4 Phases of Aquatic Rehabilitation for Return to Play

4 Phases of Aquatic Rehabilitation for Return to Play

With March Madness approaching and teams gearing up to fight till the end, keep your players healthy and fresh with aquatic therapy!

For sports, aquatic rehabilitation can be used in many different ways. At the University of Virginia, it is often used as a “transition phase” for their athletes.Basketball in the Pool

For the UVA women’s basketball team, Paul Murata, Assistant Athletic Trainer talks about how they typically get their athletes into their HydroWorx pool before they are ready to jump back on the court. He has them work on sport and basketball-specific movements to get them fully ready to return to play.

Typically Paul rehabs lower extremity injuries such as of strains, fractures and breaks. The HydroWorx pool is their first step to a quick recovery. By assessing the type of injury and knowing the athlete, Murata determines when the athlete will begin aquatic therapy. Even though they may not begin to use the treadmill, they will begin to do movements in the water using flotation devices.

Once the athlete is ready to begin using the underwater treadmill, Murata examines the athlete’s gait and biomechanics. When he feels that the athlete is performing the movements correctly, he will begin pushing her in the pool to perform movements she couldn’t on land.

Once the athletic training staff feels the athlete is ready to begin strength and conditioning training, they work with Ed Nordenschild who is the Director of Strength and Conditioning. Typically a workout consists of focusing on basketball related movements and protocol to get the athlete ready for the court.

“You can actually see the athlete going through the natural gait without injuring them. The HydroWorx pool allows us to watch the biomechanics and catch something that we may have not seen before”

-Paul Murata, Assistant Athletic Trainer at University of Virginia

The 4 Phases of Aquatic Rehabilitation used at the University of Virginia are:

Phase 1: Observing Gait and Biomechanics

This phase allows for the athletic training staff to examine the movements of the athlete and make sure all biomechanics are correct. This step prevents the athlete from developing bad habits throughout the rehab. They usually begin walking on the treadmill while slowly increasing the speed to a jogging pace.

Phase 2: Basketball-specific Protocols

During this phase the athlete focuses on basketball movements and jumps that would normally be used on land, such as side shuffling, pivots, and planting the foot while opening and driving the hips.  They also use the jets to perform resistive exercises like high knees to strengthen the athlete’s muscles.

Phase 3: Strength and Conditioning Intervals

The last phase of rehabilitation is making sure the athlete is able to perform to the best of their ability in the HydroWorx pool before they step on the court. The athlete performs sprints in the water by increasing  the resistance of the jets. By doing so, the athlete is able to work on speed, endurance and power, so the transition to land is as seamless as possible.

Phase 4: Post-Workout Deep Tissue Massage

To end a workout the athlete often does a few minutes of deep tissue massage to relax the muscles and break up any unnecessary tissue damage in the body.

The staff at the University of Virginia finds the use of the HydroWorx pool invaluable to their program. It allows them to safely focus on natural gait without risking injury.

Watch Murata and Nordenschild discuss their use of the pool and full rehabilitation protocols here:

Join us for a free webcast!

Tony Testa, Director of Sports Medicine at Seton Hall University, will be presenting on “Progression of Running Drills Using the Underwater Treadmill.” During this webcast participants will learn the varied drills and progressions used at Seton Hall University for training speed and agility while running underwater. The presentation will progress from a general warm up in the ThermalPlunge pool to acceleration and change of direction drills in the 500 series therapy pool and then finish with a post training cool down in the PolarPlunge pool. It will also review how to vary speed and endurance days and progression through the cycle.

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