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June 28, 2023

NFL Defensive Lineman Chris Wormley - How to Rehab an Elite Level Athlete after ACL reconstruction

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Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Hey guys. Thanks for tuning in to the True Sports Physical Therapy podcast. Today's guest is an all time great. He's NFL defensive lineman, Chris Wormley, and he's had a great career to date. He played three years for the Baltimore Ravens. He was drafted in the third round out of the University of Michigan, and then was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers and played three years there. He also has torn each of his ACLs and had them reconstructed and that he does a great job here of really diving into what it's like rehabbing that ACL at a division one powerhouse at Michigan, and comparing and contrasting that to rehabbing it while in the building with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, and then also what it's like to continue that rehab privately at his home up in Michigan as he built out an entire rehab team to help him get back on the field and perform his best. He has a number of outstanding attributes, both physically, he is just a hulking dude at 300 pounds and six foot five, and explosive at that.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: But also in terms of his mental makeup and his intellectual capacity and curiosity, we touch on all those things in this conversation. I think there's a lot here to dig into and a lot to learn for the Sports physical therapist, how we can cater our offerings to the athlete in front of us, how to do that well and how to really connect. Worm does an awesome job during this conversation of connecting to the audience, and there's so much there to pick up. So, hope you guys learn a lot. I hope you share this. I hope you leave us a five star review on Apple Podcast or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Learn, share it, spread the word and we can't wait to hear from you. If you have any feedback on this episode or anything else, feel free to hit us up True Sports PT on Instagram or you can send me a personal email, yoni, Y-O-N-I That's where we get a tremendous amount of the topics that we cover here. That's where we get a tremendous amount of feedback and we're always trying to make this show better. So don't hesitate to reach out. Enjoy this conversation with my buddy, Chris Wormley. Welcome to the True Sports Physical Therapy podcast. We've got Chris "Big Worm" Wormley with us today. One of my absolute favorite humans who also happens to play in the NFL. I got to meet Chris while he spent some time in Baltimore and then he moved on to some other football squad.

Chris Wormley: Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: The Pittsburgh Steelers, right. I always forget.

Chris Wormley: In case you forgot.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yes. I always forget. Quick reminder to everyone listening, today's podcast is brought to you by Clipper City Capital, the absolute best place to put your money and watch it grow. So if you earn any type of income, meaning you're pumping gas in Jersey and you're earning 15 bucks an hour or you're chasing down quarterbacks and earning way more than that, check out my boys at Clipper City Capital, they will make your capital grow. Okay. Worm, task at hand. It's great to see you again, but since you and I last spoke, unfortunately you tore an ACL.

Chris Wormley: I did. It was against the Ravens, I think week 14 of the season and, yeah, it was one of those things that I would consider it non-contact. I was getting outta my stance and just I think overextended a little bit with my left foot planted outside of my body and there she went.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: There she went, and...

Chris Wormley: There she went.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Walk me through all the way, because sometimes I think NFL athletes experience this differently. So you hear that pop or you feel it go, right? You're an ACL vet, you've been here before, so you've torn your ACL previously. What is it like undergoing an ACL reconstruction and then rehab at the NFL level? 

Chris Wormley: The second time around it was, it's a lot easier and I don't wanna say easier but I think I'm a lot more mentally stronger. I am 11 years older than when I first tore my ACL. I think I have better resources now, which has made it easier. But it's a grind. What I've gone through in the last six months is probably the hardest I've ever worked at something other than like my wife and kids and all that family stuff.

Chris Wormley: But tearing my ACL was... [laughter] The ACL, this, coming back from this is like the hardest I've ever worked at any single thing. Just solely focused on let's get this knee back to where I was six and a half months ago.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. And well, that's really saying something. So, you're speaking to an audience of sports physical therapists, but I've spent a lot of time with you, Worm, and you are a hard ass worker. Like before this happened, you're one of the hardest working dudes I know. So for you to say that, that's really saying something. As soon as you feel it go, just walk me through some of the highlights that happen to get you all the way to now, which is six months post-op.

Chris Wormley: I like how you call it a highlight and not...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Highlights? Yeah, it's highlights...

Chris Wormley: Like a recovery. It's a highlight. Dr. Bradley, first off, the surgeon, put me back together. It wasn't just ACL, it was, I had a chip bone kind of right above my medial meniscus. Parts of my medial meniscus and lateral meniscus were taken out, ACL LCL sprain. They were surprised I didn't dislocate my knee. And looking back when they said that, I was like, "Okay. I definitely felt my top of my knee, bottom of my knee kind of go like this but it snapped back," and luckily I think I have a pretty strong MCO, which is nice.

