Browns head team physician Dr. James Voos has earned a special award of league-wide recognition for groundbreaking research that could reshape how athletes and doctors treat ACL injuries.
Voos, who has been with the Browns since 2014, was given the NFL Physicians Society's Arthur C. Rettig Award for Academic Excellence during the NFLPS Scientific Meeting at the 2023 NFL Combine for his research project, "Return to Play Assessment After ACL Reconstruction Using Wearable Technology," which he presented during the meeting.
The prestigious award is given annually to an NFL team physician for academic excellence in research in advancing the health and safety of players in the NFL.
"I can't say enough good things about Dr. Voos, his immediate staff and the entire staff at University Hospitals along with our staff internally from medical to performance to nutrition — everyone who affects our players," said Joe Sheehan, Browns Senior Vice President of Player Health & Development. "It's really rewarding to be part of a group that is involved in groundbreaking research, and it's even more rewarding to see the benefits that it provides our players — one as a person, and two as a performer."
Voos' research focused on how the body utilizes oxygen following ACL reconstruction surgery. The data was compiled via sensors attached to the knee, a process that will likely become more common as researchers and doctors explore ways to create better recovery plans for patients who received the surgery.
"Basically, you want your surgical side and non-surgical side to be processing oxygen the same way," Sheehan said. "You want them to recover properly. These sensors, these new sensors, are the first to allow you to monitor that. Where the next phase of this is going is looking at muscle nitric oxide, and this is another area in which UH is the industry leader. Nitric oxide will also be groundbreaking. It will be like a real-life fuel gauge of energy levels and how you're functioning. Those sensors are in research and development right now."
The research is based around the concept of wearable technology, which the Browns have commonly used to compile data about the best training and recovery methods for their players.
The team's training staff has specifically used GPS technology to track players' training loads when they're in the facility, which provides them with insight on how to possibly prevent soft-tissue injuries in accordance with overall exertion in practices and other workouts.
That research has been made possible with the help of UH, which has been the Browns' official healthcare partner since 2014. The Browns extended their partnership with UH in February.
"All the research that goes on at UH, we utilize in our decisions," Sheehan said. "Whether it's in the draft process, the training process in terms of what we do in the offseason, whether it's how we manage our players on the field during the week, and then really, you can even take into gameday in how you prepare guys for competition and, post competition, how you help them recover.
"That research is used every day in every decision we make. It spans the medical department. It really impacts your global football operations. It's powerful, cool stuff at the end of the day. No doubt about it."
Voos has been the primary link between UH and the Browns, and he's now received one of the most prestigious awards of his career because of his tremendous efforts in ensuring UH and the Browns remain one of the leaders in the utilization of wearable technology.
"One of the great benefits of having a partner such as UH is their team of researchers and engineers, the products they're developing," Sheehan said. "They're researchers, and they're truly defining the future of medicine. We get to partner in those endeavors, and any time you can be that far on the front end of rehabilitation techniques and performance techniques, it's a competitive advantage to your club."