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A real stretch: NIU alum Mark Sweeney’s patent for ‘Gumbee Cord’ pending in two countries

May 7, 2012
Mark and Cheryl Sweeney

Mark and Cheryl Sweeney

Having a patent pending in two countries is no small feat, and NIU alum Mark Sweeney is part of a venture that has accomplished just that with the Gumbee Cord.

Sweeney graduated in 2009 from the College of Education’s Athletic Training program offered in the department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

The Gumbee Cord is a tool that can be used by individuals to get a proper stretch. It is a 5-foot-long cord that does not stretch, has a custom adjustable cuff and can be anchored to a wall or door for portability.

Patents for the product are pending in the United States and Europe and is currently being used in colleges, professional baseball teams in Chicago, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, fitness gyms and various other locations.

Every good invention has to come from somewhere.

“It all started back when I was working with the Schaumburg Flyers. I was their athletic trainer,” Sweeney said.

“One of my pitchers, who is my business partner now, Brett Harker, was having some issues with his shoulder. To fix it we really had to stretch out his shoulder to make a gap. What I did was pull on his arm in a specific way to make a gap between where the shoulder socket is and the actual arm bone,” Sweeney added.

NIU alum Mark Sweeney’s Gumbee Cord attaches to a wall or door.

NIU alum Mark Sweeney’s Gumbee Cord attaches to a wall or door.

“One day he came up to me to do the stretch with him again, but I was the only athletic trainer for this whole team of 12 pitchers, nine position players and two designated hitters. Since it was one of Harker’s off days, I was working with all the other pitchers. He didn’t want to wait and wanted to do stretch on his own, but I told him he couldn’t. He said, ‘Well, you’re the professional; you figure out a way.’ ”

So he did.

“After about two hours of brainstorming, I came up with a real rough prototype, tested it out, and he ended up loving it. With just that prototype I went from stretching 12 pitchers a day to zero. Everybody told me that I really had to pursue this product,” he said.

“Over the winter and next summer, we had several prototypes made and started looking for a manufacturer for our product. Then we received feedback by testing it in many different areas, including college sports, NFL, MLB and MMA fighters, and that is how we came up with the final product that we have today.”

When talking about the product, Sweeney said he is “confident that the person who is using (the Gumbee Cord) is getting a safe and proper stretch that was once only available from a professional who was trained in stretching another body.”

Similar products exist in the market, but nothing exactly like the Gumbee Cord.

Logo of Gumbeecords.comThe difference between the Gumbee Cord and similar products is that the Gumbee Cord itself does not stretch; it stretches the user. Also, the cord is not round but cube-shaped. Lastly, the cord has a cuff that can attach to the wrist or ankle and a carbineer that can be hooked to wall mounts or the provided door strap.

Along with the Gumbee Cord, the company also produces posters that demonstrate how to do the stretches with the cord and wall anchors.

Amidst inventing a training tool, Sweeney has also been doing other work in the field.

Since graduation, he has worked as an athletic trainer for a high school, for the Flyers currently for the Wichita Thunder hockey team in Kansas. In the future, Sweeney is looking forward to working as the head athletic trainer for the Wichita Wingnuts, a baseball team also located in Kansas, where Sweeney and his wife, fellow NIU alum Cheryl, currently live.

by Sarah Fraser