NATIONWIDE -- As college athletics has become more competitive over the years, universities across the country are spending millions of dollars to build athletic training facilities equipped with state-of-the-art amenities for their sports teams. And many university athletic training professionals say that these features—many of which cost thousands of dollars, if not more—could trickle down to the consumer health club market.
Last August, the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, opened the Athletic Medicine Center, a $10 million project privately funded through the Oregon Athletics Legacy Fund. The facility includes physician space for daily clinics and pre-participation physicals, nutritional education areas for student-athletes, vision and dental screening, body composition testing, a pharmacy, and vibration-training equipment.
The 14,580-square-foot center also features digital x-ray technology that creates high-resolution images with low-exposure to the patient. Because they are digital, doctors can instantly view the x-rays as long as they are linked into the facility’s database. Additional features include three therapeutic pools equipped with underwater treadmills and video systems that aid in rehabilitation and training, as well as a hot plunge pool and a cold plunge pool.
Students, athletes, coaches and staff helped with the center’s design process to insure functionality and meet the needs of both the medical professionals and the student-athletes, says Kim Terrell, associate director of athletic medicine at the University of Oregon.
“There are many facilities being updated, expanded or replaced, and it seems the trends are towards expanded hydrotherapy functions, increased open space for dynamic rehabilitation activities, computer applications for medical records, as well as exercise prescription and organization of rehabilitation progressions,” Terrell says. “The trends are towards expanding space for rehabilitation activities, enhanced computer applications, and new modalities that combine ultrasound, electric stimulation and laser therapy.”
Most of the center’s equipment and features could be marketed to recreational users in a health club setting, especially in regards to sports-specific training, Terrell says, although it would have to be supported properly.
“When fitness settings employ athletic trainers and offer post-injury care under a physician’s direction, there are really few differences in the two settings,” she says. “The needs of each facility seem to me to be determined by the training and expertise of the staff and the goals of the users.”
The Anderson Family Football Complex, an 80,000-square-foot football facility that recently opened at the University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, KS, at a cost of $31 million, includes two grass practice fields and additional parking. The two-level football facility features a football training area, locker rooms, athletics administrative offices and support services. The facility is filled with cutting-edge technology, including flat-screen TVs, an auditorium for football press conferences that features a pair of overhead projectors, removable walls for flexible space, a small football field with artificial turf, hydrotherapy pools with a current and hot tubs. The football facility also includes a video room where film shot on the practice field can be streamed directly and immediately into the room before the team even leaves the field.
The 42,000-square-foot Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center at KU features high-tech weight training equipment, a cardiovascular workout area, meeting rooms and lockers. The center was completed in 2003 and cost $8 million. It serves the KU men’s and women’s basketball teams and all other Olympic sports offered at KU.
To meet training demands, the center has tall ceilings and a lot of natural light. Strength equipment has also been customized specifically for KU’s athletic needs, says Andrea Hudy, KU assistant athletic director of sports performance.
“We helped design eight prototypes with cable columns that are specific to us and specific to our needs,” says Hudy, who worked with a major manufacturer to create the equipment. Hudy adds that the equipment may be sold globally and used in health clubs.
Hudy, who works mainly with KU’s men and women’s basketball teams, occasionally borrows programming ideas from health clubs. The center features a boxing area, 15 spin bikes and plenty of functional fitness space.
“I think there are so many different things out there, and it depends on where you are,” Hudy says of athletic training practices trickling down to the health club market. “We use a lot of space for total-body, multi-planar, multi-joint exercises.”
Other high-tech university athletic training facilities include the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and the Steelwood Athletic Training Facility at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, and the Starnes Athletic Training Center at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. Both feature customization and extensive rehabilitation equipment.
Although university athletic professionals say that these high-tech trends could filter down to health clubs and recreation centers, cost may still be prohibitive. For example, most quality underwater treadmills cost upwards of $2,000, and digital x-ray machines can cost anywhere from $35,000 to more than $200,000. However, if a club has the means, then they should look into it, KU’s Hudy says.
“We try to be cutting edge in our training, and we have the opportunity to do that here with the support that we have,” Hudy says. “We’re doing a lot of things that [the health club market] would be interested in.”