Chris Wormley: But after that, I had it December 16th, and five days later, I was back in the facility rehabbing. Rehab there for two months until they kicked me out when I was a free agent, spent another month at a place in Pittsburgh before we moved back to Michigan, which is our off-season home. In the last two and a half months now, I've been putting in just as much work, trying to increase my load, increase the lateral movements, increase plyometrics, all those things to get the nerves and the neurons or whatever those medical terms are that you know a lot more than I do.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: The neurons.

Chris Wormley: The neurons, to get the brain and the knee and the calf, and the quad and the hamstring and all those other muscles that are around the knee working together again. And there's definitely been more days than good or more good days than bad. And it's just a steady process.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love that. I love your approach. You said you waited five days to walk into rehab. Was there a talk as to, "Hey, we wanna start it sooner?" Or did anyone want you to wait longer? Where did you come up with five days? 

Chris Wormley: Yeah, there was definitely some talk of like, "Hey, let's maybe wait two weeks." And I'm like, "I don't think I have two weeks." I tore it December 16th, nine months from December 16th is September 16th and that's, I think that's right after week one of the season. So it's like, I don't have a lot of time to wait around. If it was at the beginning of the season, that's almost a full year of rehab where I can maybe take my time a little more. So my approach was being aggressive, but also while being smart and listening to my body and pushing it when I felt like I could and backing off when I felt like I needed to as well. But I guess like each week or each milestone that I've been hitting, it's like, how does it feel? Can we go further? Can we push it harder? What do we need to back off on? What do we need to spend a little more time on? 

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah.

Chris Wormley: And I think the team that I've built here in Michigan has really been... It's been a collaborative effort to get me back to where I am now. And hopefully, three months from now rocking and rolling.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love that. I love the way you put it, "Hey, I built myself a team in Michigan." Because that's really what it takes. It's what you hopefully would have had should you have stayed in the house with the Steelers. And that's so important. By the way, probably in business also, like when you're setting out to achieve some goals, you got to figure out who are the guys, who's sitting in your foxhole, as Goggins would say, and who's the expert at this? Who's the expert at that? And how do I bring them together so that it can prop me up and push me forward? During that early phase, you said you were in Pittsburgh for how long?

Chris Wormley: I was with the Steelers for, I guess it was really like the first three months of my rehab.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay.

Chris Wormley: Up until like May or March 15th when free agency started.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. So first three months, let's hone in on maybe that first week or so. Tell me exactly what therapy looked like because remember, all the people listening to this pod or a lot of people listening to this pod really don't know what goes into rehabbing an NFL player in-house. I'm super curious as to exactly what that looked like. What did your sessions look like really early on?

Chris Wormley: I mean, it was really just let's try and get some of this fluid out. You can't really bend your knee a whole lot, a lot of Russian stim where they put the stim pads on you and try and get your quad to contract without you really doing a whole lot.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yep.

Chris Wormley: A lot of ice, single leg raises from on your back on a training table, a lot of those things. But really for me, I don't know if that really helped. I mean, I definitely helped a lot with the process and getting started again. But l just, being back in the training facility, being back around the guys, seeing them in between meetings and things like that. That really boosted my morale, instead of being on the couch bugging my wife, having her refill my Game Ready every 15 minutes with ice, you know, it's... So being able to go back there and just spending some time with the guys and obviously getting some good work in, I thought was critical that first two, three weeks.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, love that. And okay, so you're doing Game Ready, a lot of recovery stuff, a lot of hands-on maybe massage stuff. Are they pushing your knee down into an extension? Are they pushing it down into flexion? What are they doing to get that motion back?

Chris Wormley: One of your favorites, the prone hang.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love the prone hang.

Chris Wormley: A lot of prone hangs, a lot of face up with formal or underneath the heel, just letting it sit, putting a little weight on it...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's my favorite too.

Chris Wormley: A little bit of weight on the knee.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I like that better.

Chris Wormley: Letting it hang. And that was tough. I remember you texted me like, have you gotten to an hour yet? And I'm like, I haven't even gotten to like 10 minutes yet. Like 10 minutes was... And I mean, I'm not doing anything. It's not like I'm exerting effort. It just is painful. And I think a lot of people that don't get to go to rehab for five days a week, that don't get the knowledge of real deal PTs, they miss out on that and I think that's where a lot of people overcompensate, don't get too to full flexion, and don't get to full extension.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yep.

Chris Wormley: And it either prolongs the rehab or they have to go back and fix things and clear out scar tissue, and all these other host of things that really can hinder your recovery.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love it. I think I hear, is that... There's no way that's Maeve running around in the back.

Chris Wormley: Yeah, I think Spade dropped something upstairs and I'm a little scared to ask what it was. [chuckle]

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I think you're smart. You're smart. Let's keep you focused while I got you.

Chris Wormley: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: So, okay. So those things should show up anywhere you're doing good rehab. Like we got, I have not shut up since I started this podcast about getting terminal knee extension, post-op ACL. That's why I texted you immediately to make sure that they're hounding you on that. Now, you tore your... Was it the same knee that you tore in college or the other one?

