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Injury ends football career, but leads to innovation

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Articles - November 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010


Brian Cassidy's football injury led him to open Adapt Training in Beaverton. // PHOTOS COURTESY OF ADAPT TRAINING

The pro football draft day of 1994 was the worst day of Brian Cassidy’s life. Once ranked among the top prospects in the nation, Cassidy watched as player after player was drafted and he was overlooked.

Cassidy went from hot property to liability as the result of a fluke knee injury on the last game of his college career at Stanford University followed by a back injury suffered during rehabilitation. His only option was to cash out his Lloyds of London insurance policy for catastrophic coverage and sign his name to the painful statement that he could never play football for money because of his injuries.

Rather than bemoan his luck, Cassidy decided to build something positive from his experiences. “It was all or nothing for me,” he says. “There had to be a system that other people could benefit from so they wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”

Fifteen years later Cassidy runs Adapt Training, a fitness business in Beaverton with 16 full-time employees and clients ranging from wheelchair rugby players and pro-football stars to patients suffering from neurological disorders. He is also forming a growing number of partnerships with gyms and clubs intrigued with his approach to therapy, fitness and athletic training.

Tall and articulate, with cropped hair and a tight goatee, Cassidy moves with an easy grace that seems unlikely for someone who weighs 310 pounds. He chuckles while explaining that one of the reasons he designed his own machines in his gym was because he broke so many machines during his workouts.

Clients train at the facility.

The Adapt gym does not look or feel like other gyms. Cassidy describes it as “my own bubble world.” It is an open, well-lighted space with stairs to climb, barriers to vault over and crawl under, ropes to scale, and mats to lie down on and use all the muscles you have and a few you didn’t know you had. It isn’t heavy on weights or weight machines, which Cassidy sees as capable of doing more damage than good. It’s more like a playground for adults, to get them to use all of their muscles dynamically, the way children do.

Everything he teaches his clients and staff serves as an antidote to the flawed process that the 39-year-old Cassidy believes cost him a lucrative career in the pros. After he heard his knee snap at the end of a meaningless play in a lopsided game, he went through a training regimen he sees as riddled with errors. He wore a bulky brace that prevented him from retraining the injured joint. As soon as he could handle weight he was lifting huge amounts, squatting 450 pounds. When his back began to spasm he was told that was normal. Specialists bombarded him with contradictory information. A doctor declared him ready for action after watching him do one simple physical maneuver. Before long he had two ruptured disks and was nearly paralyzed and devouring painkillers. The only option was a second surgery with no games played in between, a deal breaker for pro teams scouting fresh talent.

His football career over, Cassidy went on a quest to find a training program that made sense. He worked with a trainer in San Diego named Pete Egoscue, who taught him the importance of proper alignment and a holistic approach to training. He later added elements of chiropractic manipulation, child psychology, massage, yoga, Pilates and other disciplines, focusing on results rather than ideology. He and his wife, Kirsten, launched their business out of a spare bedroom in their Beaverton home, started a small gym in 1999 and expanded into a much larger space in 2004. Revenues have doubled since 2005, and grew by 23% between 2007 and 2009.

After years of experimentation and refinement, Cassidy has built a training system around the core principles of range of motion, structural capacity, neuro function, muscular function and instinct. Cascade Athletic Club has adopted his system, the Windells Snowboard Camp at Mt. Hood is considering it, and other potential licensees have shown interest on the East Coast and in Hawaii.

“I’m looking forward to taking the business to the next level,” says Cassidy. “The only thing we’re struggling with now is how to manage our growth.”


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