pro sports

90 : When an Eating Disorder Has You at Your Break Point w/ Neha Uberoi

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In Episode 90 we continue to shed light on the topic of body image concerns in female athletes.  This week's guest is Neha Uberoi who is a former professional tennis player, social entrepreneur and health & wellness advocate.

She entered her freshman year at Princeton University at 16 years of age, winning Ivy League Rookie of the Year before taking a 6-year leave of absence from school to play on the professional tennis tour alongside her sister, Shikha Uberoi. She achieved a top 200 WTA tour ranking, reached two WTA tour doubles finals and competed in the US Open before retiring and then completing her undergraduate degree.  Neha is the Co-founder of South Asians in Sports, a network of South Asian professionals who work in the sports industry. As an Indian-American role model, Neha advocates for sports, health and wellness through coaching, public speaking and digital media. Across the US and in India, she frequently appears on various media platforms to provide commentary on sports, women’s empowerment as well as health & wellness.  Furthermore, Neha battled an eating disorder throughout her professional tennis career and that is the focus of our conversation in this interview.

 This episode is brought to you by Necessary ThicknessNecessary Thickness is an idea, an approach, a movement, where the brand’s founder preaches healthy bodies & strong minds, recognizing that these elements individually vary. "Thick" is a metaphor that encompasses a better and stronger you at work, at play and at life. It's about embracing your flaws, loving yourself, and making the choices that best yield your own happiness. NT is choosing the things in life that move you closer towards achieving your own visions and goals - that make you the best version of you.  To find out how you can express your thickness, go to

Last week in Episode 89 when we heard from Dr. Megan Cannon, Sports Psychologist and Erin Sparrold, Sports Nutritionist from Mind of the Athlete we discussed the danger that exists in developing fearful relationships with food.  Early on in my conversation with Neha she described the fearful relationship that she had with food which partially led to her battle with bulimia.  Growing up Neha specifically recalls associating her mother's love with that of Ghee, but when she was competing as a professional tennis player she deprived herself of foods like Ghee because they wouldn't provide her with the fuel she needed on the court.  Looking back however, by doing so she felt the she was partially denying herself of love.  In the video above, Neha talks about her evolving relationship with food.

Below are some of the other main talking points of our conversation:

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  • How people in the Indian Culture view having muscle as being fat.

  • The trigger of Neha's Bulimia actually had nothing to do with her body and more to do with her coaches expectations and the pressure she put on herself to succeed.

  • Why athletes should prioritize themselves ahead of their sports.

  • How eating disorders are a form of depression.

    • Neha believes her depression came out in the form of bulimia.

  • What goes into a bulimic episode.

    • In that moment you are doing things on impulse.

    • Usually in a state of extreme anxiety and mental pain.

    • Vomiting actually turned into catharsis, because it caused her to pass out, that feeling is what she was hooked on to.

      • Food was just a mechanism to get that feeling.

  • Quote discussion from Neha's Sports Illustrated article: My painful journey from a pro tennis career to self-discovery.

    • "What followed were five years of depression, anger, intense anxiety and crippling confusion. My thoughts—which used to be on future wins—were mired in the past. "

    • "My body was begging my mind to start listening to my heart."

  • Neha's decision to step away from tennis.

  • The therapeutic effects of journaling.

  • What is was like going to Princeton at 16 years old.

  • Neha's thoughts on males coaching female athletes.

  • The individualistic nature of tennis and how it leads to constant comparisons.

  • The struggles of finding an identity after tennis.

  • The importance of forgiving yourself as an athlete.

  • Sexualization of women's tennis.

    • The unsolicited comments she would recieve from men.

  • This YouTube video:

  • Why Neha wishes the Necessary Thickness movement was around when she was going through her struggles.

  • How to stay healthy and prevent injuries.

    • Progression to training.

    • She built a strong base with swimming and body weight exercises before advancing to more advanced exercises.

    • Prehab band exercises.

  • Why having more balance throuhout her career would have made her a better player.

Where can you find neha uberoi?

WEBSITETwitter | INstagram | Youtube

Where Can You Find Necessary Thickness?