Chris Wormley: A different one.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. You only got two. So it's the other one.

Chris Wormley: Yeah, the left this time. Right was 11 years ago.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. How did this differ as a Steeler versus when you were with the Michigan Wolverines? You tore it then?

Chris Wormley: Yeah. Freshman, two weeks into fall camp as an 18-year-old kid just getting out to campus. I think the biggest thing, like I said, was just how I was just more mentally tougher, stronger, more resilient.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Did the rehab look the same?

Chris Wormley: For the first part, I would say. It's kind of hard to, like, people are like, oh, like you've, but you've been through this before. You know exactly what to do. And I'm like, I tried to repress those memories, to be honest with you. But like the same kind of milestone markers, like, let's get you off crutches within, the first 3-4 weeks, let's get you full extension, full flexion in X amount of time. You know, let's get you running in 3-4 months. All these things that you kind of try and keep in the back of your head, like, okay, I remember doing this. I remember doing this. But I think the biggest thing, even just thinking about it now, so I tore my ACL August 2012, and I was back for spring ball, like March of 2013.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: How crazy is that?

Chris Wormley: So it's like six and a half, seven months and thinking about it now, would I be able to suit up and play football right now in two weeks? The answer is no. 

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah.

Chris Wormley: To be honest.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: So what's the difference? So that sounds totally different.

Chris Wormley: I think I was naive. I didn't know how to speak up for myself at that time as an 18-year-old kid having trainers and doctors and other people saying, |Hey, go for it. You're good. Go for it. Strap up. Go test that knee out." You know, I had a knee brace on, but that's... I tore my ACL with a knee brace on. So it's like, what do those really do? In the back of my head as a 19-year-old now I'm like, what is this really gonna do for me? But I made it through spring ball, made it through the season and still wasn't feeling that great, but I was out there.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You were playing.

Chris Wormley: I was happy to be playing. I was playing. Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. I wonder if that's a product of that's Michigan and you not speaking up for yourself. Maybe I'm not ready, or I bet you that was what, 10 years ago... I bet. I think that's what sports medicine looked like then. I know me personally, if I was rehabbing you in 2012, I'm pushing you like hell to be on the field at six months because that's what Adrian Peterson did, and that's what really studies supported. I think we've come a long way since then. I mean, now you and I always talk about it, we're looking at the nine month timeframe, and the longer you wait, the less chance you re-rupture. So having that in mind, both graphs were patellar tendon, is that right?

Chris Wormley: Yes. Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. So any issues with the graph site? Have you had any anterior knee pain? 

Chris Wormley: Not like real issues where it's, I would consider it a setback, but like, you know, I have a hard day of exercises, PT into lifting, especially when I started jogging and running, definitely felt that graph site pain, which I think is normal. But now I have the tools to kind of mitigate that pain. You know, the team that I talked about I've kind of continued to build and the soft tissue work, the massages, sauna and cold tub, all that stuff I have at home. I have a gym full of stuff now that like, I just poke on my body basically of like things, you know, the Normatecs, the Proventus machine, that's been a game changer, especially early on in the process. So I have all these tools that I can kind of pull from and try and mitigate that pain or that swelling and get back faster.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: This ain't college, Worm. That's what I'm hearing. You got all these tools, you got all these toys, you just got more at your disposal. That should definitely help you lessen. There is, by the way, you mentioned Proventus. I work with a ton of college athletes that looked like College Worm with a similar type of bank account, although I bet you their bank account is bigger than yours was with this NIL stuff.

Chris Wormley: Must be nice.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Must be freaking nice. But if you have a good team, they can figure out, okay, what will insurance cover? Will they cover something like a Proventus or Game Ready? Will they cover all types of interventions? I think a lot of times that's lost on the athlete. It shouldn't be lost on the sports PT that's working with those athletes. To get your patients the absolute best, it doesn't have to necessarily cost an arm and a leg. Are you doing any exercise intervention for that anterior knee pain? Are you doing any knees over toes, stuff like that? They talking to you about that?

Chris Wormley: A lot of knees over toes stuff. Backward sled like walks are like a daily thing at the gym. But as far, I know I'll just say, "Hey, I got this graph site pain." They do two or three exercises or we spend a little more time on the soft tissue. I have this fascia guy that has been great. His name is Tim Adams.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Timmy.

Chris Wormley: And He's been great. I see him like every other week and he's really been, not just my knee, but the rest of my body, he's been able to kind of work and get it to where it needs to be. So like I said, just this team that I continuously build. I think it's what it takes to stay in the NFL. I mean, if I didn't play football right now, I would tell you I'm healthy. I could go golf right now. I could swim, I could jump, I can run straight. It's like all these things, if I wasn't playing football would be the norm and I'd be cleared. But I also know in the back of my head, I'm a football player and I play defensive line with 200, 300 pound men pushing on me every single play. And that looks a little different than just being the dad who can play on the ground with his kids and play soccer and stuff in the backyard.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. What are you tracking? How are you tracking your progress as you move through this? How do you know when you're ready to move on?

