SBJ/Jan. 5-11, 2015/In Depth

Company plugs the power of the pod

When tennis star Novak Djokovic was asked several years ago about a report he used a hyperbaric oxygen chamber as part of his conditioning, he denied the story. Truth was he did use a pressurized oxygen chamber, but he took advantage, sources said, of the questioner’s confusion with the different types.

His preference was for a hypobaric chamber that mimicked the effects of high altitude (the hyperbaric units are simply rich in oxygen, and he denied the report because he didn’t want to alert his competitors to what he saw as a secret advantage).

The company that makes the hypobaric pressure chamber is CVAC Systems, based in Temecula, Calif., and there are a few dozen of the units scattered around the country, at research labs, doctors’ offices and even individual homes.

Novak Djokovic is said to have used hypobaric chambers that are touted to jump-start healing.
Photo by: Getty Images
The company pounced on a report from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center last year that concussions in the NFL were lower in high altitudes, but the company knows it needs far more research than that. It’s one of the reasons the company hired an investment bank, Livingston Securities, to raise money.

Allen Ruszkowski, CVAC’s chief executive, believes to get the kind of research done to prove the egg-shaped chambers work will require a minimum of $10 million.

While testimonials of the treatment’s benefits are easy to find, scientifically the theory that high altitude prevents and heals concussions is not there yet.

“Whether it works has yet to be proven,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine. He is also a senior adviser to the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee. “There are at least 15 or 20 different therapies and treatments that I am well aware of that might work” in the area of oxygen pressure chambers, he said.

Bob Grant is a former player and one of the founders of the Retired Players Congress. With the help of CVAC, he has been using the pods, and said he thinks the treatment helps with his many ailments.

Dr. George Michalopoulos, a chiropractic neurologist at Illinois Neuro & Physical Rehabilitation outside Chicago, uses a CVAC pod for some of the athletes he treats. He won’t name them, but it is believed to include NFL and NHL players.

“Within two weeks there is a huge measurable difference,” he said.

The theory holds that the high altitude condition decreases inflammation in the brain and jump-starts healing.

Ruszkowski envisions a nationwide network of NFL retirement communities where players have access to the pods.
 
And he of course wants a business of selling them to NFL teams as well.

Were that to occur, finding investors shouldn’t be a problem.

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