Technology is Designed for Elite Athletes and ‘Everyday Performers’
I started with the premise that if the brain can be injured, it serves to reason that it functions like a muscle. And if it functions like a muscle, it serves to reason that it could be rehabbed and strengthened. —Tommy Shavers, founder of Nestre Health & Performance Inc.
By George Diaz
Dr. Tommy Shavers’ career path begins in a fog.
He suffered somewhere between six and seven concussions while playing football as a defensive back at the University of Central Florida from 1998 to 2000. The collateral damage was significant. He started experiencing mental and cognitive impairment and decline. The prognosis from doctors was not exactly satisfying: “Just give it a little bit. It’ll get better and wear off.”
“That didn’t happen,” Shavers said. Distraught, he even began writing a memoir at the time titled “Remember Me” for his young son. He then realized that by writing it, he was accepting his own cruel fate.
Instead, Shavers built a new life out of that foggy haze. Today, NESTRE Health & Performance Inc. stands as a testimonial to his perseverance. Founded in September 2018, the Lake Nona-based company is focused on improving and strengthening mental and cognitive fitness.
Patient No. 1: Dr. Tommy Shavers.
“That was my motivation: my wife and my child,” he said. “I started with the premise that if the brain can be injured, it serves to reason that it functions like a muscle. And if it functions like a muscle, it serves to reason that it could be rehabbed and strengthened.
“So I created a cognitive conversion model for self-recovery and recovered my own mental and cognitive capacity. That’s when I discovered the science of neuroplasticity that I didn’t know existed, and I had a chance to share about my recovery and my vision.”
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience, or following injury—and it’s the cornerstone of the NESTRE business model.
The key is to use artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning to improve cognitive functions in individuals through brain health training and exercise routines. Hence, Nestre, meaning neuro-strength.
The business pitch worked when NESTREHealth & Performance was one of six companies accepted in 2020 into the leAD Lake Nona Sports & Health Tech Accelerator, the first program of its kind opened in the U.S. by Berlin-based leAD Sports. Named after Adidas founder Adi Dassler, the international program was started by his grandchildren.
A number of former NFL players have invested in the NESTREconcept, including Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr.and his Detroit Lions teammate Rob Sims. NESTRErecently raised $1.6 million in advance of its next round of funding.
That has paved the way for in-person neuro-strength training, the NESTRE Mindset Profile, and virtual work through the app, scheduled to be released this year.
Just like in football, Shavers has teammates who have his back. Meet Julius Thomas, a former two-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end who is the co-founder and NESTRE’s chief innovative health and performance officer. Thomas played for the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.
He, too, sought a greater purpose than football. He retired from football in 2018 to study psychology and earn a doctorate in psychology with a focus on mental health and neuroscience. He wrote an article in The Players’ Tribune, delving beyond psychology and into cognitive issues experienced by players.
That prompted a call from Shavers.
“And then we start talking about the need to provide services for people we both care about,” Thomas said.“And for us, that’s athletes. These are people who want to have high performance.”
Repetition and Consistency
To be clear, NESTRE is all-inclusive. The company serves everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors to highly competitive individuals looking to improve mental health and performance—those Shavers refers to as “everyday performers.”
“Elite athletes are a personal passion of ours, and we also think we’re uniquely suited to impact that demographic. But also, we look at changing the stigma around mental health and performance by bringing the two worlds together, by breaking the silos. And saying, ‘We want the everyday person to be able to train like the elite individuals train in the same capacity with the same technologies.’”
To circle back to the world of exercise and sports, the concept is similar to going to a gym and getting in your “reps” on the bench press or the squat machine. Repetition and consistency are key, as is establishing what works best for every individual.
“Strength training is neuroplasticity. And learning is neuroplasticity,” Shavers said. “When strength training was once introduced, they’d offer the same workout for everybody. Today, from a physical standpoint, you go in and they’re personalizing it to your makeup, to your strength level, to your goals. That’s the same way we look at it from a mental and cognitive perspective: Everyone’s mental makeup or framework is unique.
“So if we can begin to personalize and customize their training based off their mental makeup, which is what we’ve developed with our Mindset Profile, then we’re able to truly give someone a personalized strength training experience in both digital and live formats.”
Shavers and Thomas are teammates, but their sport is much more impactful than the score from any given Sunday. It’s a 24-7, year-round effort, driven by a goal to improve the body and mind for their circle of clients.
Sounds like a winning gameplan.
George Diaz is the former sports columnist at Orlando Sentinel and NASCAR writer for Tribune Co. He is a freelance journalist and ghost writer.