Acupuncturist Treats 40 N.F.L. Players in 4 Cities

posted by Natalia Eichstaedt, L.Ac

By GREG BISHOPNOV. 29, 2010

Jets fullback Tony Richardson recently had an acupuncture session at his apartment that included 120 needles. CreditMichael Nagle for The New York Times

Stretched out on a massage table in his Long Island City condominium, Jets fullback Tony Richardson closed his eyes. Over the next hour, he groaned and grimaced and eventually fell asleep, as Lisa Ripi, the traveling N.F.L. acupuncturist, went to work.

Ripi poked and prodded Richardson on a recent Tuesday, using blue and pink needles, until his body resembled a road map marked with 120 destinations. “SportsCenter” provided mood music. Afterward, Richardson said his soreness had mostly vanished.

“They always tell me I’m their little secret,” Ripi said. “I feel like the little mouse who takes the thorns out of their feet.”

Professional football players partake in a violent game, and as the season progresses, they spend more time in training rooms than on practice fields. They visit chiropractors and massage therapists, practice yoga, undergo electronic stimulation and nap in hyperbaric chambers.

Yet relatively few receive acupuncture, which brings smiles to the faces of Ripi’s clients. They remain fiercely territorial. They fight over Fridays because it is closest to their games. They accuse one another of hogging, or trying to steal her.

Players say her sessions are their most important treatment. They feel more loose, more flexible. Richardson finds acupuncture uncomfortable but said it made an immediate 10 percent difference. For sculptured bodies tuned like racecars, 10 percent constitutes a significant improvement.

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