NFL Player Returns Home for Expert Care to Prepare for Season

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Determination and Heart: NFL Player Returns Home for Expert Care to Prepare for Season

When Denico Autry of the Tennessee Titans needed to rehab an injury, he found the expert care he needed close to home

When Denico Autry, a lineman with the Tennessee Titans, needed to rehabilitate a lower extremity injury, he looked for care close to home. As a native of Albemarle, N.C., it took hours out of Autry’s day to drive to Charlotte for rehabilitation services. He turned to a center nearby – one he knew well already: The rehabilitation program at Atrium Health Stanly.

Denico Autry, defensive end for the Tennessee Titans, and Scott Brone, physical therapist and director of rehabilitation, pose during a rehab session at the YMCA.
Tennessee Titan's player Denico Autry and Scott Brone, director of rehabilitation at Atrium Health Stanly, during a rehab session.

Denico came to Atrium Health Stanly when he was a football player for Albemarle High School. When he returned as an NFL player, he reunited with Scott Brone, physical therapist and director of rehabilitation, who still has a plaque on his wall from his work with Denico’s 2010 Albemarle Bulldogs high school team. This time, the duo faced higher stakes: Get an NFL lineman back to peak performance to have a record season.

“As a defensive end, Denico has got to explode first and foremost, right out of the box. He's got to be able to come off the line at 100%,” Brone says. “So that is something that we begin to train for.”

For Denico, coming home to train in Stanly County became a big step to returning to the NFL in peak condition.

“It was great from day one, man. It was just all love and care from day one,” Denico says. “They made sure I got back to where I need to be, and I appreciate those guys for that.”

Scott Brone, along with many members of the Atrium Health Stanly rehabilitation team, hold extensive certifications that allow them to provide the most state-of-the-art care for patients. Brone is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist, holds a spinal manipulation and dry needing certification and has a diploma in osteopractic, which is an evidence-based post-graduate program for the diagnosis and treatment of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. 

Caring for Athletes at All Levels

From high school athletes to the professionals, Atrium Health Stanly rehabilitates all levels of athletes. Denico, however, became the first one to span the patient spectrum from student sports to NFL player for that facility. 

Denico Autry, defensive end for the Tennessee Titans, and Scott Brone, physical therapist and director of rehabilitation, work out during a rehabilitation session at the YMCA.
Scott Brone works out with Denico Autry during a rehab session.

Brone met with Denico’s surgeon to learn everything he could: where Denico was physically, where he needed to be, and what the surgeon saw during the procedure. A professional athlete like Denico would require a variety of equipment and facilities for comprehensive rehabilitation. So, Brone took a dual approach: he partnered with the YMCA, which offered their facilities for the two to use, in addition to Atrium Health’s top-of-the-line rehabilitation facilities. Brone then spoke to Denico to learn his goals, which would guide their sessions. 

“Denico’s primary role is to put pressure on the quarterback. Handwork, footwork and sacks, that’s his job,” Brone says. “Our job was to take his particular athletic endeavor and break it down into smaller movements.”

They began a rehab regimen that took them from weight rooms to athletic fields to CrossFit gyms. The first 10 weeks of rehab took place at Atrium Health Stanly, where Scott utilized multiple areas of the hospital to make sure Denico received necessary care. Scott and Denico met at the YMCA for the last six weeks and used a variety of spaces: the weight room, a CrossFit room, the basketball gymnasium, and an outdoor field. The breadth of training offered to Denico is indicative of the patient-centered approach by Brone and his team.

“We were doing some of the old-school stuff. We got a little CrossFit in there, we got a little boxing in there,” Denico says. “It's about getting back stronger, and we had a pretty good variety. We mixed it up and touched all the bases.”

High Caliber Care, Close to Home

To Brone, the best rehabilitation services are those that collaborate with a patient’s medical team and listen closely to patient goals. For people who go to Charlotte for surgeries, following up with rehabilitation in facilities closer to home can become a major timesaver.

Denico Autry, defensive end for the Tennessee Titans, and Scott Brone, physical therapist and director of rehabilitation, during rehabilitation session at the YMCA.
Denico Autry does box jumps during a session with Scott Brone.

For Brone, working with Denico became a special opportunity to connect with someone he worked with years ago. It was a full-circle experience to help the Albemarle Bulldog return to the NFL stage. 

“It's special. Denico is from this hometown of ours, and I'm just proud that I got to work with him,” Brone says. “He's just a fantastic guy. I don't care if he's a goat farmer, fisherman or if he plays NFL football. He's just a special guy and I'm glad I got to meet him.” 

And for Denico, it was special to get the rehabilitation services he needed in the town where he lives.

“I have personal goals that I may be able to reach now because I worked a little harder than I really have my whole career with Scott,” Denico says. “I just needed that good, old-fashioned workout, and I get that every time I come to see him. I accomplished what I wanted to and more.”

Atrium Health has a reputation for excellent rehabilitation and sports medicine throughout its system. U.S. News & World Report 2022 hailed orthopedics at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center as a Top Performing Hospital, and it recognized Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation as a Best Rehabilitation Hospital. Professional athletes are no stranger to these facilities; Atrium Health is the official healthcare provider of the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Knights and Charlotte FC. But the system cares for all patients throughout the region who seek all kinds of specialties, from sports medicine to orthopedics to orthopedic oncology.

Learn more about rehabilitation services at Atrium Health Stanly

In addition to rehabilitation at Atrium Health Stanly and Carolinas Rehabilitation locations, patients are able to access innovative and effective sports medicine and orthopedic services through  Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute..

Photo disclaimer: Images provided are located at a non-healthcare facility where masks are not required.