Murphy Grant, Kansas University assistant athletic director for sports medicine, was at a rehabilitation institute in Las Vegas, explaining to the client the aquatic exercise program he had designed for him.
“Everything I put together was questioned: ‘Why would you do this? What’s the purpose of this?’ He wanted to know those things, which is fine,” Grant remembered. “It keeps me on my toes when it comes to designing my rehab exercises.”
The client was Tiger Woods, a half-dozen years or so ago. The New York Yankees brought Grant to their Tampa spring training facility to deliver an exercise program to Derek Jeter and his physical therapist.
The Navy Seals twice have enlisted Grant for his sports-exercise expertise. The first came four years ago in Norfolk, Virginia, the most recent this past July in Coronado, California, with team Nos. 3 and 5.
One of the Seals told him, “I have to be able to move. I have to be able to communicate. I have to be able to shoot,” and told him that over and over.
So Grant designed a rehab program that had the Seal in constant motion in different parts of the swimming pool and maintained a conversation with him the entire time.
“I couldn’t do anything about the shooting aspect,” Grant said with a smile.
Former Kansas football coach Mark Mangino was fond of saying there were two types of people in the world. “There are doers and there are ....” I can’t exactly remember the words Mangino used for non-doers, but I believe it meant jaw-flappers, talkers. Grant definitely is a doer. He never would have brought up Woods or Jeter or any other big names with whom he has worked without first being asked.
Those in his field know how good he is, so he has no need to talk himself up. In his seventh season as the KU football team’s head athletic trainer and his fifth as the university’s director of sports medicine, Grant and the rest of the Big 12 athletic trainers have pooled their brains and research to find better ways to detect and treat sickle cell anemia, cardiac issues and heat illnesses.
For the past couple of years, they have tackled the concussion issue head-on. With Grant as the point man, the Big 12 first came up with a mission statement on the topic and then guidelines, which will be updated soon, based on research.
Grant has presented the Big 12 athletic trainers’ findings to groups of coaches and administrators. During one meeting with football coaches, Grant said, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder said he would like to see a breakdown on what types of plays in games and in practice result in the most concussions.
Research broken down by plays and drills is ongoing.
As part of his responsibilities, Grant stays on top of the latest technology to help in detecting concussions.
Since last year, KU has used iPads belted to players’ bodies to conduct more advanced and football-applicable concussion tests.
In addition to routine tests, players are tested while doing football moves. For example, instead of merely having players read letters and numbers and asking them if their vision is blurred, he has them reading while their heads are moving side-to-side, as they are on a football field.
“We always tell our athletes to keep their heads on a swivel,” Grant said. “So if they’re doing it and it brings back symptoms, we know they’re not ready.”
Grant knows how badly football players want to return to the field, having played himself at Quincy University in Illinois from 1992 to 1996. At the same time, he always plays his trump card.
“The safety of the athlete always comes first,” Grant said.