Chris Wormley: I'm a big like, feel guy, how do I feel and that can change daily. We ramp things up and see how I respond the next day. But just like those normal milestones, those markers that we've talked about, my day to day.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Are you using any technology are you using like...

Chris Wormley: I have an Oura Ring.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Force plate stuff. Oh yeah. Okay. Awesome.

Chris Wormley: Oura Ring, that's been great as far as tracking my sleep, calories burned, all that stuff for activity, my overall healthy score HRV has been really cool to see, like right after surgery how terrible that number was compared to where it is now. Is really cool to see. And I can feel it and most of the time I can wake up and be like, "Okay, I am either recovered or not recovered, or I'm a little more sore than usual," and this Oura Ring just kind of helps me... It just confirms what I'm feeling that day usually. I have a pretty good sense of how my body's feeling and this just confirms things.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: What about, are you doing...

Chris Wormley: Oh yeah, force plates.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Force plate. You're doing... Okay.

Chris Wormley: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: So your PTs got force...

Chris Wormley: Doing force plate stuff.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's awesome. Did the Steelers use any of that in-house while you were with them first three months?

Chris Wormley: No. And the force plates are at the place that I work out in. Go and do PT and then go over and work out. But we'll do a lot of different force plate things, whether it's single leg jumps, single leg landings, double leg landings. I've put them under my feet for squats, when I do back squats, just to see what that compensation looks like as far as left leg, right leg, how much? And it gives you a percentage which has been really helpful because you might think that you're even when you're going down on a squat, but as soon as your left leg is working hard, but it could be working harder, it could be put in a better position, your hips could be turned a little different.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It'll show you.

Chris Wormley: Your knee could be valgused. That's a good word I've...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Very good, dude.

Chris Wormley: I've been hearing a lot lately.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: A lot of brains over there, Worm.

Chris Wormley: I try, man. I try.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, you're doing great. It's crazy that you got on the field at 6 months at Michigan. Were you doing any of this? Any of that force plate stuff then?

Chris Wormley: I don't think so.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's crazy how far we've.

Chris Wormley: Like I said, I tried to repress a lot of those memories, but also I don't think, it was just, let's just see what you can do and then here you are for spring ball.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah.

Chris Wormley: Go play.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. That's wild. Okay. I love getting into what athletes think of PTs because obviously you're the consumer, you're always right. And I love hearing from you guys what it is that you think matters during the rehab process so we can educate the sports PTs, the masses of sports PTs. What do you think makes the ideal sports PT session for you? What can the PT do to provide a great session?

Chris Wormley: I don't know if this is gonna answer the question or not, but for me, I know how to get my quads bigger and my glutes bigger and my hamstrings and calves and all that stuff. But for me it's like those fine motor muscles, the ones that you don't work on a day-to-day basis that when you tear an ACL, they really come into play as far as your control and how well you can decel and accelerate. All of those things, especially when it's a strength day that comes into play. Okay. I know my quad's firing, I know my glutes activated, but what about the smaller glute muscles? The smaller muscles in and around my knee, the back of my knee? All those things play a huge role that not a lot of people realize.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, so a good session would be a PT bringing that to light and figuring out how to test those things and how to challenge those things.

Chris Wormley: Like even...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Is that what you...

Chris Wormley: On my right side, I have this foot ankle impingement and my foot drops in.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude, I remember that.

Chris Wormley: And that... Yeah, that causes my right hip to post out as far, when I'm squatting so I can find more room in my hip and all of that... Just all those compensations are affecting not just my right side, but my left side and just... Obviously my left knee is the most important thing to focus on, but we'll take a day to focus on right hip, right ankle, which also helps with the right knee for when I get back on the field.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. That's awesome to hear. Really highlighting the little things, digging into those details as a sports PT seems like it brings a bunch of value to you. Is that right? Is that what you're saying?

Chris Wormley: Yeah. I want somebody that... There's been times where I've used a PT, not you, obviously.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Wait, in Baltimore?

Chris Wormley: No, not in Baltimore. This was...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. Just making sure.

Chris Wormley: In Michigan. Yeah, I'll clarify in Michigan somewhere. Not the PT I've been using now that I'll have to almost tell them how to do their job, but I'm not a PT. I didn't go to school, I'm not Dr. Yoni. I didn't...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Sure. Sure.

