Ever pick up a piece of equipment in the training room and wonder what moment of inspiration generated its creation? PT Aligned had an opportunity to speak with Anthony Katz, founder of Hyperice recovery products. You may have seen professional athletes like Blake Griffin, Lindsay Vonn and Patrick Peterson warming up or cooling down with Katz’s products on the sidelines. Katz spoke to us about developing muscle recovery products that meet the needs of every skill level, from beginner to NBA superstar. Katz gave us insight into where his ideas for products like the Hyperice wraps and VYPER vibrating foam roller came from, and how he hopes Hyperice impacts the future of the rehab and recovery world.
From professional sports to your clinic, Katz and his team are committed to creating rehab and recovery tools that help everyone move better and feel better. Get to know his story below.
When you started your company, Hyperice, why was the initial focus on professional athletes?
I’ve always looked at it like there’s great premium on keeping multi-million dollar professional athletes on the court and on the field by allowing them to recover and rehab faster. Performance and longevity in sport is all based around two things: One, there is the recovery from day to day competition and training. So we’re always addressing the question of “How do I get my body back where I don’t have inflammation and pain in joints? And, “How do I continue to move with balance and efficiency?” The daily recovery is a kind of routine where athletes have both training and recovery programs and routines to follow and have to do them religiously
Then there is the recovery from injury, and in the Sports Medicine business it’s all about how to get someone better, faster. When franchises have 50-90 players on the payroll, there’s an enormous amount of time and effort devoted to keeping everyone healthy and performing at their highest level. So when guys get hurt, there is always a premium on finding the best surgeons, the best PTs, the best soft tissue therapists and best trainers to work together to get the player back on the field.
So once you’ve found the surgeon, the trainer and the PT whose skill levels can provide the right recovery therapy, it comes down to using the best tools they have access to help facilitate the process. Just like a mechanic, you’re only as good as your tools. And so this is where I wanted to step in, innovate within that area of recovery and create a set of top-of-the-line technologies that will help both athletes and therapists address rehab and recovery needs. Whether it’s helping with daily recovery or acute/chronic injury, we wanted to be the trusted brand that the professionals look to when they choose what goes into their toolbox.
Okay and so you wanted a physical therapist or a sports medicine professional to say “I want my patient/athlete to feel better and recover faster, so what technology can help me help them expedite the process, inside or outside of my office?”
Yes, I wanted to make products the athlete could use with a therapist or as active care on their own. The training room and the treatment office are both incredibly busy places, so getting the athlete to a place where they didn’t have to rely on the trainer or the therapist for simple things like icing was the objective. Now, as we evolved, enabling the athletes to get some of the treatment you’d get inside the training room, in comfort of their own home—that was our goal for the VYPER vibrating foam roller.
And so that was the challenge for us: making a world class innovative product every single time, instead of just oh, we make another iPad. We needed to differentiate all of our products so that the therapists and the athletes both recognize the competitive advantage that we provide in the recovery arena, in attempts to get the athlete better, faster. That’s the greater picture and vision I had when first developing our products.
We aim to test with the highest level of sports; if we can fit their needs, then we know that the product will work for almost anyone else. These guys hold our products to the highest standards.
Could you touch on product design and where you came up with the inspiration for the Hyperice wraps?
People always ask where I got the idea for Hyperice. I was thirty years old and still as active as I always was. I started to notice changes in the way my body felt after playing basketball or working out. I was watching an NBA game on TV and I saw the players using plastic bags and tape to ice and compress muscles. I was surprised icing hadn’t really changed, that’s what we did in college!
How come no one came up with a better way to ice? Icing for an athlete is something they do every day. It’s not something that you do once in a while; it’s like brushing your teeth. I thought, if I can come up with a better and more efficient tool, I could improve on this recovery process.
I don’t like throwing away plastic bags, so I bought reusable medical bags to use for icing. But I noticed that whenever I tried to compress the bag to my body like I would use with a wrap, it would push all the air to the top and then the wrap would never make contact with the ice. It seemed like a lost area, because you can’t get the air out of the bag. So it was my goal to get the air out of the bag. If I could get the ice to fit around my joint with some amount of compression, I would get a better treatment and I could also move around while the cold penetrated deeper than normal.
I went down the street and got my neighbor’s drill and I drilled a hole on the top of the bag and I put my thumb over it and experimented. I drew up this design for an air release on an ice bag, where the release would do three things: It would increase the surface area of the wrap, because now the ice gets pushed down and flattens out; it would increase surface contact area of the ice so there’d be no little spaces and gaps; and the button would be an easier solution to release air than trying to unscrewing the cap to let the air out, or pop a hole in a plastic bag, which can get messy.
And now you’re focusing on products outside of the icing/cryotherapy spectrum?
The idea for the VYPER vibrating foam roller happened at the University of Oregon. I saw a player putting his foam roller on a vibration plate and thought, wow that makes sense – I looked into the idea and it felt like a lightning bolt had hit me. I knew that no one had done that yet, and so I came to my engineers and said I wanted to do another product, but I didn’t just want it to be about icing, I wanted to create more of a recovery brand.
So I went into my engineers’ office and I said “I have my next invention – I want to make the vibrating foam roller” and he goes, “what’s a foam roller?” He didn’t even know what a foam roller was. So I knew I was on to something when I realized that we could create another innovative product and help educate everyone on the benefits of foam rolling and vibration.
Immediately, we started taking about how to get the vibration. So we went and bought an RC car motor and weights and made a really crude vibrating loud metal thing to start with. Overall it took us about two years to develop the VYPER all the way.
The VYPER is our one tool that a physical therapist can use in their treatment room for a warm up, mobilzation or rehab session, or they can sell it to their clients for at home use and make a nice profit for their time and expertise. You can tell your patients: “I want you to do this every day for 5 minutes on these body parts” and help to improve outcomes by guiding them through the process. Because a lot of times, you only have so much time with a patient, so the more they can do outside your office, the better results you’ll get. Also, people come in with a bad knee, and their pain has nothing to do with their knees, it’s just they can’t open up or activate their hips, and the combination of rolling and vibration is really great for that.
I gave the VYPER to a friend of mine who had bad knees and after rolling out for some time he said, “My knees feel so much better because I’ve been doing the VYPER on my hips” and I said, yes, because it’s part of the kinetic chain and that was most likely the problem all along.
The whole point of our products is that you can take the training room into your home, whether you’re an athlete or patient recovering from exercise or an injury.
The VYPER roller and ice wraps both advance therapy and aid the therapist in providing tools that deliver real results inside and outside of their practice. We know the therapist isn’t going to invest in any product that doesn’t get results. So at Hyperice, we know what our role is: we give therapists the tools to be able to provide better treatment and improves outcomes for their patients, in a more efficient manner, while at the same time making the professional’s life easier by providing a high quality solution to their daily treatment needs.
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