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November 13, 2012
Louisville won 10 Big East titles last season. The Cardinals are the only athletic program to send teams to the men's Final Four, the women's Final Four, the College World Series, a BCS bowl game and the men's soccer College Cup.
In addition to all the reasons for success at Louisville - great coaching, premier talent, a stellar athletic support system, a brilliant athletic director and sparkling new facilities - the Cardinals are on the cutting edge of athletic training and rehabilitation.
Is there something in the water in the Derby City? More like something in the mud.
In their search for the best products for their athletes, athletic trainers at UofL have been using a jet-black gel substance the past five years called "Code Red."
The mud, now reformulated and packaged under the name Primal Sport Mud, is a staple in UofL training rooms.
Produced in Louisville by a company called Black Balm, UofL athletes have been applying to their skin this all-natural mud, derived from naturally occurring organic matter, to help recover from all types of ailments.
"During my junior year I was suffering from a pulled muscle on the front of my shin," former UofL tennis player Adam Donaldson said. "My trainer and I were trying all forms of therapy, but nothing seemed to be working. We tried the Code Red, and it had by far the best results for me. It helped me make it through my junior season, which ended in a Big East championship."
UofL swimming and diving trainer Zachary Brown said: "For a chronic injury like shin splints it is specifically very beneficial. I would say it almost decreases the recovery time, especially if used daily. It helps with patellar tendinitis and bicep tendinitis as well."
Even though Louisville athletes and trainers swear by it, Black Balm's representatives make no claims to the mud's healing powers. Officially the company says only that the mud is used to "invigorate" and enhance an athlete's "sense of wellness and recovery."
Fred Hina, head trainer for men's basketball, has used Primal Sport Mud for more than three seasons. He says that the mud promotes the natural healing process.
So what is it? The Primal Sport Mud web site describes the mysterious black mud as a "polyelectrolyte-enhanced biopolymer" before launching into a list of all the things the mud is not.
The Primal Sport Mud web site says it contains "no paraben, DEA, petroleum, lanolin, dye, fragrance or animal ingredients. There are no preservatives added, and it is non- greasy." Also important is the fact that it is fully compliant with international anti-doping rules for Olympic competition.
So what is it? It's black mud that makes athletes feel better. Athletes like it because it works. They also like it because it doesn't stink like camphor or menthol and because it is a natural alternative.
And it's not just Louisville athletes who are getting into the mud. Local athletes at Hoops Louisville, a large multi-sport facility in eastern Louisville, have been using the mud for more than two years.
"I think athletes, especially weekend warriors, like this product because chronic pain fades after a couple uses permanently (may require more for different people)," said Sara Blincoe, director of Acceleration and Fitness Elite at Hoops Louisville. "I know a basketball player who played with constant knee pain for years, but after three treatments he did not have any more pain....
"This product can be used for more than just an athlete, it can work for the everyday person with joint and muscle pain with lasting benefits."
The use of Primal Sport Mud is spreading. Teams in Major League Baseball, the NFL and several other colleges have begun using the mud on their athletes after workouts and to relieve aches and pains.