Chris Wormley: I didn't earn that right to tell somebody how to do their job. But doing enough PT, I know what I need for the most part. And that doesn't tick me off but I'm like, "Okay, I want... I need you to do more." And I don't know if their bandwidth is not as high as most people's, and I know a lot of people take those continuing ED classes and some take a whole lot more than what they're supposed to take, which is reassuring to an athlete, especially an athlete.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah.

Chris Wormley: That needs to get back on the field to make a living.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. That's totally worthwhile. And you... That's why I love running into athletes like you that are just always thinking, just always as heady as you are because I know that you know what you need and I look at that as a resource. But for the PTs out there that are maybe a Chris Wormley walks in, think about, "Okay, what does this guy need to do for his job? And how do I provide a session catered around that?" You mentioned the little muscles and how important that is. And there is a good lesson in there. The next level sports PT on steroids is saying, "Okay, this is what a post-op ACL needs, but this is what Wormley needs. Wormley plays this position from this body angle, he's attacking as such. How do I, number one, deconstruct those moves? But number two, make the drill position specific. Make the drill Wormley specific." Today I was working with a linebacker, God, he has taught me so much about body positioning and change of direction specifically for the way he sees the field, which is different than the way you do and different than the way any offensive player would. And I listen to him talk about the way he reads coverages and the angles he needs to hit. And then I take that and I develop the drill based on that. He's always talking about striking and how he wants to strike...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: The blocker, I guess, or the offensive player far away from him to stun him and so he can move on. And so the drill became, okay, we're gonna work on foot intrinsic, we're gonna float your heel off of a step and make you stabilize because you're coming back from ACL. But you're gonna stun me and I'm gonna be coming at you from different angles. I was using a fizz ball 'cause otherwise he would take my life from me.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: But just so that I am trying to mimic what he has to do, I think there's a lot of value that we can bring and that's what separates sports PT from standard PT. Let me move from ACL to strength and conditioning. Because, Worm, I've worked with a lot of football players, very few of them are built like you at 300 pounds but look like you have a very proportional build and the weight that you carry is muscular weight, which is just really tough to do at 300 pounds. So I think because of that, I know I've learned a lot from the strength and conditioning world from you, you've been through Michigan, you've been through Baltimore, you've been through Pittsburgh, all of those different spots have different takes on strength and conditioning.

Chris Wormley: Very.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. So what modes have worked best for you to play at your best?

Chris Wormley: That's a good question because I think even every off season, I'm trying to do something different, add something, take something away, try and do something better, but I think for me it's... And it changes too, like at the beginning of the off season, I'm just trying to feel good again. So what does that look like? It's a lot of higher reps, less weight, a lot of mobility, then you move into a strength phase and then a power phase. And all of that can change too. Where I train at in Michigan, they're big into cleans and Olympic lifts and poles and all that stuff, and which I'm doing, but I'm not catching, I'm not power cleaning and catching the bar and it's sitting on me anymore. So how do we change... How do we get the same result with a different, less impactful movement? And we have these Kaiser machines that have been phenomenal in doing that. It's aired weight, if that's the right word, I don't know...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. Yep. Air resistance pneumatic. Yeah.

Chris Wormley: What word I would use, compressed air, whatever it is, so that's been really good. And just being able to have that collaborative talk with my strength trainer. Like, "Hey, I want to do this, but this is hurting me today or I'm not feeling right, what can we do to achieve the same thing or almost do the same thing without hindering strength or speed or power just for that day."

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. Yeah. I love that you have a collaborative relationship. Give me some advice. I know you to be very intellectual. You know your body, you're a vet at this point, so I can rely on the information you give me. What do I do with a younger guy who doesn't know their body as well? I know I need them to do X and they tell me, "Ah, you know what, I'm not feeling that, that's not best. How do I handle that situation appropriately?

Chris Wormley: Sometimes it's hard because sometimes you just have to let them figure that out on their own and that can be detrimental. 'Cause a lot of guys get hurt once and will never have that opportunity again to play or get healthier. They keep getting re-injured or they just get looked past or will never be on a team again. And my advice would be, especially a guy who's a professional athlete that's getting paid is, spend the money on your body and not on things that aren't gonna make you a better player. And eventually you'll be able to spend your money on those things, whether it's the trips or the cars or the chains or the nightlife. All those things that, shoot, I'd love to have a Lamborghini or those nice looking diamond chains. I think I'd look nice with one of those, but...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I would pay to see you fit into a Lamborghini. [chuckle] You don't want a Lamborghini?

Chris Wormley: I'm just, I don't... I really don't.


