Laser is latest in sports therapy

Someday in the near future, athletes may no longer be seen off to the side nursing their injuries with ice packs.

They instead could be seen carrying around a portable device containing a low level laser that immediately administers therapy to their aches and pains.

Among those on the ground floor of this cutting edge technology is Carson City's Rick Martin and among the professional athletes who is already using the new therapy is Carson High graduate Matt Williams.

SportLaser, a Santa Monica company, was the first to receive approval from the Federal Drug Administration in November, 2002, to be the original distributor of the low level or cold laser therapy.

Martin is the director of science and Williams is the national spokesman for SportLaser. Williams has been using the SportLaser device for the past six months.

Hundreds of medical professionals such as physical therapists and chiropractors are showing interest in the device. Numerous professional athletes are also showing interest as well. Among those showing interest are the Seattle Supersonics, the San Diego Chargers and the United States Olympic Committee.

The SportLaser device provides non-invasive therapy with a penetration level of 2 to 2 1/2 inches.

The cold laser technology was originally developed to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. It's now being used on athletes and can be used to treat sprains, strains, dislocations and small muscle to major ligament tears. Pitchers, golfers, tennis players, virtually any athlete bothered by tendonitis or "tennis elbow" can also benefit from the therapy. Shoulder injuries, hamstring pulls and most any other soft tissue injuries can be treated by the therapy as well.

The advantage that the cold laser device has over traditional methods such as ice, elevation or a splint is that it provides immediate treatment to the injured area. "It's really unique in the way it does what it does," Martin said.

The battery operated device reduces swelling, stimulates blood and lymphatic flow, relieves acute and chronic pain, reduces inflammation, stimulates nerve function and promotes development of collagen and muscle tissue.

The end result is designed to actually make the athlete stronger and reduce the recovery time from the injury, thus improving the athlete's performance. The device can also prevent athletes from needing surgery in some cases, Martin said. "So it's also cost effective," he said.

Martin said Williams is referred to as a "senior athlete" because he's in the later stages of his career, who can benefit from the device because he may suffer more soreness and stiffness.

"Laser therapy for athletes will undoubtedly be the next big thing for trainers, physicians an sports therapits," said Williams in a statement for SportLaser. "I believe the SportLaser will allow me to play pain free and greatly reduce or eliminate the use of anti-inflammatories."

Even though Williams was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Martin said that won't affect his status with the company.

"He's still going to be our spokesman," Martin said. "We know he's going to be picked up by somebody else."

Martin said he saw first hand of what the benefits of cold laser therapy could be through his experience in emergency services. Martin said he was "exposed to a lot of the injuries that we're now dealing with."

Personally, he discovered the benefits of the theraphy when it was used to treat his wife's arthritis. "We found remarkable success," he said.

The cold laser therapy can also be used as a cost-effective device to treat a variety of repetitive stress disorders in the work place, Martin said. Martin noted that there is an aging work force and unfortunately, a work force that is becoming more obese that can benefit from the therapy.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.


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