Note: The following appears in the Charlotte gameday football program.
Clemson Applied Science Lab (CASL) has a very simple mission. “Carry out the vision of the head football coach by providing confidence to student-athletes that their physical and technical development is constantly advancing.”
Director of Applied Science Alex Bina has done everything in his power to ensure that those words ring true and Clemson student-athletes are given every possible opportunity to both improve performance and physically recover, using any and all modern technologies available.
The two key focuses of CASL are maximizing performance and expediting recovery.
The ultimate goal is quantifying body performance. Once the body and its abilities are put into numerical terms, it becomes considerably easier to determine what needs to be improved and the best possible route to enhance it.
Each year, student-athletes experience the full CASL scan three times apiece. The CASL scan is a series of five evaluations that establish baseline data for players’ physical and technical development. These scans include body composition in order to quantify lean and fat mass in the athlete, and providing nutritionists with as much information as possible to advise the player on what personalized eating and training plan would result in maximum success.
A vision scan is also performed to quantify reaction time and depth perception. Strobe glasses, one of the many modern technologies used by CASL, are then used to improve upon focus and ball skills.
Not only does CASL provide coaches and student-athletes with quantitative data with which they can analyze performance, it also is a key resource for student-athletes to use during the recovery process. Bina stressed that quick and healthy recovery is the priority of the staff at CASL.
The path to success in recovery is a two-step process. The first being communication and collaboration between the student-athlete and their strength & conditioning coach, nutrition and sports medicine experts and their sports psychologist. The second step is using the established baseline scores of the athlete as targets for return-to-play protocols and as a foundation for injury-prevention training.
Clemson Applied Science Lab concerns itself heavily with the mental aspect of sports performance. Student-athletes get access to a sensory-deprivation float tank, which eliminates all external stimuli and gives the closest estimation of “true peace” possible. This also improves sleep quality, which is a large part of both mental and physical performance. Along with sensory deprivation tanks, CASL utilizes cryotherapy to further stimulate recovery.
Bina has always been interested in bioengineering, which is the degree he earned from Penn State. Bina, who is also pursuing his Ph.D. at Clemson, is implementing a simple plan, which is to “learn how the body works as a machine and put students in a position to manipulate that machine to improve recovery and performance.”
Players have been responding very positively to the work that Bina and CASL have done for them, and as a program, Clemson has seen tremendous success in terms of both their players’ short and long-term recoveries.
Bina wants to ensure that “everything possible is being done for them” in order to get them back to their peak performance as healthily and as quickly as possible. As far as long term and overarching goals and aspirations for CASL, Bina offered the following.
“When we talk about, ‘Best is the Standard,’ that means in all ways possible. This is just another piece of that puzzle.”