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Article posted: 11/15/2013 8:26 PM

The man (and machine) behind Cutler's recovery

John McNulty works with client Dan Steinman of Chicago Friday at Synergy Fitness to rehab a rotator cuff injury.

John McNulty works with client Dan Steinman of Chicago Friday at Synergy Fitness to rehab a rotator cuff injury.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

This ARPwave machine, which is used at Synergy Fitness in Libertyville, uses electrical currents to stimulate recovery.

This ARPwave machine, which is used at Synergy Fitness in Libertyville, uses electrical currents to stimulate recovery.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Photos of the professional athletes that John McNulty has worked with at Synergy Fitness adorn the walls at his Libertyville facility. McNulty started implementing the ARP in 2003, and his facility was the first in Illinois to use it. Today, many NFL players have their own ARP, which McNulty encourages them to use.

Photos of the professional athletes that John McNulty has worked with at Synergy Fitness adorn the walls at his Libertyville facility. McNulty started implementing the ARP in 2003, and his facility was the first in Illinois to use it. Today, many NFL players have their own ARP, which McNulty encourages them to use.

 
John McNulty, left, CEO of Synergy Fitness, worked with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to speed up the rehab for his injured groin.

John McNulty, left, CEO of Synergy Fitness, worked with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to speed up the rehab for his injured groin.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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He helped to speed up Jay Cutler's recovery from what quickly became the most talked about groin injury in the NFL.

And, as evident by the many framed pictures of athletes on a wall in his Libertyville office, John McNulty has also helped accelerate the healing of former Bears players Israel Idonije, Tommie Harris and Mike Brown.

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Autographed photos of Cutler's teammates (Charles Tillman and Patrick Mannelly) and even a former local soccer player also decorate the walls. They provide testimonies to the work of McNulty and his staff.

But not every athlete who shows up at Synergy Fitness and Sports leaves charged-up, so to speak, after a session on the ARPwave machine that gained more attention after the Bears quarterback used it.

"I have people that as soon as they open the door say, 'I hate this place,' " said McNulty, Synergy's CEO. "I'm like, 'I understand. I don't take it personally.' I've had guys call me and say, 'You know what? I feel better. But I just can't do it.' "

Pain thresholds

No one questions Cutler's toughness anymore. Bouncing back up from a hit by Ndamukong Suh is one thing. Surviving a session on the ARP is another. It provides an entirely different physical challenge. The machine seeks to find the cause of the injury and treat the symptoms.

When the unit is turned on, a person feels a tickling sensation, which quickly graduates to a feeling of pins and needles. Once the discomfort level reaches a "10" on a scale of 1-10, McNulty has hit a "hot spot" and cranks the machine even more. The more tolerant of the discomfort, the quicker the person starts healing.

"It's such an intense and rigorous charge into the area," said Dan Steinman, a Chicagoan receiving treatment for a rotator cuff injury, as he winced while hooked up to the ARP Friday. "It's part painful and part rigorous working of your body."

Expected to be sidelined 4-6 weeks after injuring his groin against Washington on Oct. 20, Cutler started Sunday against Detroit at Soldier Field.

He didn't leave the game until late in the fourth quarter with what the Bears called an ankle injury, which will keep him out of Sunday's game against Baltimore.

"He's a hard worker," said McNulty, who's been working with Bears players since 2005.

"He pushed. He did everything exactly to protocol. Give him kudos because he worked hard."

The ARP, which stands for Accelerated Recovery Performance and is the size of a toaster, uses electrical currents as well as a "patented bio electrical current."

After working closely with Cutler, McNulty wasn't surprised that the QB returned to the field in just three weeks.

"The more applied use of the unit, even faster results can be obtained," McNulty said.

"That's what people don't grasp, because everyone looks at it from a traditional standpoint. Some people will say, 'I've had groin injuries and this and that, and it's taken 4-6-plus weeks (to recover).'

"What the (ARPwave) technology allows us to do is simply provide the body's natural mechanism of healing on the electrical side, and the chemical reaction will occur. It always begins electrically."

Mind matters

"The ARP becomes a second brain and tells the muscles this is what you do," McNulty added. "The muscles are a slave to the brain."

McNulty started implementing the ARP in 2003, and his facility was the first in Illinois to use it. Today, many NFL players have their own ARP, which McNulty encourages them to use even hours before a game.

"All it simply comes down to is, you rectify where the greatest problem is and you continue to take care of the rest," said McNulty. "That holds true for every person that walks in the door."

Since it became public that Cutler used the ARP and had success, the phone at Synergy has been ringing more frequently.

McNulty can relate to athletes.

He's a former football star at Mundelein High School. After injuring his shoulder before he could play a single down of college football at Northern Illinois, he switched his major from marketing to exercise science.

"A lot of people want to learn about it," McNulty said. "A colleague had mentioned that the ARP is a modality, but it's really Jay and all these guys that work to really look at recovering. The mind is a very, very powerful thing that can heal the body. It will follow what you tell it to do."

It's not just for everybody. No pain, no gain? For some athletes, so be it.

"Not everybody wants to put himself through it because there's some discomfort," McNulty said. "But the bottom line is, if you truly want to get back to being pain-free, then wouldn't you do anything in your arsenal -- and research everything -- and go after it?"

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