By Emine Yücel
Ifeadi Odenigbo, a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, limps into the treatment room following a Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears. He just pulled his hamstring, but he needs to be out on the field, ready to go in less than 48 hours. “You’re just always trying to get on the field as soon as possible,” he said. “So, you’re in an ‘I’m doing whatever I can to feel better’ state of mind.”
Hilary Patzer, the sports acupuncturist for the Vikings, asks Odenigbo to lie down on the padded treatment table. After finding out he hurt his hamstring in the game, Patzer starts inserting 10, two-inch-long, thin needles into the injured area. Odenigbo lies facedown with needles sticking out of his hamstring.
Then, she takes a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and sets it on fire with a match. She inserts the fire ball into a glass cup, takes it out and quickly places the cup onto Odenigbo’s hamstring. This creates a vacuum. Immediately, the skin is sucked upward, into the cup. Patzer continues to cup different spots on Odenigbo’s leg. She leaves them in place, occasionally sliding them on his skin without releasing the suction. After 10 minutes, she removes all the cups, leaving perfectly circular, red and purple marks on his hamstring. About half an hour later, Patzer also removes the needles.
“I go to my session, and she works her magic,” Odenigbo said. “Now, I’m feeling looser and less sore. I’ll be ready to go.” What Odenigbo describes as “magic” is Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Eastern medicine practice, which includes cupping, acupuncture, electroacupuncture, manual therapy, dietary therapy and stretching, techniques Patzer often uses in combinations.