Chris Wormley: But to have to think like, okay, I'm gonna spend X amount of dollars a year on my body versus all those other things I just talked about, I think it took me even a couple years to figure that out. And each year I find myself spending more money on my body. I find myself finding better ways, more cutting edge things that sometimes you just don't normally... You wouldn't normally think of doing, but as this body continues to break down, I gotta continue to find ways to keep up with the young guys that are coming in. I'm almost 30, which is old for a defensive lineman in the league, especially when these guys are coming in at 21, 22. So the money that I put into my body, hopefully it's paying off these next 4-5 years.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. And listening to the way you've attacked this rehab, obviously it comes with a certain amount of grit, but also this high level of curiosity and you are one of the more curious individuals that I've had the pleasure of working with, and I think that's why our sessions constantly ran overtime. It made me even later for the next patient than I was for you. Where does that intellectual curiosity come from? 

Chris Wormley: I just like knowing things and learning things. I don't know, maybe watching Jeopardy as a kid, but my wife was always like, she'll ask a question and like, I'll just... And she won't expect me to know the answer and I just somehow know it. I don't know, I have a lot of, maybe it's just useless information that's stored in my head. I don't know, I just have this...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's a big head, there's a lot of information in that head.

Chris Wormley: Yeah. But I don't know. I've always tried to not just be put into a box or to fit a certain mold, and a lot of times you see, I don't know, a big half Black guy, you automatically think athlete or whatever the mold someone tries to put me in, I'm like, "I'm gonna try and surprise you or make you rethink what you thought of me." So, maybe that's a little bit of it is trying to prove people either wrong or prove somebody that I'm not just this athlete, if that makes sense.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Worm, do you remember the first time I met you and how you surprised me?

Chris Wormley: First time I met you?

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: First of all... Go ahead. Yeah. First time you met me.

Chris Wormley: What's the clinic, Woodbridge, Woodbury.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Very good, Woodbine.

Chris Wormley: Woodbine. Woodbine. There we go.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: So you did an awesome job of surprising me on that visit, 'cause I squeeze you in. You come in, it's Friday and I'm like, "I'm sorry, this... Usually the sessions will be longer. The session's gonna be abbreviated 'cause it's crazy. I have to run home because the sun is setting." I know that sounds crazy. And you, Worm, at 6 foot five, 300 pounds, half Black as you said, you're like, "Oh yeah, for Shabbat, right?" I'm like, "Worm," no I'm like, "Mr. Wormley, how did you know that?" And then you went on to tell me. Well, I spent time in Israel and I know this and I know that, and it's really impressive. You also, when you talk about your curiosity, I think it was you, it might have been Burton, who came in with a list of questions about the... What was the name of that Jewish...

Chris Wormley: There was a Netflix, there was a Netflix show and it was the Ultra Orthodox Jews and it... I spent, I've spent three weeks in Israel and learned a bunch, and obviously getting to know you for over those last two years before that Netflix series came out. I learned a lot, but there were still some things that I didn't know if they were just trying to embellish things or what, but I just had some questions.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: A list, which was, I believe typed out in 11 point font.

Chris Wormley: It was my notes.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Oh, it was your notes.

Chris Wormley: Yeah. So I had to, it was my notes, so I had to, as I was watching it, the series, I would write the questions down and once I had, I felt I had a good enough selection, I presented them to you.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's really, it's incredible. So, I learned a ton about not trying to put people in boxes from you. So, I really appreciate that. I also had the ability to have you over for Shabbat dinner and my kids were, first of all, amazed that humans actually come in that size when you walk into...

Chris Wormley: Well, when you have James Hurst and I over at the same time, it just...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's a lot of big people.

Chris Wormley: It's a lot of big people.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: A lot of big people. But when you came in, their take on you was not he's so big. Yes, they said that at first, but it was like, he's so nice. And I think that's really true about you because I've seen you interact with my staff. I've seen you interact with other PTs and other players. You are super nice and you're super humble. Now, 6'5, 300 pounds. You've earned a little bit of money in your life. People recognize that your feet, 'cause you got a size 27 foot and you have a distinct voice. The point is you stick out. How do you stay nice and humble? That was a lot of ass kicking, kissing Worm.

Chris Wormley: No, thank you. I'll take that, and I'll give you a humble answer.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. Okay.

Chris Wormley: I think it's easier to be nice, especially to people that I don't know. Especially as I get older, I realize people have... People think that I have something to offer them or give them because I play football, but my thought process is, you know more about whatever your job is than I do.

Chris Wormley: And if I'm curious about that, I don't wanna come off arrogant and be like, "Oh, I don't care that you're a teacher or that you're a lawyer, or that you're a plumber. It's like, You can be resourceful for me in some points or maybe I just wanna know more about why you do what you do and how you do it...

Chris Wormley: Growing up I was always the biggest kid. So, I think I wanted to show, like I said, just I didn't wanna be put into a box of, oh, he's big and mean and angry and scary. It's, no, this is just how I was born. I was just a big person and I can still be nice and I can still be humble. But there are times where I'm not nice. You can ask my daughter, my three-year-old daughter, and she'll tell you otherwise. But I think it just comes from having just this ground level respect for people that I can learn something from you or I can gain something from you and it's easier to access those things when I'm nice.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Do you feel like humility is a trait that you work on?

