Northwestern partnership helps Vixen reach championship game

Rob Karwath | July 15, 2016

An integrated health partnership between Northwestern and the Minnesota Vixen helped the Twin Cities-based women's tackle football team to its best season ever.

The Minnesota Vixen finished a successful season, including an appearance for the Twin Cities-based women’s tackle football team in the World Championship game.

The Vixen also had had a healthy season working with Northwestern Health Sciences University to build players’ strength as well as prevent and treat injuries.

The two were absolutely linked, team officials say.

“Northwestern has been an invaluable partner and no doubt has helped us get where we are,” says team co-owner James Brown. “In the past when players would get injured, it was kind of hit or miss whether they would follow up and get treatment. Now that we have a consistent health-care partner, they’ve helped us keep our players on the field.”

That kept the team winning, Brown says, leading the Vixen to the World Championship game of the Independent Women’s Football League in Charlotte, N.C. The Vixen fell short of their goal of an undefeated season, losing July 23 to the Utah Flaconz in the championship. But it was the team's best season ever, and Northwestern was with the Vixen from start to finish as the team’s integrated health partner.

“We were at their tryouts in the winter, and we ran a strength camp for the players after that,” says Elizabeth Moos, a chiropractor and clinical fellow at Northwestern’s Human Performance Center who has been the team’s primary contact.

“During the season, we've offered an integrated injury-prevention clinic that the players could go to, with chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and Chinese medicine. We talk with the players quite a bit and find out how they’re feeling, what’s going on with their bodies. When we know that, we can address issues before they become injuries.”

That kept players healthy, as well as able to recover and return to play quicker when injuries do occur. Northwestern also has focused on concussion prevention and neck strength by teaching players exercises and techniques that can protect them from serious injuries.

But the benefits of the partnership flowed both ways.

“Our health professionals and interns have had a tremendous opportunity to work with a high-performing team, and that’s exciting,” says Timothy Stark, a sports chiropractor and director of Northwestern’s Human Performance Center. “The team has told us that we’re critical to their success. That’s great for us to hear.”

Brown, whose wife, Laura, is a co-owner and also plays linebacker, says: “I can’t say enough good things about Northwestern. They’ve been with us all along, including right on the sidelines, helping our players stay healthy and get back to high-functioning. They’ve helped keep us in the game.”

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