Measuring Muscles Like Batteries: NFL Teams Turn to Ultrasound, Seeking an Edge

With the NFL opener done and dusted, the season grind starts. From now until the end of December, all 32 franchises will try to balance performance with recovery. And the few teams lucky enough to reach the postseason may have to keep playing that game all the way through to Feb. 4, 2018.

Winning championship rings is partly about who can best perfect that tradeoff. Losing too many players to injury or illness can wreck a season, but being too healthy might mean you didn’t spend enough time in the pain cave. Last year’s top four teams on Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost statistic didn’t make the postseason. Super Bowl LI’s two contenders, New England and Atlanta, were No. 8 and No. 6, respectively, in terms of keeping their players on the field.

A handful of teams have turned to a Denver-based company called MuscleSound to understand how close they might be to the line. MuscleSound uses ultrasound scans to determine energy stores in athletes’ muscles, in the form of glycogen level, providing an overall “fuel rating” from zero [empty] to 100 [full]. The idea is that knowing how much each game drains an athlete’s batteries, and checking to see if they’ve been recharged sufficiently by the next game, will help teams fashion personalized training and nutrition schedules for each player.

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