The NBA and Emu Oil
by Vicki Darwin, Ratite Marketplace 1984 (no longer published)
You read it right! We’re going to be talking about the National Basketball Association and emu oil. When a little wind blew by me with the hint of an NBA team using emu oil, I had to know more about it. So I called the Dallas Mavericks, just hoping I might get some information, but the next thing I knew, I was speaking with Doug Atkinson, the trainer! Not expecting any more than someone to take a message, I was caught a little off guard! But things went very well and I set a date for an interview. I enjoyed speaking with Doug and we were to meet at Reunion Arena the next Saturday.
It was strange to arrive at Reunion Arena and not have thousands of other fans surrounding me. As I entered the building, the tremendous size of the structure was made evident by the absence of those fans. I had to check in with a couple of security people and then went directly to the "training room" and met Doug in person.
After we said our hellos, and I oohed and aahed over the equipment and the thrill of just being there, we got down to business. Even though all emu products have gotten quite a lot of press, the first thing I wanted to know was how Doug found out about emu oil and what interested him enough to pursue using it in his training program.
Tommy Walter from Acres Away Ranch in Corsicana, Texas told me about it. The idea of having the ability to penetrate so well interested me. I pursued using it in my training program because of the many years it’s been used as a herb-like, natural healing agent in Australia. I've used aloe vera in training and found it to enhance the rehabilitation of the players. So I thought emu oil would be worth a try.
How did you use the aloe vera? was another one of those I just have to ask questions that may not interest Big Birders. Doug was glad to oblige, “I've used aloe vera in whirlpools and compresses. I've actually submerged ankles in pure aloe vera Juice and just let them soak. After my experience with the help aloe vera added to the rehabilitation of the players, I was open to giving emu oil a try.
First, I used it on myself to find out if there really was a benefit from the oil. I commute about two and one-half hours a day and get soreness in my knees. Since I've been using the emu oil, I've had no soreness, well really, no pain at all. With that experience, I decided to go ahead and try it on my players. There’s been a lot of fun made about the use of the oil, but I have players on their third or fourth bottle of the oil and they want to be sure and have more around.
I couldn’t help but think about some of the sarcastic remarks I'd heard about the oil over the months when it was just starting to hit the market. So I was curious as to what the players REALLY had to say. Doug had a good laugh as he said, "Some of the running jokes are: Tim Legler uses it in his BMW and it runs smoother! Or since Greg Dreiling’s been using it, he’s been dunking the ball! My interest is in the players' ability to regain their abilities as soon as possible, so I pay attention to each player. I began to realize the players were really serious about the oil when they started putting their initials on their bottles! Also, a couple of players have even told me they are looking at investing in the emu market.
The idea of the emu oil market brought to my mind the kind of oil Doug was using and who furnished his supply. "I use only pure emu oil for my players. I checked around and Outback Secrets had just the pure oil and so that is my supplier. I know there are some cosmetics on the market, but I'm interested in only the pure oil.
Doug continued, “Please understand, my main objective is to be aware of anything that would enhance or help reduce the amount of time for rehabilitation due to an injury. My sole job with the Mavericks is either to prevent injuries or to get the players well as fast as possible. I don't know if people know what a trainer is, but it's similar to a physical therapist, except I'm exclusive to twelve players. Their health is my main concern, so I'm always looking for things that'll enhance their health. I think aloe vera gets its best results when used on burns, cuts and abrasions. I've had good luck, because the emu oil works well on both. I've been impressed by the product and have found I'm getting better results. Several players have used it on injuries that we've been treating for the last three months. "Now all of a sudden we're getting, maybe fifty percent better results with these chronic injuries. “Fifty percent better? That sounds awfully good. Are you sure?” were the words from my mouth before my brain was totally in gear. "Oh, yes. I'm getting great results from this. That’s why my players are so protective of their oil. They've noticed a difference from the time they were introduced to it, to the present time. They feel better and they have fewer problems with chronic injuries. For example, I had a player with patella tendinitis. It was just a minor case but after he used the oil for two days he was pain free! That tendon pain is caused a lot of trauma by running up and down the floor. It'll become inflamed and get sore. Tennis elbow is the same thing,” was Doug’s answer.
Things were sounding a little too good to be true. So I felt the "Barbara Walters" in me come out, as I pursued anything that he didn’t like or had surprised him about the emu oil.
Doug said, “I didn't expect the oil to be as penetrating as it is. The fact that the oily feeling left when you first put it on is something I have heard about from the players. However, they’re finding, if they give it ten to fifteen minutes, it's absorbed into the body and the oily feeling is gone. So, I guess they’ve all tried it enough that the oily feeling isn't very important. I know in the future I'd like to create a mini whirlpool of just emu oil for sprained ankles. Don't misunderstand, this is to work with the normal things I do, such as ice compression, elevation, and then I might submerge the ankle for ten minutes in emu oil.
