Hydrotherapy Provides Benefits for Injured (and Uninjured) Players
Chuck Baughman, an athletic trainer at the Cubs minor leagues, works with major league players after surgery (or for longer trips to the disabled list) and with the minor league system players. For all, he recommends a variety of therapies executed in pools.“In water, we are able to displace a lot of body weight to protect injured areas. We’ve used hydrotherapy for ACL and ankle sprains, hamstring strains and upper extremity injuries where it may call for some rhythmic stabilization or endurance, specifically for pitching and catching,” he said.
Baughman begins recommending hydrotherapy as soon as incisions are healed. The value in being able to rehabilitate injuries using the buoyancy of water is important to reducing healing time after surgeries or even with less severe injuries.
A larger pool in the rehab area, built by SwimEx, uses multiple zones of different depths, a treadmill and an area with a water current that allows players to swim in a stationary position or walk with or against the current for gait reeducation. The currented area is ideal for treating injuries to work on knee flexion, hip extension, walking or proper gait pattern, range of motion and shoulder treatment. The current allows players to work on stabilization and use fins to create additional resistance as treatment progresses. As a warm-up, walking against the current is used before a player moves to the in-pool treadmill.
Baughman said that his formula is to use around 70 percent aquatic protocol and the remainder on land. Since hydrotherapy can be utilized at any point in recovery, it gives players the ability to do cardio workouts before they can run on land, keeping them conditioned while they recover.
Uninjured players use the pool for additional cardio, adding protocols for speed, endurance and core workouts. “The uninjured players will alternate between sprinting, treading water and doing various lower body exercises in addition to their dry-land workouts. Players also utilize the pool the day after a game to alleviate body soreness,” Baughman said.
The team uses the plunge pools, for recovery modalities. Players use the temperature contrast between the hot and cold plunges to alleviate lactic acid build-up and to replace icing. Stretching is easier in the hot plunge as muscles are elongated in warm water more than on land. This also helps reduce soreness.
Aquatherapy protocols allow gait reeducation to begin as soon as the day after an ankle sprain and overall reduce recovery time. Proprioception comes back faster. “There is less chance of recurrence because of buoyancy in water, which takes pressure off joints. The quicker you can do it under water, the less time you deal with it on the back end,” Baughman said.
Baughman said the organization installed SwimEx therapy pools in 2013. As a result, they no longer need to outsource aquatic physical therapy. The larger pool the organization had installed has had major accessibility benefits in addition to allowing more players to utilize the pool simultaneously for therapy. “When we can get a multimillion dollar athlete in the pool right away and back in action ASAP, it is worth the investment,” Baughman said.
SwimEx released a new therapy pool model in Spring of 2018. The 1500 T is the largest body of water (10’ x 16’) in the SwimEx line of professional pools yet extensions can be added, creating an even larger pool (10’ x 22’). A 5’ x 5’ zero-entry platform, a new feature, allows for easy pool access; it lowers and raises to deck level and allows for therapy treatments at any water depth.
Suzanne Vaughan, president of SwimEx, said: “The new model allows a great deal of flexibility during treatment sessions. People can work simultaneously in the new zeroentry lift, as well as in the 4-, 5- or 6-foot depth areas.” The pool is fully customizable with regards to interior water depths, so more shallow pools are possible if needed.
To learn more, visit www.swimex.com.
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