Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Because You Are Injured Doesn't Mean Your Season Is All Washed Up - Use Aquatic Therapy Correctly To Enhance Your Injury Recovery and Continue Toward A Maximal Performance

Each time I go to the local pool for a swim session, I see individuals in the deep water performing various activities to "get a workout while they are injured".  Many have taken to the water on the advice of a health care professional to participate in a subsititue activity to maintain conditioning while minimizing injury stress as they wait out the necessary healing process.  Unfortunately, in my conversations with some of these people, I learned that many leave the water with a healed injury only to find they have lost their previously hard-earned conditioning levels and regressed on their training plans due to a lack of understanding on how to take advantage of the water. 

Utilizing water for therapy has been described in literature for over 2,000 years.  Since Archimedes took his bath, medical professionals have progressed the understanding of how to effectively use water in injury management.  Many top athletic health care professionals have rediscovered the benefits of aquatic therapy in the past decade.  Medical journals have documented that training in an aquatic enviroment has beneficial effects for the injured athlete.  Aquatic therapy workouts provide an environment of reduced weight bearing, increased resistance to movement, circumferential progressive compression of submerged body parts, and the ability to exercise at levels to not only maintain, but improve cardiovascular conditioning.  The literature is scattered with case studies of athletes who have exercised in water during injury rehabilitation and have returned to land based activities with no drop in aerobic conditioning.  Why is it, then, that the average injured age-grouper athlete doesn't realize the same results with substitute water workouts as do elite level athletes?  The secret lies in a few of the particular physical properties of water and attention to specific execution of activities being performed to take advantage of those properties.  Armed with this information, the average injured age-grouper can utilize their local pool to get the same results as elite level athletes.

The rediscovery of the advantages of aquatic therapy has led many professional sports teams and universities to install specialized therapy pools with submerged treadmills, moving walls of water, and floors that change depth to take advantage of this great tool.   Athletic health care professionals are utilizing these pools for a variety of purposes:

(1) To reduce or eliminate the effects of gravity while performing an activity to mimic a land based activity (i.e. running).
(2) To perform activities at appropriate cardiovascular levels to achieve similar goals of  land based workouts.
(3) To utilize the pressure of water to reduce inflammation and edema in the lower extremities.
(4) To increase strength and mobility in specific areas and reduce the likelihood of reinjury once healed.

Fortunately, a specialized pool is not needed to perform an overwhelming majority of exercises used to achieve these goals.  The next few blogs will be dedicated to revealing secrets and introducing aquatic therapy activities and tips used by top athletic health care professionals to achieve optimal injury management and conditioning while injured.

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