INstagram | Twitter | Facebook | Shop | Blog

Download Episode 90 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

87 : Your Best Ability is Availability w/ 4 NFL Pros, 2 Parents & 1 Ortho Doc

This week I am throwing a different type of episode at you guys. A couple weeks back I attended the New Jersey Orthopaedic Institute's Sports Injury Prevention Training camp at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange NJ.  At the camp young athletes learned the proper mechanics and best practices to prevent injuries in their upcoming fall seasons.  The athletes got to hear both current and former NFL players talk about the different ways they took care of or are currently caring for their bodies to optimize longevity throughout their career’s. The NFL players in attendance were retired NFL running back Brian Leonard, current NFL free agent Tim Wright, current Chicago Bears fullback Michael Burton and retired NFL linebacker Kevin Malast. While covering the event, I got the opportunity to interview each of these former Rutgers Football standouts and NFL veterans for about 5 minutes each, which was just enough time to get some great words of wisdom.  In addition I interviewed a couple who brought their two sons to the camp and we hear about Mom’s concerns, but also some of the amazing things football has to offer for their kids and their family as a whole.  The episode concludes with an interview with Dr. Anthony Scillia who taught the athletes about injury prevention from a scientific standpoint. Below are some pictures from the event.

Brian Leonard (2:00):

  • Background: Rutgers Football standout fullback known for leaping over defenders and played in the NFL for 8 seasons as a running back.

    • Drafted by the Rams (07, 08)

    • Cincinnati Bengals (09, 10, 11, 12)

    • Buccaneers (12)

    • New Orleans Saints (13)

  • Approach to avoid injury:

    • Credits the weight room.

  • Positioning and leverage.

    • The importance of knowing how to fall.

  • The consequences of playing through pain.

    • Medication masking injuries.

    • The cumulative affect of playing injured.

    • Compensation leading to other injuries.

  • How injuries affect your performance on the field.

  • Advice to football players for longevity:

    • Prehab/rehab, eating healthy and positioning.

Where can you follow brian?


Tim Wright (10:08):

  • Background: Former Rutgers football standout wide receiver turned NFL tight end free agent who is coming off his second ACL injury, which occurred back in May 2016. Now feels 100% ready to play again.

    • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13)

    • New England Patriots (14, Super Bowl Champion)

    • Detroit Lions (15)

  • 2010 ACL injury at Rutgers 20 years old.

  • Had time to mature since the last injury.

  • Why NFL stands for "Not for long".

  • Opened barbershop called "The Wright Cut" during his recovery from ACL surgery.

  • Building the business gave him the chance to see his vision through.

  • Importance of having a passion outside of sports.

Where can you follow Tim?


Where can you get a fresh fade💈?

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Michael Burton (16:33) :

  • Background: Former Rutgers football walk-on full back turned team captain and current fullback for the Chicago Bears. Michael is also a previous guest on the podcast and your can hear from him in episode 33. At one point during the camp, Michael told the athletes that “The best ability, is availability” and that really resonated with me, hence the title of this episode. Give a listen to my discussion with Mike about how he keeps himself available:

  • Focus on recovery

    • Cold tub/hot tub

    • Acupuncture

    • Massage therapy

    • Cryotherapy

  • Look to the veterans for advice on longevity.

  • Injury is largely unavoidable from a technique perspective, but positioning can help (low man wins/make yourself small).

Where can you follow Michael?


Kevin Malast (21:17):

  • Background: Linebacker who played 3 seasons in the NFL and played ball with Brian Leonard back in the Rutgers Football Glory Days. Kevin was the kind of guy that avoided the training room at all costs.

    • Chicago Bears

    • Tenesse Titans

  • Staying healthy.

    • Lift a lot of weights with good proper range of motion.

      • Using muscle as armor.

  • Lessons learned from teammates like Brian Urlacher on taking care of his body.

  • Proper rest and nutrients.

  • Never thinking about injury and always going 100%.

    • If you think about getting injured, that’s when you get injured.

  • Only missed two days of school from kindergarten through his senior year of high school

  • Toughness is doing something at a very high level day in and day out and having the consistency day in and day out.

  • Why not everyday is going to be perfect, but how you can make it perfect.

Where can you follow Kevin?


Donald & Angela Robinson, Parents (29:07):

  • 2 kids at the camp.

  • As loving parents, safety is a priority

    • Both kids love football and they want to take all the necessary precautions to help them enjoy the sport.

  • Donald was a linebacker in high school

  • Angela did have reservations about their kids playing.

