Dec 11, 2019
How the University of Montana uses aquatic therapy to treat and prevent injuries (sponsored)
By McKenzie Lanier

As an athletic trainer, I work to provide the best care possible for my athletes. At the University of Montana, the Rhinehart Athletic Training Center underwent renovation this past summer. Included with a variety of new equipment was an AquaFit system. The AquaFit has expanded our ability to treat and prevent athletic injuries as athletic trainers. With a speed range of 0.3 mph to 7.5 mph, exercise area of 22-by-64 inches, and the ability to submerge the patient up to 48 inches in water, the AquaFit creates a perfect environment to progress a patient through a rehabilitation program.

hudson aquatic systems aquafitAquatic therapy uses the natural properties of water to achieve therapeutic benefits in a safe and controlled environment. Using the principles of relative density, buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, and resistance, exercising in water reduces fatigue/pressure on joints, soothes aches, and helps with balance. Aquatic therapy diminishes muscle-guarding allowing muscles to relax and improve joint mobility and movement patterns. This, in turn, optimizes strength, power, and muscular endurance allowing patients to recover from surgery or an injury quicker, and have a little fun while doing so.

The buoyancy and pressure of the water creates assistive, supportive, and resistive environments for the patient during workouts. Conducting therapy in an aquatic environment, such as the AquaFit, actively engages the patient in a safe environment making significant strength and mobility gains. As patients progress through injury prevention and rehabilitation programs, the AquaFit design and settings accommodate and adapt to meet therapeutic goals.

As an athletic trainer at the University of Montana, I use the AquaFit with a variety of athletes and injuries. Currently, I’m working with a soccer athlete who is recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery; we use the AquaFit once a week focusing on fluid walking mechanics and cardiovascular fitness. This athlete is currently 10 weeks out from surgery, and a typical workout now starts with the water level at 35 (hip level) with 10 minutes of normal walking, treadmill speed of 4 mph. We progress into resisted walking with the jets on high for five minutes at 3.5 mph. Next, the jets are turned off and we move to side stepping in a quarter squat stance for three minutes on each side at 2.5 mph. For the next four minutes the athlete walks backwards to focus on extension at 3 mph. The treadmill speed is slowed down to 2.5 mph for marching for two minutes. We finish the session by using the seat to do regular sit to stands as well as single leg sit to stands, three sets of 10 repetitions each.

Throughout the workout, I use all three windows to check the athlete’s form, make corrections as necessary, and utilize video feedback. As she progresses through her rehab, we will continue to use the AquaFit to progress to running and return to play.

I have also used the AquaFit for other purposes, including cross training for patients who have joint pain or history of meniscectomy. This allows emphasis on cardiorespiratory fitness without the impact of training on a hard surface. Not only does this minimize discomfort and pain, but also facilitates joint preservation for long term joint health. One of the key benefits of using the AquaFit is simply the fun of being in water and the endless amount of exercises that can be performed. The versatility of the AquaFit facilitates a challenging, yet enjoyable therapeutic workout for the patient.

McKenzie Lanier LAT, ATC, is a graduate assistant athletic trainer at the University of Montana.

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