Powering the New York Football Giants
What does it take to power a Giant? A little over a year ago, the world leader in diagnostic testing, Quest Diagnostics, announced its partnership with the New York Football Giants. The collaboration is more than a logo on a jersey and a name on a building; it is a breakthrough in the emerging field of sports performance. The Sports and Human Performance franchise of Quest Diagnostics has dedicated the past year to discovering exactly what it takes to power a Giant.
Quest Diagnostics Blueprint for Athletes™ synthesizes information derived from diagnostic testing and combines it with device generated data and informatics to empower athletes and their trainers with insights on optimal dietary consumption, tailored training and recovery regimens and peak performance conditions. The goal of Blueprint for Athletes is clear: empower optimal performance, faster recovery, precise training and better overall health. A series of tests examining specific blood-based biomarkers and key indicators are performed and resulted in a personalized player report that can be reviewed by coaches, trainers and medical staff. The personalized report is divided into four key areas: General Health, Athletic Performance, Training & Recovery, and Nutrition, Diet, Inflammation and Immunity.
The core of the New York Giants and Quest Diagnostics partnership is using insights derived from diagnostic testing to empower athletes to achieve optimal performance, and to enhance training and recovery regimens. We call this Sports and Human Performance Diagnostics. Richard C. Schwabacher, General Manager of Sports and Human Performance Diagnostics at Quest Diagnostics, sat down with four members of the New York Giants: Senior Vice President and Head Athletic Trainer Ronnie Barnes, punter Steve Weatherford, linebacker Mark Herzlich and linebacker Spencer Paysinger, all volunteers of the program and Super Bowl XLVI champions, to talk about Blueprint for Athletes™ and its impact on professional and amateur sports performance.
RS: Blueprint for Athletes™ is a new type of testing that offers valuable insights that can be applied to your daily health and fitness routine. Do you feel that Blueprint for Athletes™ has added value thus far? What are you looking to get out of it?
RB: The most important message is that this is a performance based sport. All of these athletes want to be at their very best, and unlike most people, athletes are bigger, and they are strong, but they all have different nutritional needs and demands. Looking at different biomarkers – a measurable indicator of a biological state or condition – will help us determine their personal needs for optimal performance and training and recovery.
SW: What I’m looking to get out of it more than anything else is to improve energy and improve recovery which will then improve performance; and I think that’s what we’re all after – performance. One thing that Quest has been able to do, that I’ve never had before, is provide a better understanding of my results and the correlation between my levels, how I feel, and how my body is reacting. Understanding those levels and making the right lifestyle changes can be the difference between a good workout, a good punt, a good game, a good season or the alternative.
MH: Another thing that I’m excited to get out of it too is not just performance with football, but creating a healthier life. You can follow your levels and have a better understanding of, let’s say your cholesterol levels, and be knowledgeable about your body at a younger age and have a better idea of what you may be at risk for down the road. Knowing what it means, having an understanding of what everything means – that’s the important part. The Blueprint for Athletes personalized report is unlike anything I’ve seen because it actually explains what everything is, in plain English, and how it can impact your health.
SP: Blueprint for Athletes™ takes it to another level. Instead of just icing something, or treating an injury, you can actually understand what you might be allergic to, how that affects your body, how that affects your game – that’s something new for football players to have.
RS: You all have fans watching you; do you ever try and take steps to interact with your fans about health and wellness?
RB: I think wellness is so important to athletes and the general population. I think it’s paramount that the message – what we’re doing – gets transferred to people in general. We’ve always talked about the annual physical examination, but I think there’s more to determine wellness than your routine checkup. Lab tests are so important in that testing. Just because they’re young athletes and in the best shapes of their lives, they’re not immune from the serious diseases. From a wellness perspective, it’s extremely important for everyone – fans, followers, athletes.
SW: Health and fitness is extremely important to me, and I communicate that as often as possible. For me, it’s why I made it to the NFL; I was always athletic, but I wasn’t always big and strong and I’ve worked very hard to improve my strength and speed. Gaining the knowledge at a young age – health and nutrition – it’s really helped me not only get to the NFL, but to sustain a career and I love to share that with my fans.
MH: Encouraging people to understand and educate themselves about what’s going on in their own bodies is so important. Everyone has a different body with different needs, and Blueprint for Athletes™ can help someone better understand or learn what their body needs to perform efficiently.
SP: Living in this informational, social media era where there’s constant communication, having this test – this integral part of your training and lifestyle – it’s so important to communicate knowledge about your body, your performance, and your recovery. I think social media is such a great platform to help raise awareness about the value of diagnostics. Knowing this information about your body is such an essential part of training and performing. Athletes are always comparing workout routines, looking for anything that will give them an extra edge. Quest has made this information more accessible to us as pros, I hope that allows us to interact more with our fan base; help them take control of their own health.
RS: Blueprint for Athletes™ endeavors to make health data accessible to the amateur athlete, just like GPS watches and other wearable health monitors ushered in a new age of personal device generated data, which changed the way people manage their health and wellness. How do you think this product will help athletes manage their health?
SP: It’s so necessary to communicate and understand everything about your body, especially when you are constantly training, performing and recovering.
MH: There could be a resistance factor or information overload; some people just don’t want to know, especially if there’s bad news. With that said, knowing at a young age can influence your lifestyle and wellness and ultimately change if for the better.
RS: Does the personalized report make a difference in viewing and understanding your results?
SW: The explanations offered in the report are so valuable and essential to understanding why your body may feel the way it does, or why Blueprint for Athletes™ even tests for that one thing.
MH: It’s so easy to see what’s elevated and what’s not.
RS: What do you think the future holds for diagnostics in sports?
RB: I’ve always been a scientist and I’ve always been curious. Certainly serving on the head, neck, and spine committee on the NFL – we have all different types of hypotheses; we are all very interested in whether or not biomarkers can lead us to answers to a lot of questions we have. Science has not been effectively integrated in sports. It’s always been in my interest to look at it, not just from the coaching side, but from the biomedical side as well.
Giants Fans will be the first to be able to use Blueprint for Athletes to power their personal performance goals and enhance their wellness knowledge.
Visit BlueprintforAthletes.com for more information.
Ronnie Barnes is the Senior Vice President and Head Athletic Trainer for the New York Giants.
Mark Herzlich (#58) and Spencer Paysinger (#52) started their football career in 2011 with the New York Giants. Steve Weatherford (#5) is in his ninth year as punter. Mark Herzlich is also a cancer survivor and author of What it Takes: Fighting for My Life and My Love of the Game. All three are Super Bowl XLVI Champions.
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