Cheektowaga physical therapist has helped athletes get ready for the Olympics - The Buffalo News

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Cheektowaga physical therapist has helped athletes get ready for the Olympics

Chris Nentarz is taking a special interest in the U.S. women’s hockey team during the Olympics. He helped prepare one of the players for the team’s gold medal chase.

“If people ask me about my favorite team, I really don’t have an answer. I’m rooting for the players now and the coaches I know,” said Nentarz, who has helped tune up top athletes in several sports in recent years as a physical therapist, strength coach and performance enhancement specialist. He declined to name the hockey player, citing confidentiality reasons.

Nentarz, 36, of Cheektowaga, has helped train athletes at Olympic training centers in Lake Placid, Chula Vista, Calif., and Calgary, Alberta. The Rochester native and 2000 University at Buffalo grad worked in Baltimore, New York City and Los Angeles before returning to Western New York 18 months ago because he and his wife, Julie, sought to return to what they consider the best place to raise their daughters, Arianna, 13, Kyla, 9, and Myleigh, 7.

He now partners part time with Endura Sports, an arm of Buffalo Spine and Sports Medicine; serves his own clients part time in their homes and at Catalyst gyms; and is an adjunct professor at UB and D’Youville College.

Before that, he was director of physical therapy for Athletes’ Performance in L.A., where, he said, he worked with athletes from the Oakland Raiders, Anaheim Ducks, U.S. Soccer, U.S. Track & Field and the University at Southern California. He sometimes crossed paths with then-USC football coach Pete Carroll, whose Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl last month.

“Great guy, game changer,” Nentarz said earlier this week. “Lights up a room. Who am I, a physical therapist, nobody, but he remembered my name.”

What is your philosophy of fitness?

There are different forms of activity for different people … but the principles remain the same: We’re focusing on quality, not quantity; moving appropriately the extremities while our spine is stable; making sure pain is not degrading. Then, we promote recovery or regeneration. At the end of the day, we’re working out or training to increase adaptation, whether it’s increased speed, increased endurance, lean body mass, whatever.

If you’re a marathon runner and you run 30 days in a row, you’re not going to recover; if you run once a week, you’re not going to adapt. So we have to find that balance. Passive recovery includes things like massage therapy, sleep, mind-set and nutrition over weeks and months. Active recovery is what you’re doing right after you work out, so it might be foam rolling, static stretching, ice plunging, and it might be post-workout nutrients.

What are the most common injuries you tend to see now with the average person?

One-hundred percent back and neck pain.

When you’re dealing with athletes, is it more a garden variety of problems?

Athletes are always injured. They’re different in that they put extraordinary stresses on their bodies. They’re coming off turf toe, they’re coming off a bruise in the thigh, so you have to figure out ways to improve their performance without irritating their underlying injuries, or we have to figure out ways to improve their performance while other tissue is healing.

What are the blessings and challenges dealing with people whose bodies are generally so well in tune?

The challenge is that athletes hide stuff very well, which makes diagnosis and treatment much more difficult. … The blessings, a lot of times, are endless resources. They have the time and the money to buy massage therapy, to buy nutrition, to buy time with you. Their bodies also learn very fast, so when I coach them to do something a certain way, they usually can make that change pretty fast.

Would it be unusual before an Olympic speed skating event or hockey game for a bunch of athletes to be laying on training tables?

Absolutely not. A physical therapist would be working with the athletes prior to competition to mobilize joints or soft tissue to help them prepare. Some athletes will pay to have their own therapist or chiropractor there; some have what the team offers.

Which Olympic athletes will need the most health, muscle and joint maintenance while in Sochi?

I would say hockey players. There’s contact involved. The competition is fast and furious. They’re playing multiple games in a short period of time. They didn’t have rest periods or unloading phases (decreased daily training) like other athletes. They’re in the middle of a season. … They’re going to need a lot of tender loving care.

What are the most demanding events in Sochi?

All of the sports are demanding in some way or another, especially to the mind-set. The psychological stress that athletes go through at this level is unmatched. That has to be taken into account. Sports like mogul skiing can be very traumatic and demanding on the joints in the body where sports like cross-country skiing are more demanding on the energy system and cardio-respiratory function.

It may be different, but it’s all impressive. At the end of the day, we’re watching the best of the best doing what they love to do and doing what they’ve trained to do their whole lives. So how can you lose?


On the Web: Learn more about Chris Nentarz at and

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