Kekaula Kaniho is not afraid of needles — he did spend 20 hours over three days this offseason getting a tattoo on his leg — but he wasn’t too sure what to think of acupuncture when it was recommended to him last year.
Now he’s certain: It helps.
Whether it is to heal injury, relieve pain or improve movement, many Boise State football players have made being needled part of their training regimen.
“It’s a different feeling, the first time you don’t know what the sensation is, your muscles are twitching and all that,” said Kaniho, a sophomore defensive back. “After the first time, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this again.’ Game day, I felt really good, and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going back next week.’ ”
For more than five years, Dana Logan has provided acupuncture for Boise State football players — twice a week at her Downtown Boise practice, and after game days in the Broncos’ training room.
Logan will see about 15 players per week — some who are recommended by the staff and some who go voluntarily. Her expertise was first called upon days before the 2013 season opener for a player with a hamstring issue. Team physician Kirk Lewis had thought it would help him heal more quickly.
So, Lewis, trainer Marc Paul and even head coach Chris Petersen watched as Logan did her job.
“No pressure or anything there,” Logan said. “They were flying out the next day, and I thought, ‘If this doesn’t work, acupuncture isn’t happening again.’ I had that session to make an impression, and it obviously worked.”
When Bryan Harsin took over after Petersen’s departure, he met with Logan and said he did not want to change what worked, so acupuncture has continued to be part of the program.
For some players, it is a badge of honor — Logan started to give out “Acupuncture Tough” bracelets, which a handful of guys wear around the facility. Kaniho said the day after, “you feel like you squatted 500 pounds, but feel great when it’s time to play.”
“Some have fainted, but mostly because they were nervous,” Logan said. “As they become more and more comfortable and feel the benefit, they usually want more.”
A few former Broncos who have played in the NFL in recent seasons have flown Logan in to help them feel healthier. She has expanded her own base of knowledge by taking classes at Boise State on anatomy and sports medicine. A Navy study on acupuncture’s assistance with concussions has enabled her to help players who have them.
As the treatment has become part of the Broncos’ routine, range of motion and movement have been key. Players can push through pain, but small tweaks can lead to bigger issues. The Functional Movement Screen, used at the NFL Combine to analyze a player’s gait, stability and balance, can be used to project whether someone might be prone to certain types of injuries.
“It fills a niche that isn’t being answered by any therapy out there,” Logan said. “It started out mostly with injuries, from there, familiarized myself with (the FMS) and I base my treatments around that a little bit. The way I see it, I need to work as hard for them as they do for us.”
Logan’s array of treatments also is intended to prevent wear and tear for post-football life or, in the immediate, to make sure joints are lined up and rotating correctly, and that muscles are firing properly.
She has expanded to using moxibustion, a traditional Chinese therapy involving burning dried mugwort over the body to stimulate circulation. Another new twist is a French treatment called “battlefield acupuncture,” which places a tiny, dart-like needle in the ear that stays for a few days and is meant to fight pain and aid reflexes.
“Acupuncture in football is going to become more and more mainstream,” Logan said. “I think it’s awesome Boise State is ahead of it and has given it a chance.”
Happy with receivers
It is no mystery that Boise State had some question marks about its wide receiver corps going into the season, having lost Cedrick Wilson. No one has become the go-to guy, but that’s been a good thing for the Broncos.
Senior A.J. Richardson said recently that “we took it as a group that we don’t think it’s just going to be one guy.” That’s been the case, as five receivers have between nine and 17 receptions, all with one or two touchdown grabs. Slowed by injury, sophomore Octavius Evans, wearing Wilson’s No. 1 jersey, does not yet have a reception.
“Yes, you want one superstar, and that’s great, but that makes it easy for the defense to defend,” receivers coach Eric Kiesau said, noting that also-departed tight end Jake Roh helped take some heat off Wilson. “I’m really excited for where this group is at, where they’ve developed over the last year and a half to get to this point.”
CORNERBACKS BEING ‘TESTED’ EARLY
Boise State senior cornerback Tyler Horton missed Sept. 15’s loss at Oklahoma State with an injury that may keep him out again this week. Freshman cornerback Tyric LeBeauf tore an ACL last week in practice, and sophomore cornerback Avery Williams dislocated an elbow Sept. 1 against Troy, though he played the following week.
“That room has been tested, when Avery got injured (too) ... that sidelines somebody else for a lot longer, in my opinion, but he’s different,” Harsin said.
So the group has faced challenges the other positions haven’t quite seen this season, but others are stepping up. Sophomore Jalen Walker has been widely praised for how he played against Oklahoma State, with Harsin saying Monday, “I like how he’s developing.” Harsin also said sophomore Robert Lewis has made some big strides, along with redshirt freshman Jermani Brown.
Players like Kaniho and safety DeAndre Pierce can play the spot in a pinch, too, making up for some of the depth concerns, and Harsin said true freshman Chris Mitchell “has a chance to be in the mix” this week.
Boise State has won 18 straight conference openers, and repeating as Mountain West champions has been the focus. Junior running back Alexander Mattison said “we’re all playing for something now.” ... The Broncos are 5-1 all-time at Wyoming, going 60-6 in those five seasons when they’ve won. ... Boise State is 5-0 the week after giving up 40 or more points under Harsin.
BOISE STATE AT WYOMING
When: 5 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: War Memorial Stadium (29,181; FieldTurf)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, John Schriffen); DirecTV ch. 221, Cable One ch. 139/1139, Dish Network ch. 158
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 2-1 (lost 44-21 at Oklahoma State on Sept. 15); Wyoming 2-2 (beat Wofford 17-14 on Sept. 15)
Series: Boise State leads 11-1 (BSU won 24-14 last year in Boise)
Vegas line: Boise State by 17
Weather: High 60s, mostly cloudy, 15-20 mph wind