Former Flyer Mark Howe says Rolfing saved career

November 18, 2012

Mark Howe was one of the best defensive hockey players. He spent 10 years with the Philadelphia Flyers and played 22 years overall in the NHL.

But he says his career was almost cut short.

"I twist and turned and something happened and my body just locked right up on me and stayed locked and I couldn't free it up," Howe said.

At the time, he had already had back surgery so another procedure wasn't an option.

But Robert Toporek said he had the solution.

It's called Rolfing. It's a specialized form of massage and it's not just for athletes.

"What happens to peoples' bodies is the parts get all stuck together," Toporek said.

He says Rolfing stretches and separates the connective tissue, releasing tension from the body.

"Whenever you take tension out of your body that improves circulation, gets rid of aches and pains," Toporek said.

After one session, Howe felt a difference.

"When I walked out of there, I was 70% better than when I walked in," Howe said.

And after 10 sessions, the following season, he played more than 60 games and went on to play another 5 years.

Robert says he is working with more athletes lately, helping to speed up their healing

And it's best done before there are problems.

That's why Teresa Dabback and her twin sister Melissa, both with the Temple Gymnastics Club, have been Rolfing for years.

Melissa says it helps keep her posture perfect.

"It's easier to stand up straight," Melissa said.

Teresa says it helped her bounce back from a back injury and perform at her best.

"It was just like I had a brand new back and all the pain was released and I was like 'wow,'" Teresa said.

But if you think it sounds too good to be true, some medical experts would agree.

Dr. Mitch Freedman with the Rothman Institute says there is little scientific evidence to back up its benefits.

But he says the power of touch in of itself can be healing and Rolfing may help some people including athletes.

"Will it improve performance? I think it'll help manage pain. If that helps manage pain then their performance will theoretically improve," Dr. Freedman said.

Mark Howe credits it with saving his career. His father, the legendary Gordie Howe, is also now a believer in Rolfing, saying it helps reduce his aches and pains as well.

It costs about $1,500 for the recommended ten sessions.

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.