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Optimum Performance: 2015 NFL draft preparation starts now for athletes eyeing the next level

Every year about this time a select number of college players will make a decision as to how they will prepare themselves to enter the NFL. The pre-draft process includes February’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and the athletes’ respective Pro Days in March.

Having had a successful NFL draft preparation program for 10 years, I understand how to prepare a young man for the seven functional tests, medical testing and interviews that are administered at the Combine.

My program was one of the first in the country to offer advanced medical and physiological testing, custom designed meal plans, Wonderlic test preparation (used to assess the aptitude of prospects) and isokinetic muscle balance test preparation — along with on-field training and strength and conditioning work.

After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, I decided that I no longer wanted to prepare these kids for their NFL future. Why? Because I became frustrated with the level of physical damage, undiagnosed high blood pressure, and, in some cases, the aftermath of a “play at all cost” mentality some players brought to my front door.

Draft-eligible players (three years removed from high school) can’t actually sign with an agent until after their bowl game, but the recruitment process has already begun as players try to get a feel for their potential pro careers.

Recently I was asked if I would be willing to use my experience and unique diagnostic capabilities offered through my programs at St. Charles Parish Hospital to identify and offer solutions to any performance deficits, which might get in the way of seven NFL hopefuls’ short- and long-term success. Keep in mind: If I find the deficits, so will the “game.”

Based on prior experience, here is what I might expect to find:

  • Imbalances in hip range of motion — brought on by a strength training program that de-emphasizes hip internal/external rotation and flexion/extension. This deficit will affect the athlete’s success in change-of-direction shuttle runs.
  • Loss of range of motion in ankle dorsiflexion (cocking motion), which can impair an athlete’s ability to squat and land properly from a jump — usually brought on by overdeveloped calves. This deficit will effect the athlete’s acceleration in straightaway runs.
  • Leg length differential (retraction of one leg) — usually the result of excessive loading of the spine — may predispose the athlete to hamstrings issues in the future while contributing to a loss of range of motion in the hip.
  • Tight Pectoralis Minor (a thin, triangular muscle located at the upper/outer aspect on both sides of the chest), usually caused by an over emphasis of the flat/incline bench press with inadequate pulling-type exercises (rows) to act as a counterbalance. A tight pec minor can predispose a quarterback, defensive back or receiver to the potential for shoulder issues.
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) has a potential correlation to those players who have weighed more than 300 pounds since high school and have a waist measurement greater than 40 inches (true risk is 50 inches and over).

Let’s see what walks through my door.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams, has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He is St. Charles Parish Hospital’s Fitness and Wellness expert. Contact him at