August 16, 2010

Monday notebook: Huskers have surgery overseas

Ten years ago, sports hernia surgeries could set players back 20 weeks, if not end their careers. Today, that recovery process can be sped up to as little as four weeks with a simple plane ride to Germany.

Over the offseason, three different Nebraska football players sought overseas medical treatment in Germany from nationally renowned hernia specialist Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck to surgically repair their groin injuries.

Sophomore wide receiver Tim Marlowe, junior linebacker Mathew May and sophomore offensive lineman Brandon Thompson all made the trek over to Munich with head NU trainer Mark Mayer and assistant trainer Patrick Spieldenner.

May said he was the first player to go over this summer with Mayer, while Marlowe and Thompson later followed with Spieldenner. For May, he already had surgery on his groin in January, but the operation he received in the United States did not work. NU heard about the surgery after former Husker safety Matt O'Hanlon saw Dr. Muschaweck a year ago and fully recovered.

May said Muschaweck has performed more than 16,000 sports hernia surgeries over the course of her career, several of which have been on professional hockey and soccer players.

"It was the same problem I had during the season that I had surgically repaired during the season and the mesh didn't take hold," May said. "We heard about (Dr. Muschaweck) because Matt O'Hanlon had it done and had good results, so I went over."

In two separate surgeries over a six-day period, May said his groin problems are now gone. Within a week May was jogging again, and he was back to full speed in less than a month. Most surgeries done in the United State require a 16- to 20-week recovery period before an athlete returns to full speed.

"It's a technique that she's developed and from what I understand it took her 22 years to perfect it," May said. "She's really the only in the world that does it."

Many Husker fans probably remember in the late 90's and early 2000's when several players' careers were hampered by sports hernia injuries, also called athletic pubalgia. Most notably, running back DeAngelo Evans went through this during the 1997 and '98 seasons and never was the same player again.

With Muschaweck's surgery, there's a good chance Evans could've fully recovered and been the same player he was before the injury.

Marlowe said he's grateful to the athletic department for giving them the opportunity to receive this type of world-class treatment.

"I was planning on getting surgery over the off-season and the (medical staff) said something about Germany and I thought it was just a joke," Marlowe said. "We looked into, did a lot of research and we found out they had the best doctor in the world. It was great to go over there and get it done and have no rehab time or recovery time. I got right back into summer workouts.

"Dr. Muschaweck had a great track record and hardly any relapses. Here in the U.S. Matt (May) had surgery and his didn't work out for him and the mesh inside (his groin) broke up and he was having troubles with that. This was his second surgery. A lot of guys that have gotten surgery in the U.S. have never been able to fully recover. It's just a tough injury to overcome."

- Sean Callahan

Monday fall camp takes
No classes, earlier practices: With a gap this week between the end of summer classes and the start of first semester, Nebraska is taking advantage of the open player schedules by bumping up their practice times on Tuesday and Thursday. Originally scheduled to go from 3:45-6 p.m., the Huskers will now practice from 1:45-4 p.m. The team will still hold it's two-a-day practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at their regularly scheduled times of 9-11:15 a.m. and 3:45-6 p.m.
Maher pulling double duty: After seniors Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic, the only other kicker or punter on Nebraska's 105-man roster is sophomore Brett Maher. Because of the limited depth, Maher is being asked to follow in Henery's footsteps and take reps at both kicker and punter this fall. Though he'll get his share of competition next year from guys like Jason Dann and Jon Damkroger, it looks as if the coaching staff is trying to get the same kind of versatility out of Maher as it has with Henery. Considering that he turned out offers from the likes of Ohio and Colorado State to walk-on at NU, there's no reason he won't have a shot at living up to the task.
Injury update: Head coach Bo Pelini did not give a detailed injury report following Monday's first practice, but senior tight end Dreu Young did not practice during the opening session.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour full-padded practice on the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Monday. The Huskers will return for their second practice of the day later this afternoon from 3:45-6 p.m. On Tuesday, NU's one full-padded practice of the day has been moved up to 1:45-4 p.m.

Intensity picks up during Week 2

Nebraska got back into the swing of things during the first week of fall camp last week. Now, things are getting a little more serious.

As the Huskers get closer and closer to their season opener, competition is picking up across the board, as now is the time players begin to separate themselves in various position battles.

"This is a big evaluation," head coach Bo Pelini said. "Every day in our program is a big evaluation for us. This program's about competing and competition, and this week is obviously a big week for us."

With three two-a-day practices this week, how the players respond throughout the week will play a big role in where they stack up when the coaches begin organizing their depth charts.

Sophomore safety P.J. Smith, who's in a tight race for playing time in his own right, said any let down in intensity could be the difference between earning a starting job or being a backup.

