WILTON, Conn. – Wilton sports physiologist Skip Latella has been working with athletes of all levels for more than 30 years. Nothing, however, has been more rewarding than his work with wounded soldiers.
“There’s a reward in helping people live better lives,’’ said Latella, who began working with Army soldiers in Colorado last month. “Whether it’s (pro golfer) Fred Couples or Joe Smith, knowing I can help them is all the reward I need. Working with soldiers, I feel like I’m back in my element.”
Latella assists soldiers with his patented technology called Flexor. It’s a motor-learning program that gives real-time feedback and impact on performance. The technology improves sports performance by enhancing the brain/body connection.
Latella ran a physical therapy center in White Plains, N.Y., with his wife, Robin, before introducing Flexor methodologies to golfers in 2004. One of his first clients was Couples, who struggled with back issues for years. Working with Latella, Couples recaptured the form that helped him win the Masters in 1992.
More golfers became followers of Flexor and Latella. He made presentations to golfers around the country, and his methods are highly regarded by many top professionals.
In 2011, Latella also began with members of the U.S. Archery team. His methods also transferred to para archers. Brady Ellison, who was ranked No. 1 in the world during the past two years, became one of Latella’s biggest backers.
“The balance Flexor has given me is incredible,’’ Ellison said in a USA Archery statement. “In my opinion there’s nothing that’s going to make an archer stronger in the wind than this system.”
Latella’s work is centered around muscle memory. He works with a few simple pieces of apparatus, some of which can be purchased at a department store. He gets the brain to trigger a response by the body that creates a more dynamic movement.
“I look at the total picture of the movement,’’ Latella said. “We’re trying to rewire the brain to get the body to move more efficiently. It creates better balance, strength, coordination and flexibility. It can help with any sport, but also any movement. It’s not just sports-related.”
Through his work with U.S. Archery, Latella became connected with Army veterans who have lost limbs or suffered brain injuries. After one brief session with soldiers, Army officials wanted to see more. Latella was not surprised his methods helped soldiers. He was even more pleased that it helps them from a mental standpoint.
“If we can improve motivation, he or she can become more well-rounded,’’ Latella said. “It’s not about the sport. It’s about improving the quality of life and making them more well-rounded. It’s great that they’re able to run a faster 100-yard dash. But what he’s going to do for the rest of his life is what’s important.”
Over the past 15 months, Latella has been highly sought after by groups eager to improve movement. “It has been a whirlwind,’’ he said.
The Flexor method was scientifically validated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory in 2004. Nothing could be more pleasing to Latella, a sports fan and a member of the board of the Fairfield County Sports Commission.
“Working with the soldiers fell right into my wheelhouse,’’ Latella said. “The significance of their improvement is unbelievable. At the end of the day, if we can help their confidence and improve their quality of life, that’s the most gratifying part of it.”