    • Especially because of concussions.

  • For the Robinson's, football is a family affair.

    • Both sets of Grandparents travel to watch the games.

  • Angela hopes that their kids get a true understanding of how important precaution is.

  • Donald's approach to coaching today's youth.

    • It is more than just football.

      • Building relationships with these kids.

  • The intangible benefits of sports participation and mentorship.

Dr. Anthony Scillia (36:42):

  • Background: Anthony J. Scillia M.D. is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon with subspecialty certification in sports medicine. He was trained at Dr. James Andrews’ prestigious fellowship the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama.

    Along with his partners at New Jersey Orthopaedic Institute, Dr. Scillia serves as a team physician for Seton Hall University, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Jackals baseball team, and sixteen high schools.  In addition, he is the hip consultant for the New Jersey Devils.

  • What the research says about injury prevention:

    • The benefits of rigorous ACL programs:

      • Improving proprioception

      • Jump training and landing properly

      • Proper mechanics

      • Proper warmup and cool down periods

      • Proper stretching and not over training.

  • Baseball Literature: 36% higher injury rate in pitching when not taking a 4 month break in a given year.

  • When athletes are tired and their mechanics breakdown.

  • ACL mechanism of injury:

    • Planting foot and changing direction “Pivot-shift”.

    • The importance of proper quadriceps muscle coordination.

    • Ensuring athletes are jumping with their knees centered over their shoulders instead of buckled in.

  • Contact vs non-contact return to play.

  • Return to play following metacarpal fractures in football players

  • The important roles of Athletic Trainers & Physical Therapists in the rehab process.

    • Modifying the standard “cookbook” for each athlete.

  • Why there is not a set timeline that is generalizable for all athletes.

    • Recovery times are specific to the injury and specific to the athlete.

Where can you Follow NJ Orthopaedic Institute?

Facebook | Instagram 

Download Episode 87 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

86 : Policing The NHL Ice w/ Riley Cote

Riley Cote is a former professional ice hockey left winger who played eight seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers.  During his career, he was known as an enforcer on the ice.  Riley announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 28.  Most recently, he was an assistant coach with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL) for the past 7 seasons.  Riley is currently focusing on his Hemp Heals Foundation, which promotes sustainable agriculture, sustainable health and clean natural medicine, while focusing on a holistic approach to optimum health through the use of hemp.

I immediately felt a connection to Riley because both of us embraced the identity of being a “tough guy” in our respective sports.  Neither of us would think twice before throwing our bodies around to make a big hit, or in Riley’s case starting a fight. Going into this conversation with Riley, I strongly disagreed with fighting in hockey. In my mind, putting a ban on fighting would be an easy way to avoid dangerous and unnecessary hits to the head, without actually altering the essence of the game. However, by the end of our conversation I formed a much different opinion on the role that fighting plays in hockey.

“If you can instill fear into your opponent, and then someone feels dominated by you mentally, you own them.”

So what makes someone an “enforcer” in the NHL? An enforcer in the NHL needs to be fearless, have the ability to sacrifice their bodies and the willingness to fight anyone, no matter what the size. The role of the enforcer is to create energy in the arena, but more importantly to keep the peace out on the ice and keep everyone in check.  Riley says guys like him are few and far between in today’s NHL because the direction of the game is trending towards speed and quickness.  In Riley’s opinion, the lack of policemen out on the ice has actually led to more dangerous hits. A mutual respect exists between NHL “tough guys”, their teams and their opponents, even after getting their ass kicked.  “You can put guys in the penalty box all day long, but you haven’t really addressed the problem.” Rule changes in the NHL have also discouraged players to fight.  Riley explained how it used to be that you could fight anyone on the other team and you would both get 5 minutes for fighting, so there was no power play.  After the introduction of the instigator rule, the fight instigator gets 2 minutes for initiating the fight, 5 minutes for fighting and 10 minutes for misconduct. This puts the instigator out of the game for 17 minutes and their team down a man for 2 minutes.  The structure of this rule incentivizes players to turtle.  This comes into play when an enforcer retaliates for a cheap hit that was dished out by the opponent.  In that case the enforcer might be putting his team in a vulnerable position to serve their role as the policeman. 