This idea of Doug’s left me with a vision of a whirlpool full of emu oil and I couldn’t even guess how many gallons. Of course, my next thought was cost! So I asked for a few more details. Doug said, “I'm already adding two ounces of emu oil to the big whirlpools that the players actually get in. There are about thirty gallons in a whirlpool to the two ounces I add."
"But what I'm talking about in the main whirlpool is actually putting the ankle in, like a three gallon bucket of just pure emu oil. That way the ankle can be completely submerged. This will give the oil time to absorb. Maybe mini whirlpool isn't the right description . How about like a paraffin bath, like a soaking bath, similar to how Epsom salt used to be used."
I was puzzled as to what Doug was about to say because of the grin on his face as he continued, “One thing that my players have liked the oil for is the 'out of the training area!’ Most of my players are black, and they create what they call ash. That's the white dryness of their skin.”
"With their using the emu oil now, they've really liked the way it moisturizes their skin better than the products they’ve used in the past. So they want me to get the moisturizer for them to use!”
All of a sudden, there was another voice on my tape, and I had to rerun my faithful tape recorder about four times before I realized the person speaking was Randy Wittman, assistant coach. Randy had stopped by to see Doug on his way out of the Arena, so I took advantage of the situation and asked him if he knew about the emu oil.
Randy was glad to let me know he not only knew about the oil, but expressed his opinion when he said, "That’s good stuff, emu oil. Everybody’s using it!.”
“Does everybody include your head coach, Quinn Buckner? was my next question. “Quinn likes it and uses it on sore joints. He’s in pretty good health and not playing daily, so he doesn't have a problem with repeated injuries. However, he has used it and does like the way it feels,” was Doug’s answer.
I watch a little TV and have seen Quinn during press conferences, and he seems very outspoken, but would he be as straight about something like an oil used in training? was a question I couldn’t let pass! Doug’s enthusiastic answer was, He would, sure! If he says it’s good, I would take his word for it!
I must admit I was still quite impressed with having been in the Mavericks training and locker room and I wanted to know who, among current players, were using the oil and what were their problems. Doug said, “Jimmy Jackson uses it on both of his knees. Even though he doesn't have the tendinitis now, he continues to use it. Fat Lever, who has missed two seasons due to knee problems, is now using it three and four times a day. His productivity on the floor has increased. Fat swears by it! Greg Dreiling said this is the best his knees have ever felt since he’s played basketball."
Since I’m with the Mavericks' starting line up, I asked if Doug Smith had any use for it. "He's using it on an Achilles tendon. He has tendinitis on the outside of his ankle and Doug uses the oil there.
My next question was about the market Atkinson sees for the oil other than in training. "I would think the market would be unlimited. I have players that just use it as a general moisturizer. These guys enjoy the velvet feeling they get from the oil and the oil makes them feel better. I can see it in moisturizing creams for men and women. It could be developed into a major market for the general population and I mean cosmetics and moisturizers. It would definitely do well in a line of cosmetics, like Mary Kay or Avon, for example. But I'm definitely not the one to be asking about the market away from the training room!”.
I could tell it was time to get back to the subject at hand, SPORTS! Doug's interest and care for his players was to be our subject. But I, knowing less about training rooms that I do about "Big Birds", had pretty well exhausted my line of questions!
Now I wanted to know about Doug Atkinson, the person. "This is my twenty-fourth year in pro sports. I began with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while I was working on my graduate degree. I was in baseball for four years with the Dodgers and Angels. Then I had the opportunity to go to the Chicago Bulls. I was with the Bulls for several years. Then I heard of the formation of the Mavericks' expansion team, so I applied for this job. I wanted to come back to Texas. I had gone to junior high, senior high, and college in Texas. Also, my family was here in Texas, so I wanted to come back. The Mavericks was a wonderful opportunity for me to come back here. I'm now in my fourteenth year with the Mavericks”, Doug said with a definite sound of pride.
Now the question I just had to ask, "How do you think you (The Mavericks) are going to finish up this year?” (This was a tough one, since the Mavericks are close to having the worst season of any team ever!) Doug’s dedication came through when he answered, "Totally positive the Dallas Mavericks are turning things around. We knew that before this year ever began it was going to be a very difficult year, it's that way when you rebuild an athletic team in any sport the first year or two. We are totally committed to rebuilding.
"It's a new attitude and the intensity level is so great that people react different from each other, we need to learn to live together. That’s what we're doing. We have talent and our people are learning to live together. That, along with the draft choices we have in the future, shows our team could very shortly be right back where it was in 1987 and 1988, playing for the Western Conference finals. I can see this team is going to be very good in the future. I guess I can see the rebuilding, like in the expansion years. This team is going to be one of the best teams in the league within five years, easy."
I then asked him what his plans are for the future. “I'll be here a minimum of another ten years. That'll give me thirty-five years in pro sports, and after that I might consider retirement”, was Doug's enthusiastic answer.
"You sure look young to only have ten years left!" slipped from my lips. Doug had a great grin as he said, “I'm lucky, a lot of emu oil!’.
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