A medical grade compression device.
A more compact, travel friendly, non 1980s NASA looking design.
An excellent system with a boatload of user defined options.
It seems as though the business of compression for recovery is still going strong. We've seen all sorts of devices and products emerge over the last few years to address this aspect of training, or more accurately, the recovery from the training we endure. If you are unfamiliar with the more 'mechanical' variety of these devices, picture a giant blood pressure cuff and you'll have the general (somewhat crude) idea. Basically these systems use a pump that connects to a sleeve with multiple chambers that airs up (compresses) and works it way up your extremity to help flush lactic acid and waste out. We've had the opportunity to test four of the major players in the compression game so far, and each has found it's place in the market. The latest of which is the VES 5200.
With the various systems out there you'll quickly see things like cycle times and mmHgs, various compression types, boot designs, etc. In fact, this may be one of the most confusing products out there if you go strictly by the marketing hype and finger pointing from one manufacturer to the next. Each company claims it's the best, but which is best for you will likely depend on several factors and price tags that vary by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. We still feel like one of the main things to consider when purchasing one of these devices, beyond the number of Benjamins that you will displace, is the amount of time you will have to spend in these things in order to get the full benefit.
Each device is attempting to capitalize on the same principle, that moving more blood and increasing circulation to the lower extremities will in turn help you recover more quickly. The VES system, like other compression systems, is basically a medical pump that is connected to special multi-chambered boots that inflate or compress the limbs to aid in the recovery process. The VES system uses a 10 chambered boot that connects to the pump through a series of air tubes.
This is done by snapping the end into the pump that has a retainer clip which holds it in place each boot has 10 individual leads that come together at the end of a "plug" which connects to the front of the pump.
Simple enough to operate, but a little more difficult to engage than some of the other models we've tested. Once it's connected, it provides a secure connection, and unless you are traveling you probably won't be taking it apart all that often.
Give em the Boot...or Boots
A key component to any of these devices, beyond the pump, is the boots that are connected to it. We've seen several different designs here as well, the main thing is to get a proper fit. The VES system offers 8 different boot sizes which gives you more options than any other system we've used. The boots of the VES are nice, appear to be extremely well made and well thought out. The material is thick and seems very durable. The velcro flaps that keep all the hoses tidy and tangle free are a definite plus. Each boot features a 10 chamber design which is the most by far that we have seen with a system of the intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) variety.
For those of you keeping score that's 6 more than both Recovery Pump and Podium Legs (the other two IPC systems we've used). We're sure each company has its own reasons for why they use the number of chambers they use and why it's better. The additional chambers seem to allow more flexibility to pinpoint trouble spots and should allow a bit more focused approach. Whether fewer chambers with a larger surface area, or smaller chambers with less is better, is up for debate. The VES standpoint is that more chambers coupled with the quick cycle time will eliminate any excessive pressure build up in any one section. Basically, from a usage standpoint they all feel pretty much the same. However, the nice thing about the VES system is that each of the 10 chambers are adjustable, pressure wise, something you won't find in every system out there. This feature offers the user a great deal of customization and puts the VES atop the IPC recovery systems we've used.
The achilles heel of the VES, or at least the one area where the VES is at a disadvantage compared to some of the other systems we have used, is with regard to travel. The pump itself is definitely on the bulky side, with too much junk in the trunk in our opinion to lug it along for an out of town race. Especially compared to the compact "toolbox" design of a system like the Normatec.
We couldn't imagine trying to fly with the VES, if you could convince the TAA that it wasn't a bomb, you might have to hire a personal assistant to drag it along for the ride.
The VES utilizes a series of 'credit cards' which are preprogrammed with settings that offer a range of recovery modes.
To activate a preprogrammed recovery mode, all you have to do is drop in the card that has the program you want to use in the top of the VES.
A quick swipe, similar to a credit card reader, and the program is loaded and ready to go.
You'll get this message when you have it right.
This system worked fine for us, and it's certainly nice to have preloaded recovery sessions at your disposal. However, we couldn't help but feel like this approach is a little 'old school' compared to other models. We'd like to see these programs stored on the device itself, rather than having to keep up with the cards. This would be especially true when it comes time to travel with the VES. You can, of course, use the VES manually without the cards, but in our opinion it would clean up the design to have a more integrated approach and '86' the whole card aspect.
Options out the wazoo
The VES allows the user a great deal of flexibility, and in fact, we feel that's this system's strong suit. The user gets a boat load of options, and the VES is one of the most customizable systems we've used. Not only do you get adjustable pressure in each chamber, but you can also tweak the following:
Vent Mode-Simultaneous or Cascade
Basically the entire boot deflates all at once or it cascades. In cascade mode, you can even switch the deflation from proximal to distal or from distal to proximal depending on the user's preference.
Allows the user a five minute 'pre-flushing' of the limb before compression treatment begins.
A cool feature if a particular problem area does arise. With focus mode you get focused compression in 4 successive chambers which provides even more customization for the user. During treatment the VES will intermittently switch to the focus area selected and you can concentrate on that area to really work the specified area for even more effective treatment.
Gettin Your Pump On
Using the VES is very similar to other systems we've tested as far as how it feels, and what it does to aid in recovery. To date, the VES is probably best system using an intermittent pneumatic compression method of delivery in our opinion. The unit seems to do a great job of moving blood and increasing circulation. The VES has a quick cycle time, especially considering there's 10 chambers. The additional chambers seem to suggest a bit more flexibility and customization especially if you are dealing with a particular trouble spot.
The VES does have a 'pre-fill' phase at the beginning of the program. This insures the user gets a proper fit and does away with the one size fits all mentality that some systems use. As mentioned above, the pressure of each chamber is adjustable. The VES allows a range of 0-70mmHg of pressure, which in our opinion is plenty for recovery purposes. We've used others that went higher on the pressure scale but 70mmHg is about as much as we could or wanted to tolerate.
With an MSRP of $3,500 you may need to recover from the purchase of your recovery device.
TriBomb Bottom Line
By far the best of the intermittent pneumatic compression devices we have tried. If you want to go with an IPC device and you have the coin we'd go with the VES. It's one of the most customizable, user specific devices we've tested. Not having a more compact, travel friendly version/design is really where this system comes up short.