Chris Wormley: Not anymore. It was something that, and I think I've always been a humble person. I've never been the one to showboat or shove in your face, maybe to my friends but in a playful way, back and forth. That's just kind of how I grew up. All my friends were athletes and still are, so it's, we interact in a different way than I would with my neighbors across the street, who I'm friends with now. But I think for a while it took me... It was never a hard thing to do, oh, Worm you gotta be humble. You gotta show people that you're this way versus that way. But it's just something that I, this is how I wanna interact with the world and it's worked out for me so far.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And okay, so how do you flip that switch? How do you get uber competitive when you need to? How do you get mad productively when you need to? Because I gotta assume every Sunday that has to happen in season.

Chris Wormley: Yeah. And it's, I wouldn't even call it getting mad, I'm not not mad at anybody really, except for maybe Pat Ricard, who's behind me when he's trying to...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: There you go. Well, let me tell you why I'm mad at Pat Ricard because you got a Pat Ricard jersey. I don't have one of those. I got a Wormley jersey.

Chris Wormley: You gotta take that up with him.


Chris Wormley: Well, no.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Just send him a text. Send him a text.

Chris Wormley: Yeah. I'll let him know. But that's just my job. My job is to do a certain thing...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Smash people.

Chris Wormley: On the football field. Yes. That's part of the job description. But I don't have to be mad to do my job at a high level. I have to be strong. I have to be fast. I have to think on my feet. I have to understand certain situations and be able to adjust and handle adversity and the ups and downs of a football game. But I don't have to be like, I hate you 'cause a lot of people, I know a lot of the... Whether I've trained with them before or I've played against them twice a year for six years like I have with some Bengals and Browns players. It doesn't have to be like an angry thing. It can be like a competitive aggressive thing. I would say. I could be aggressive, but I'm not mad at anybody or trying to hurt somebody.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. It did, you do a good enough job of keeping that competitive nature in check that I got a kick out of your text exchanges with Ricard on Pittsburgh, Baltimore weekends.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: It's just good freaking banter.

Chris Wormley: Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: One day those will come to light. Okay. So you got a beautiful growing family. You have a very driven wife who runs her own business, Offbeat Native, which I encourage all of our listeners to go check out and spend millions of dollars buying outstanding women's clothing. Just women's.

Chris Wormley: Just women's, yeah. Yeah. Spend millions of dollars so I can become a stay-at-home dad in a few short years.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: There you go. I love that. All of that to say, let's jump into our lightning round. Okay.

Chris Wormley: Ooh.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay, Worm. Yeah. You're ready? Okay. Quick answers. Don't think too long. Ready? What is your feel on pets?

Chris Wormley: No.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: What do you mean, no?

Chris Wormley: No pets in the house.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Why?

Chris Wormley: No dogs, no cats.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Why? I know what a pet is, Worm. Why? 

Chris Wormley: They're dirty. I'd be the one to take care of them. I'd rather have 10 kids than a dog.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I love that. Let me jump on this bandwagon. Did you have... Have you and I spoken about this?

Chris Wormley: I don't think so.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Dude. I freaking hate dogs. Here's what I think about dogs. They're gonna die and you're gonna be really sad and it's totally different than the investment, Worm, that you're making in your kid's lives 'cause they're gonna take care of you when you're older and they actually know the difference between mommy and daddy as opposed to just someone who's feeding them. And that's why kids are better than dogs. Please send all your hate mail to Chris Wormley, but I'm totally with you.

Chris Wormley: You definitely can send it my way. I'll read every single piece and enjoy it. Listen, I like dogs. If a dog comes up to me, I'll pet it. If I'm at my friend's house and there's a dog, "Hey, what's up? What's up Buster? How you doing buddy?" But to spend time and money and effort into a dog, I have better time. I can spend my time in a better way.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Oh, I love that. Okay. Talk to me about how you feel about milk.

Chris Wormley: I think it's necessary, but I'm not...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Do you drink it?

Chris Wormley: I have never drank a glass of milk.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Why, Worm? That's bizarre. But why? 

Chris Wormley: It just is... I don't like the smell of it.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: What about LACTAID milk? Any different for you?

Chris Wormley: No.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: No. Okay.

Chris Wormley: I put it in cereal. I put it when I'm making food. All that stuff is cool but just to sit and have a glass of milk, it just doesn't do for me.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. What about chocolate milk? 

Chris Wormley: Yeah, when I was a kid. I feel like that's a kid drink, 12 and below.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Twelve and below. Okay. That's your cutoff. Okay. Next, cinnamon rolls. How do you feel about cinnamon rolls?

Chris Wormley: That's like God's gift to earth right there, man.


Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Tell me a story about cinnamon rolls, Worm.