"This is a big week for us," Smith said. "We have more two-a-days this week, and then next week we go into game preparation, so this is a big week for the whole team. That's when we're going to know who's in the first group, who's in the second group and stuff like that. We have to pick it up a lot more and stay focused."

While things will definitely pick up for NU this week, Pelini said he isn't expecting the level of competition or effort from his players would be too much different than any other point during the season.

"Our intensity is turned up every day," Pelini said. "It doesn't matter if (we practice) once or twice - when you walk out here you walk out here with one thing in mind, and that's to get better and to let it all hang out. Our team has done a good job of that so far."

- Robin Washut

Pelini: Huskers having best camp yet

It's been a long time since expectations for Nebraska have been as high as they are heading into this season. Through the first week of fall camp at least, the Huskers are living up to those expectations.

While the team has been far from perfect, Pelini said the overall level of play, focus and execution in practice during the first 10 practices of camp have been as good or better than they've been since he took over as head coach.

"They've come a long way as far as that's concerned," Pelini said. "That's great. I don't see our guys feeling sorry for themselves this time. They get a little bit leg weary, and that happens sometimes. It's human nature. But you don't see it as often and it's not hard to address. You see our guys come out there ready to compete."

In particular, the fact that he hasn't seen much of a drop off in his players over the course of the past week has been the most encouraging aspect of the fall thus far.

"I think our consistency is better," Pelini said. "Our kids understand how to approach the day. I don't see as many ups and downs. I think it's our guys are mentally tougher than we have been in the past consistently. That's a positive, but trust me when I tell you this, there's still a lot to fix. We're not game ready by any means."

- Robin Washut

Henery works with Kaeding over the off-season

Senior Nebraska kicker Alex Henery had an interesting training partner over the summer. Henery said he got the chance to work with the San Diego Chargers Nate Kaeding.

Henery helped Kaeding at some of his different kicking camps in both Omaha and Iowa City.

"He's somebody I compare myself a lot too," Henery said of Kaeding. "Him and (Chicago Bear) Robbie Gould we're all just kind of smaller guys with a lot of technique. We are all just kind of similar."

As for any tips or pointers, the biggest things Kaeding preached to Henery are consistency and hitting the ball properly.

"I was actually going to his camp when I was a sophomore or a junior in high school," Henery said. "That's how I know him and we talk a little bit and we talked over the summer. During the year I'll send him some emails and stuff like that."

- Sean Callahan

O-line not discouraged by injuries

After dealing with injury issues seemingly all last season, one of the biggest positives for Nebraska's offensive line coming into camp was the fact that it as healthy as it's been in at least a year.

That lasted all of one week, however.

Before the Huskers completed their first week of the fall, the o-line had had three players miss at least two days of practice due to injury.

After senior guard Keith Williams went down with a muscle pull and junior tackle Jermarcus Hardrick suffered from heat issues, the unit was dealt a huge blow when senior Mike Smith was lost for the season with a broken leg.

Even so, the line hasn't let the setbacks discourage them or change the way they approach practices.

"You know those things are going to happen," senior tackle Marcel Jones said. "It's kind of unfortunate they happened so early, but you kind of expect stuff like that is going to happen. You already know injuries are a part of the game. With those guys going down, it was just kind of like, well, the other guys have to step up. He went down, so come on, we've got to bring you along. You've got to be ready at all times."

The good news for the unit is that both Williams and Hardrick were able to return to practice without missing significant time. The line has also benefited from the fact that it's arguably deeper than it's been in years, making it easier for other guys to step in and pick up right where things left off is a player goes down with an injury.

"It just happens," Jones said. "We get hit every play, and it's just part of the game. You just have to fight through it. We don't really think if you make it through a whole season healthy it's a blessing. It's just injuries are a part of the game. You just have to play through them."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***Pelini said junior defensive tackle Jared Crick has provided plenty of leadership so far this fall, particularly with his play on the field.

"He's not a guy that's real vocal, but he's a guy who leads by example," Crick said. "I'm seeing that out on the field. I like the way he's been playing."

***Going back to the competition at safety, Smith said he's working with the No. 1 defense in the dime package only, meaning seniors Anthony West and DeJon Gomes look to be the two starters in the base peso defense.

When NU moves to its dime package with six defensive backs, Smith will likely replace Gomes when he moves up to play the dime back.

***Marlowe said he continues to work as one of NU's primary kickoff return specialists alongside senior wide receiver Niles Paul.

"As of right now it's me and Niles (Paul) back there and Rex (Burkhead) is also helping us out," Marlowe said. "We are looking at some other guys too. (Brandon Kinnie) is back there and we are just trying a bunch a different athletes."

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