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Jadeveon Clowney Rehab Update: He "Looks Spectacular"

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The first overall pick from the 2014 NFL Draft is benefiting from a cutting-edge treatment while recovering from the knee surgery that prematurely ended his rookie season. The latest news is VERY positive.

"Spectacular!"
"Spectacular!"
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As we edge closer to training camp, which officially starts one week from this Friday, one of the big questions on everyone's mind is whether Jadeveon Clowney will be on the field with his teammates.  Previous updates have been positive, with comments from Bill O'Brien saying he thinks the young linebacker will be ready for WeekOone of the regular season against the visiting Chiefs, and perhaps even be ready in time for training camp.

That's an impressive recovery from a very challenging procedure that typically leads to significant atrophy of the leg muscles; the patient is generally unable to put any weight on the leg for upwards of eight weeks after surgery.  You may recall that team trainers were utilizing innovative military techniques to help some of the Texans' players during their rehab process.  Clowney was one of those players.

The technique known as "blood flow restriction training" is described in detail by Dr. Walt Lowe, head team physician for the Texans, in this latest article from Jerry Barca at Forbes:

Typically, given the knee injury and subsequent surgery, a guy Clowney’s size would have lost about three centimeters of girth around his quadricep. That didn’t happen. Not even close. He lost between a 1/2 centimeter and 1 centimeter, said Dr. Walt Lowe, the head team physician for the Texans.

The reason has to do with one aspect of his rehab: blood flow restriction training.

Injured knees blow up with swelling. Combine that with the accompanying pain and the body instinctively moves to shut down the quadricep, weakening it. Then you can’t put weight on it. The muscle begins to die as the player can’t do anything to build strength there.

"Even if they’ve recovered well and healed what we’ve repaired, the weakness is so profound that it takes months to get it back to a guy that needs to do what JD needs to do on his leg to be successful playing pro football," said Lowe, who is also the medical director of the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute in Houston.

Blood flow restriction training doesn’t use weight. A blood pressure cuff, or tourniquet, is wrapped around the thigh or groin. There is still some blood flow, but it is reduced by 75 to 80 percent, Lowe said.

Even though there is no weight bearing down on the knee, the low blood flow and oxygen level make basic exercises extremely difficult. Simple movements such as three sets of 15 leg raises while sitting in chair are now similar to six sets of 400-pound squats, Lowe said.

ESPN’s Stephania Bell mentioned the therapy to Lowe and pointed him to Johnny Owens, a physical therapist at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Owens had been using the training on wounded veterans.

Clowney "looks spectacular," Lowe said, but there is no hard timetable to get him back on the field. Blood flow restriction isn’t about speeding up recovery. It’s about building and maintaining strength during rehab.

"The real goal in the end is to have him be who he was before he got hurt."

If the Texans can get Clowney back to "who he was before he got hurt," then 2015 may be one of the most electrifying seasons to watch the defense in the franchise's brief history.  I can only imagine what it will look like to have a healthy Clowney in the lineup alongside: J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and a healthy Brian Cushing.