As 2012 began, Dartmouth Peak Performance hit the ground running in every sense of the word. Athletes returned to campus only to find the latest in strength and conditioning technology gracing the far side of the Floren Fitness Center; a piece of equipment known as the Alter G performance treadmill.
While the appearance of the Alter G is unfamiliar and even imposing to some, it is currently being used to help injured athletes return to competition at unprecedented rates of recovery. The Alter G manipulates the weight of the athlete by using compressed air. This gravity altering technology allows athletes to apply less stress to injured areas while simultaneously improving cardiovascular endurance.
Just ask Dartmouth Cross Country running ace Phil Royer '13. Royer, coming off an All Ivy sophomore campaign, was poised to reclaim his status as one of the top distance runners in the region, but was abruptly set back due to a pain in his foot. The pain was "manageable at first," but unfortunately, "continued to grow," said Royer. Eventually a podiatrist told Royer the he had torn a ligament and developed a fracture. When forecasting the severity of the injury, his doctor concluded, "You might never run at the same level again."
Phil's options fell in two clear cut paths, either stop running, or start a rehabilitation program where normal running was prohibited. Being the resilient athletes that he is, Phil began an arduous rehab program where he would conduct various pool workouts to try and mimic running. "Pool workouts did not simulate running, they actually work an entirely different muscle group," explained Royer.
The one machine that could guarantee Royer the chance to run without the risk of further injury was the Alter G. In an effort to avoid the mundane pool workouts, Royer resorted to desperate measures. "I actually looked into using [an Alter G] at a local health club where the rate was billed out at $50 per hour," said Royer.
In January Royer's wish came true when Senior Associate Athletic Director for Peak Performance Drew Galbraith said, "Dartmouth's Alter G was on its way." Over the past 5 weeks Royer has used the Alter G and was recently able to return to running outdoors for the first time in months. "I started running with just 70% of my body weight, and have worked up to the mid 90's so far," said Royer. Although the injury was considered a possible career-ender, the Alter G has become a solution that will continue to be a part of Royer's future training.
The Alter G also offers benefits to healthy athletes. "Runners constantly walk the line of not getting injured," explained Royer. The Alter G allows runners to manipulate that threshold by improving their cardiovascular ability, and keeping the risk of injury low. Runners who need to log upwards of 100 miles a week can use the Alter G to avoid frequent running related injuries, while still working to improve their endurance.
Although the Alter G is advantageous for training endurance athletes, other teams are seeing marked benefits. Chase Womack, a '13 on the Dartmouth Football team, sustained a stress fracture earlier this fall and missed a portion of the season. In order to continue rehab and prepare for the upcoming season, Womack has implemented the Alter G to take stress of his foot and maintain his cardiovascular endurance.
"The machine is great," said Womack. "I've been able to vary my workouts and take the immediate harm out of running. It's a great boost in confidence to be running pain free on a consistent basis." When asked how he will use the Alter G in the future Womack replied, "I'm not quite out of the woods yet, but it is great to know that I have a resource like the Alter G to compliment my training."
Dartmouth's Alter G has also proved to help athletes right out of surgery. Victoria Tersigni, a '14 on the Dartmouth Field Hockey team, knew something was wrong when she began to feel severe foot pain during her sophomore season. After a medical consult, she was diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome and told that she would need surgery on each of her legs in order to continue playing. Victoria made the decision to go forth with both surgeries in mid December and has been rehabbing since. "I think the Alter G is helping me progress more quickly since I'm not afraid that the impact will injure me or cause a setback in my recovery," said Tersigni.
If it weren't for the Alter G, Tersigni would be facing a prolonged rehab process that could jeopardize her ability to return to competition. "Existing treatment methods were biking, elliptical, and pool workouts, none of which really replicate a running motion or ease you back into impact." With the Alter G, Tersigni has been able to replicate running and increase the force of her weight accordingly.
Tersigni's positive opinion of the Alter G is an echoing theme among Dartmouth Athletes. She has found the Alter G to bring a safer and realistic approach to running movements. "If I weren't able to use the Alter G I would still be trying to progress to impact, but it would be very limited and there would be a higher risk of injury," concluded Tersigni.
Dartmouth Peak Performance aims to bring Dartmouth Athletes the best resources available in an effort to reach their full potential. Although labeled as a treadmill, the Alter G is a machine that will change and improve the way our athletes rehab injuries and train for competition.
Article written by Pat Lahey '12 - Intern for DP2 during Winter 2012