“To me, a fight was like a goal”

Riley wasn’t always an enforcer out on the ice. He chose to start playing more aggressively while in juniors due to the fact that he was highly observant and aware of the guys who were getting the call up to the NHL. To make into the NHL, Riley knew he had to be aggressive and had to keep fighting in juniors. When talking about his NHL dreams while growing up, Riley said, “If I wouldn’t have done that [played as an enforcer], I would have maybe been a 3rd line American League Hockey Player.”  He achieved his goal of reaching the NHL, because he embraced the enforcer identity out on the ice.  According to Riley, he was top 3 in fighting in whatever league he was in.  A shift without a fight or a hit was an unproductive shift. Fighting not only caused a lot of wear and tear physically for Riley, but also mentally.  He felt like he was in a constant state of fight or flight.  Every game he had to be mentally prepared to fight someone, which caused a lot of stress and pressure on him, even when there wasn’t a fight. 

Riley has been a cannabis user since he was 15 years old and although he wasn’t always aware of the science based evidence of its benefits; he recognized the relief it gave to his anxiety.  Riley partially credits cannabinoids and cannabidiol (CBD) for his improved health after his playing days.  He also credits his current brain health to the use of cannabis throughout his career.  This experience has fueled the passion behind Riley’s organization called Hemp Heals.  Riley never expected to retire at 28, but he felt that he was always nursing something during every practice.  Looking back, Riley feels that his heavy lifting caused a lot of problems to his physical body.  He recommends that current athletes focus more on bodyweight, plyometric, speed & agility workouts, yoga and healthier eating. Riley noticed a huge difference after transitioning his active lifestyle to this format during his retirement.

In this episode Riley also talks about the huge change in identity he had after his retirement.  Removing the toxic and introducing the healing into his life aided in this transition.  This includes not only people, but food as well.  Riley endorses hemp seeds as a great source of protein.  Athletes need to think of their body as their moneymaker.  Just like how you wouldn’t put regular fuel in a sports car, you shouldn’t put low-grade fuel in your body because eventually, it will break down like a car.  Fortunately, athletes have many more resources today to optimize their health, such as sports performance coaches, wellness coaches, sleep doctors and sports psychologists. However, as a coach, Riley finds that most of the young guys still think they are invincible and don’t take advantage of these resources.  Going back to the car example, you can’t maximize your car’s longevity by only taking it to the mechanic when it is broken.  You need to take the car for its regularly scheduled maintenance to prevent problems down the road (no pun intended… see what I did there?).

During our conversation, I was very curious to learn about what preparation went into a fight, how a fight is started, and how a winner of a fight is determined.  Riley explains these dynamics in detail during the interview.  Although Riley said he wasn’t a technical fighter, he still trained Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Standup Greco-Roman wrestling techniques.  The fights themselves could happen as simply as just asking an opposing player to fight.  It’s not always that easy, though. If the other player refused, Riley would sometimes have to force the fight.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the fight starts because there will always be the adrenaline factor and an energized atmosphere in the arena.  When it comes to determining a winner there is often a big difference between the crowd and the players take on the outcome. No matter the outcome, no one wants to see each other badly injured.  According to Riley, inflicting injury is not the objective of a hockey fight.  Riley stated that he never wanted to put someone out of a game or even a practice because of a fight but injuries, and sometimes-serious ones do occur.

Some of Riley’s Injuries throughout his career, where he averaged one surgery a year, included:

  • Two knee injuries

  • Two separated shoulders

  • Torn wrist and Finger Tendon

  • Two eye surgeries (I later ask about the stigma associated with eye shields in the NHL)

  • Two nose surgeries

  • Broken foot

Riley described himself as a fringe-roster player, which pressured him to play through many of these injuries because he knew he couldn’t give up his spot.

The one possible regret that Riley has from his hockey career is that he wished he did a little more hockey playing and a little less fighting.  His advice to upcoming NHL “tough guys” is to work on your hockey skills because there is not much room for players like him anymore.  Although it is easy to demonize fighting as it’s seen as “barbaric” when looking at it politically, Riley believes something has to slow the game down to make the game safer. That something used to be fighting.  Fighting in hockey might not be as detrimental to player safety as we might think.  In this quest to improve health & safety in sports, I think it is important to think about ideas such as this to truly make the lasting impact we have set out to accomplish.




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Download Episode 86 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud