Buffalo Bills owner Kim Pegula recently sat down with the Sports Innovation Lab’s “The Fluid Fan Podcast” to discuss her background, her role at Pegula Sports and Entertainment, HarborCenter, and a bunch of other topics.
Included in the talk was a conversation about Pegula’s role within the league structure on the Super Bowl Committee and as a member of the NFL’s business committee. Part of that work has led her down a technology path she discussed in detail in the podcast. The Buffalo Bills have been leaders in the field of wellness and recovery technology and she spends several minutes of the interview discussing the changes they made and why.
“A lot of [the new innovation] is around player health and safety,” said Pegula. “I think that is one tool where maybe from a fan perspective you don’t necessarily get to see that technology at work but certainly having our players healthier on the field, more making their recovery quicker, making the game safer, the fans do get the trickle-down effect of that. [Fans] just sometimes don’t get to see the behind the scenes and the technology it takes to get there. [There is] a lot of great work in that area from different helmets, targeting and tracking where hits are and what that does to the body, to everything from understanding their workload because of factors in their body whether it’s fluids, salt intake, heart rate, all of those things. I think it’s just fascinating. And I think it has to be as important as part of the game as even understanding the skill set of the game. If our players are not on the field, they’re not healthy, they’re not performing at their optimum level, we all feel the effects of that.”
The Bills were remarkably healthy in 2019. While many players had surgery following the season, they were all able to stay on the field with Buffalo losing very few player-games to injury.
In 2018, the Bills announced they were spending $18 million on an upgrade to their rehab and wellness facility in Orchard Park. The facility opened in April of 2019 and includes hyperbaric chambers, saunas, underwater treadmills, sleep therapy, and a host of other amenities.
“We just opened up this past year our sports performance center, said Pegula, discussing the facility. “It was not only a revamping of our traditional strength and conditioning with the weights but we also added in a massive recovery wellness area that introduces our players to things like red light therapy to floating pools to cryotherapy, all different modalities of recovery and wellness. [It is] especially for the veterans, giving them those extra tools to play in the league longer or to prepare better so that injuries don’t come along. [We] spent a lot of dollars, time, and resources not only into the equipment but into the people that understand that, so our sports science team that work there in conjunction not only with our trainers and doctors, but with our players to understand our bodies and to do things to prevent.”
Pegula was quick to discuss the other members of her organizations, as well. She mentioned one of her first orders of business after buying the Buffalo Sabres was to take the training staff and equipment managers out to lunch to get to know them better and discuss what they needed.
That level of commitment permeates both organizations now, says Pegula.
“We’re really fortunate that this is a buy-in that you have to have not only at the ownership level but from the GM and your coaches to integrate that into part of the team and the whole process that it takes to play a game. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to build that up and we’re really proud of that area.”
You can listen to the entire interview here.