Academics meets athletics: FRAME club reduces football injuries with RoFlow

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
Dan Lee (right) helps first-year defensive back Christopher Schroeder position his body for a stretch during the RoFlow program in Talbot Gymnasium with Winona State’s football team on Thursday. Lee is part of the Recovery and Movement Enhancement (FRAME) club. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Dan Lee (right) helps first-year defensive back Christopher Schroeder position his body for a stretch during the RoFlow program in Talbot Gymnasium with Winona State’s football team on Thursday. Lee is part of the Recovery and Movement Enhancement (FRAME) club. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Olivia Volkman-Johnson / Winonan

Football players and health, exercise and rehabilitative science (HERS) students all walk into a room filled with yoga mats.

This sounds like the beginning of a cheesy joke, but this is actually a biweekly occurrence on campus. According to HERS Professor Connie Mettille, it is “the perfect marriage between academics and athletics.”

Every Sunday and Thursday night, 75 HERS students assist more than 100 Winona State University football athletes during their Restorative Flow—or RoFlow—Movement Pattern sessions, facilitated by HERS professors Connie Mettille and Justin Geijer, as part of the facilitators of the Recovery and Movement Enhancement (FRAME) club.

FRAME, which is starting its third academic year, was developed as a way to provide hands-on experience to HERS students while reducing Winona State football athlete injuries through RoFlow sessions, according to Mettille.

In collaboration with Winona State football coaches, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches, Mettille and Geijer created RoFlow after observing the number of football games missed by Warrior athletes due to injury.

Mettille and Geijer developed the program by pulling from their experiences with collegiate coaching, strength and conditioning, and kinesiology.

The concept of RoFlow is a movement pattern that resembles yoga and combines with functional movement patterns to balance muscles and improve joint stability and mobility.

“This is the convergence of science and movement,” Mettille said.

In terms of FRAME, the professor duo founded the club in an effort to provide co-curricular learning opportunities, as well as opportunities to build relationships between HERS students.

Geijer said, “We wanted something where all six majors could come together.”

The club started with eight students in its first year, grew to 20 students in its second year, and now includes 75 students of all majors within the HERS department, according to Geijer.

First-year defensive back Romario Gayle engages in a RoFlow session. The FRAME club provides this exercise to football players, incorporating yoga positions and movements to improve joint stability and mobility, which ultimately reduces injury on the field. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

First-year defensive back Romario Gayle engages in a RoFlow session. The FRAME club provides this exercise to football players, incorporating yoga positions and movements to improve joint stability and mobility, which ultimately reduces injury on the field. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Mettille said she believes FRAME gives students “an opportunity to practice what we preach; it’s putting what we learn into action and that’s exciting for people.”

By combining the club with college athletes as an undergraduate is unprecedented, according to FRAME’s Vice President Abbie Geislinger, Secretary Mackenzie Distad, and member of the training task force team, Riley Miller.

“As [HERS] majors, when we have the opportunity to get hands-on experience, we kind of go crazy for it,” Geislinger, a junior with a major in movement science, said.

Distad, a senior with a cardiac rehabilitation major, agrees and said she believes she has put what she has learned into practice.

“I learn a lot in my classes, and then I go to FRAME and apply the stuff I’ve been learning,” Distad said.

Though the students working with Winona State’s football team are undergraduates, Miller, a senior with a  movement science major, claims their courses, training and RoFlow’s specialized movements allow FRAME students to work with players effectively.

“It’s less risky than you think. The movements we put them through are designed by Geijer and Mettille…we’re just helping them get the most out of each stretch,” Miller said.

According to Mettille, each FRAME student undergoes several hours of training before being able to adjust players during sessions. She estimates FRAME students volunteered roughly 3,500 hours of time last year to training and RoFlow sessions.

Geislinger, Distad and Miller said they are thankful for the hands-on experience in body manipulation they get by participating in FRAME, as well as the advantage it gives them for their career aspirations.

“I think it’s something that’s going to set us apart from the competition when we’re applying to grad school and applying to jobs because nobody else does this,” Distad,  who hopes to become a physical therapist, said.

While FRAME gives HERS students a competitive advantage, it gives athletes an advantage of their own, Mettille and Geijer said.

Before RoFlow was developed, Mettille and Geijer estimated Winona State football athletes missed an average of 91 games over the course of the 2012-2013 season. They believe the main causes of these injuries came from muscle imbalances and the lack of an effective program to prevent them.

Since then, RoFlow and FRAME students have decreased the number of games missed due to injury by 33 percent, according to Mettille.

Mettille and Geijer have also found improvements in the strength of Winona State football athletes, as well as improvements in GPA, sleep quality and stress management.

“The pride that you see in the football players when they get better in each of these movements and the pride you see in the HERS students when they are able to help make that adjustment…it’s really an amazing thing to watch as a professor here and as a former coach,” Mettille said.

Winona State’s head football coach, Tom Sawyer, said he believes the program is equally beneficial to both HERS students and the athletes.

“I think this is an incredible opportunity for both parties—the students and the athletes—to interact,” Sawyer, who frequently attends RoFlow sessions to observe and assist, said.

HERS professor Justin Geijer (right) and HERS students help Warrior football players stretch during RoFlow, as part of the FRAME club. These exercises take place every Sunday and Thursday night. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

HERS professor Justin Geijer (right) and HERS students help Warrior football players stretch during RoFlow, as part of the FRAME club. These exercises take place every Sunday and Thursday night. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Sawyer, Mettille and Geijer have also noticed the program gaining recognition from other organizations, including colleges and universities, non-profits and agencies.

Mettille and Geijer recently presented their research at the National Strength and Conditioning Association conference this summer, which was “incredibly well-received,” according to Mettille.

“There’s Division I level football coaches that want a piece of this,” Sawyer said.

With FRAME’s growing success, Mettille and Geijer have big plans for its future, including the adoption of RoFlow by every Warrior athletic team after increasing student involvement.

“My goal for FRAME is to get as many students in the HERS department hands-on experience working with patients, clients and students,” Mettille said.

Both Distad and Miller said they have learned a lot by spending time with Winona State athletes.

“I didn’t expect to have a relationship with some of the guys there, but you do,” Miller said.

Distad agreed and said, “It’s kind of intimidating walking into the atmosphere of these huge big football players and trying to make adjustments on these 200-pound men, but building a relationship with them is fun.”

While Mettille and Geijer are interested in expanding FRAME and RoFlow to assist other Winona communities, they hope that each member of the club takes away valuable academic and personal experiences.

“To see how much our students grow through this process… it makes it worthwhile,” Geijer said.

-By Olivia Volkman-Johnson

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