is relatively new in sports. Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt likes it so much that he reportedly has a flotation tank in his home, and the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry also uses a tank. The Ohio State football team got into it, assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Phil Matusz said, through a technology consortium with researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
"We knew this was something the Buckeyes would be very, very interested in, in terms of helping us prepare and recover for that next training session, for that next practice or for that next game," Matusz said.
Coach Urban Meyer and football performance director Mickey Marotti try to be near the cutting edge in terms of the players' welfare, Meyer said, and "Mick has taken this game to the next level."
Two years ago, the program began employing a data-gathering sensor system that helped strength and conditioning staff members and trainers learn what stresses the players experience in daily workouts. And OSU also has worked to prevent head injuries in recent years with increased monitoring and the teaching of proper tackling and blocking techniques.
All of this was part of a panel discussion - led by OSU team physician Chris Kaeding and including Meyer, athletic director Gene Smith, former basketball player Clark Kellogg and former football player Eddie George - during the Global Brain Health and Performance Summit at the Ohio Union in May. It included a demonstration of the flotation tank, which was put into use by the Buckeyes in the middle of last season, and how it seems to help in physical recovery and in dealing with concussions.
"Based on what I've seen, I think I could still play" if such technology had been available during his college and nine-year NFL career, quipped George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner.
Matusz, a lineman and captain on Villanova's 2009 Football Championship Subdivision national-title team, said a flotation tank would have served him well, too.
"It's one way for our guys to utilize technology in recovery in our training, because we train full-bore … and these guys need ample time to recover," Matusz said.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett is a tank believer, noting that floating takes the stress off joints while the mind coordinates the healing.
"For me, it's more of a relaxing type of feeling, being able to let my muscles rejuvenate," Barrett said. "The first time you use it, it takes time to learn how to float properly and relax your mind as well as your body, but once you do, you feel the benefits of it later."
Fada has experienced its benefits in recovery from a concussion.
"It allowed my mind to heal faster in a more-relaxed state than what it'd be at home," Fada said. "Because when it's silent in there, I feel that heals the mind more than it does in bed with noises and cars, and this and that. I really do think it has a medical-healing standpoint."
With just one of the $25,000 flotation machines in the room at the moment, Matusz has to be picky about who gets dibs. There is one person, however, he doesn't have to worry about wanting to use it.
"I can't," Meyer said, smiling. "I'm claustrophobic."