Chris Wormley: I can take it back to Baltimore days.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Take me back to Baltimore.

Chris Wormley: There's a guy... You're gonna help me out with the last name, but Ellie, is that his name?

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. Could be. That sounds like a Jewish name.

Chris Wormley: Yeah, he was Jewish.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yes.

Chris Wormley: I don't know. I had this thing where one of the rookies didn't bring me cinnamon rolls during camp and I filled his truck with packing peanuts. Just a fun prank. And it turned into this...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: How many packing peanuts?

Chris Wormley: 720 pounds. 720 gallons.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: That's a lot. Dude.

Chris Wormley: 720 gallons.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay.

Chris Wormley: So it filled up his truck and it made the news and all that stuff and Cinnabon eventually sponsored a couple breakfasts for us at the facility, which was great. But there was a Baltimore fan who brought them to the game and it was a preseason game and I was done playing and I went to the stands and got them from them and I was actively eating them on the sidelines.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Sick.

Chris Wormley: I think they were tasty cakes. Cinnamon rolls. But I'm a fan of all cinnamon rolls of all types.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Do you have a preference?

Chris Wormley: Homemade? Oh, I had some. So there's this bakery, there's this deli shop called Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. It's a famous sandwich shop. They have a roadhouse too, but they have a bakery as well. And my wife got some of those for Father's day two weekends ago, and they were pretty good. They're probably one of the best... Better ones I've had in a while. But anytime there's one at a coffee shop or a breakfast shop or anywhere, I just, I'll pick one up and give it a taste.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You go [laughter] You will. Okay.

Chris Wormley: So much for a lightning round.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Favorite packaged cinnamon roll.

Chris Wormley: Already made?

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah. What do you hope to see on that 7-Eleven shelf?

Chris Wormley: Oh, the big Texas that comes in a purple packet.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Big Texas.

Chris Wormley: Big Texas Cinnamon Rolls. They come usually in vending machines.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You put them in a microwave?

Chris Wormley: You can, for sure. Yeah.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Okay. The correct answer by the way is Mrs. Freshly's. They make the best cinnamon roll. Google that, have them send it to you. Okay, last but not least, lightning round. Ready, what book are you in the middle of? Or what podcast can you recommend to me to be better? 

Chris Wormley: Podcast to be better?

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Or book, what are you in the middle of? Educate us, Worm.

Chris Wormley: I just read this book on... I finished it, but I just read this book on forgiveness and ways to forgive people for various reasons. And that was really good. It was very therapeutic.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Awesome.

Chris Wormley: And it helped me get through some...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Can you tell me what it was called? 

Chris Wormley: I think it was called Forgive and Forget by a guy, Smedes.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: And what do you love about it?

Chris Wormley: It just helped me think through how to forgive somebody, why that person did what they did, and not just... There's just a lot of gray area in forgiveness, in trauma and why do people do certain things to you. So helped me with that. I would definitely... If you have things in life that you need to forgive or you just wanted to read a good self-help book, I felt that was pretty good.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: This is why I freaking love you because never would I have guessed that you'd be like, I was thinking about forgiveness. And I read this book on forgiveness. You really have proven today, Worm. You cannot put Big Worm in a box.

Chris Wormley: Thank you.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You're welcome. Parting words for the sports PTs across all of America. What do you got, Worm?

Chris Wormley: Like the athletes that you treat, I would say, continue to learn, continue to be open and continue to work 'cause that's, at least that's what I do.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: Yeah, you do and you lead by example. You've been awesome to have on the pod. I can't wait to get you and Ricard back. So I can see that other side of Chris Wormley 'cause it's probably terrifying.

Chris Wormley: I don't know if we did a pod together. I don't know how much we would get out of it. On this one I feel like your listeners would just turn off and be like, "Okay, these two meat heads in a PT are trying to have a debate or a discussion." But I would love to have a...

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I think that would be awesome. We'll see if we can make that happen. Where can we find you? 'Cause you got your own pod. You got a whole bunch of stuff going on. Tell me about you.

Chris Wormley: I had a podcast with the Steelers, these two Steelers, these Yinzers as we like to call them in Pittsburgh. But that was the last two seasons. We haven't done... We just did episodes during the season. You can find my Instagram, I think I'm Big Worm. Big_Worm 43, Twitter. More so just retweets. But yeah, you find me on Instagram usually or Twitter.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: I do love your reposts on Instagram. You got a good repost in game, dude.


Chris Wormley: I try to keep it light.

Dr. Yoni Rosenblatt: You do a good job of it. You do a good job of it. You've taught me a ton. I know you've just taught my audience a ton. Thanks for all you do. Thanks for being just a great dude and a good friend. It's awesome to catch up with you. I can't wait to do it again. And to everyone listening. Thanks so much for tuning in. We'll see you next time.


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