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BOGACZYK: Another `Doc' Gives Herd an NFL Connection

Volleyball's Justice Craft and Dr. Suzanne Konz
Feb. 10, 2015



            HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The National Football League reports that Marshall won’t have any participants in the 2015 NFL Combine next week in Indianapolis.

            That depends, however, on how you define “participants.”

            No players from Coach Doc Holliday’s nationally ranked 2014 team have been invited to the week-long Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, but Dr. Suzanne Konz of MU’s College of Health Professions will work the event for a seventh straight year.

            Konz, an associate professor and director of the biomechanics lab at Marshall, will be among six health professionals who will assist in medical evaluations of the more than 300 participants. Her participation is rooted in what she calls her “first career” as an athletic trainer.

            In her fifth year at Marshall, the Iowa native also is uniquely involved in the medical evaluation of Thundering Herd athletes through isokinetic testing. Several Herd teams have had their athletes go through the testing, and those evaluations -- in consultation with athletic trainers -- provide MU athletes another plus in their collegiate careers thanks to an expert in isokinetics here on campus.

            “Isokinetics is a velocity-based strength training, rather than the traditional weight-based training,” Konz said in her Gullickson Hall office Monday. “We measure the strength and endurance of a muscle, and we control the speed of the movement, rather than the amount of weight that they’re pushing.

            “I give the example where, in a weight room, you put a light weight on and you can do it really fast. When you put heavier weight on, it forces you to move slow.

            “Well, when we put you into this device on a slow speed, you can push as light or as hard as you want, and it’s still going to move at that speed. Obviously, we want them to give the best effort that they can, but we’re looking at torque. We’re looking at power, more so than just how much weight they can move.”

            Marshall athletes undergo isokinetic testing in a large, specially equipped chair in the athletic training education lab on the second floor of Gullickson. This past year, football, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s soccer players have been tested. Volleyball is next up, after Konz returns from the Combine, where she will spend five days.

            She got involved with the NFL Combine while a professor at Oklahoma State – “I still bleed orange; that’s an institution that really gets into your soul,” Konz said. She responded to an advertisement in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association newsletter, seeking volunteers to work the Combine.

            “I submitted an application, and the rest is history,” Konz said.

            Konz and her fellow five Combine evaluators work in three teams of two.

            “We work with most of the athletes,” the MU professor said. “It’s 20 minutes at most, and we see about 80 athletes a day as a group. It takes 20 minutes by the time they warm up and we get them in the chair. There’s not a whole lot of interaction, and most it’s kind of cool meeting the guys and seeing the different attitudes.

            “The group I work with, those of us doing the testing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. We have a great time. And the fun group is always the same one, the DBs (defensive backs), because they talk so much smack to one another.”

            So, what are NFL teams looking for from Konz’s work? What kind of information?

            The example she cited related back to Herd sports.

            “’Soundness’ is an easy way to put it,” Konz said. “We are trying to figure out a way to give it more weight, even looking at imbalance, so that strength staffs know that this athlete coming in is either more hamstring-dominant versus quad-dominant, that they may have a timing issue kind of thing that they might need to address. 

            “They can have a better understanding of not only how to train them – to make a little more durable, a little more what they want – or you can even match up their deficits a little bit more. But it’s also used as a preventative type of screening like we do here at Marshall with some of our athletes.

            “In women’s soccer, for example, we had a series of ACL (tears) this year, so the question was posed as to why. The sad thing is we can’t tell them, why because we don’t know what caused them or what deficiencies are going on or what factors came in at that point in time. But we can tell them how solid their athletes are. And we’ve got that info now, and we’ll meet and tell them.”

            Konz put her work in layman’s terms.

            “I teach biomechanics,” she said, “and I always say it’s math and physics as they pertain to the human body and how the body moves within the environment, whether it’s an athlete or someone just walking down the street and how the body interacts with whatever surface there is and whatever force is coming in.

            In addition to isokinetic testing, Konz will use jumping to further evaluate athletes for potential risk of injury.

            “On women’s soccer, we used the isokinetics there, but also the power the athletes generated from a vertical jump test and a standing long jump test,” said Konz, who has degrees from Iowa Wesleyan and Indiana (masters) and her doctorate from BYU. “And we put those into a ratio to compare one another and determine whether they’re more of a vertical athlete or a horizontal athlete.

            “The idea is the more that they lean toward one way or another, it kind of sets them up for potential higher risk for, let’s say, whether it’s a hamstring/knee if they’re vertically oriented or a quad/ knee if they’re horizontally dominant. So, by trying to balance that out a little bit better, you can make them a little more durable, a little more sound, and we hope to minimize those injuries.

            “Some of this stuff, maybe you have an athlete who is very significantly vertical and again points you toward hamstring, but they go through their career and nothing happens -- because it’s not just one thing that causes things to happen. If this athlete is horizontal, power type, a lot of quad dominance … Then, that changes how mechanics work, so the athlete can be trained differently.

            “We try and figure that out.”

            Konz’s work with the NFL isn’t her only high-profile athletics connection. She has been a consultant with USA Track & Field for more than a decade, and she heads for a meeting in Las Vegas later this week to focus on biomechanical analysis work with the USATF in sport science.

            One of the other significant, interesting things I’ve done since I was in doctoral education is I’ve worked high level hammer throw athletes, doing biomechanical analysis,” Konz said. “I’m working on data right now, and what we’re doing is working on improving techniques so we can take our elite athletes and at least get them into finals in world competitions.

            “On the women’s side – I’ve been doing this since probably about 2003 – we’ve improved that, on getting more females consistently into elite levels of competition. They work very hard, and I hope I contribute a little to that.”

            Her work is appreciated closer to home, too.

            Dr. Konz and her expertise in isokinetic testing is a valuable resource for the School of Kinesiology programs, our students and campus athletes,” said Dr. Gary McIlvain, associate dean of the College of Health Professions and chairman of the School of Kinesiology. “Her experience in testing Olympic, collegiate and professional athletes is a resource students seek out when learning to administer and interpret isokinetic testing.

            “There is nothing that brings the classroom to life more than real-life experience and that is exactly what Suzanne Konz brings to those studying biomechanics here at Marshall University."