Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Role of Hamstring Strength for the Aquatic Athlete.

Every swimmer understands the necessity for perfection in the water. The endless chase for the perfect race, where everything falls in place. This is something in the back of your head every time you step up on the block and wait for the horn. But perfection not only comes from what you do in the water, but also what you do when you are on “land”.

Strong entry and flip turns are a crucial part of success in the water. The start of every race begins with your entry off the blocks; and a key muscle necessary for a strong entry are the hamstring muscles (the muscles in the back of you legs). Unfortunately, this muscle is commonly incorrectly strengthened, stretched and utilized by athletes and coaches.

Each year we see countless athletes sidelined due to hamstring strains or “pulls.” These injuries occur when there is a large force placed on the hamstring muscle. It is commonly injured with attempting to stop quickly or applying a quick forceful contraction through your leg muscles. This can be compared to a force the hamstring endures during a block start. Learning to strengthen your legs muscles most effectively can help prevent potential injury and improve performance in the aquatic athlete.

Anatomical Synopsis:

 The hamstring group is comprised of three muscles. This muscle group connects with two joints, the hip and the knee. The most widely known action is knee bending. The other is the hip moving backward. These actions are essential for sport motions such as running, jumping and for this specific instance, flip kicks and block starts.

Anatomy Applied:

 At the start of a swimmers race, the athlete is bent at the hip and the knees. At this position the thighs and legs are fixed, allowing for the hamstring to assist in push off. When the horn is heard the swimmer will quickly bend the knees and forcefully push off the block. When this occurs the hamstring quickly goes from a slight static stretch to a forceful contraction. A similar movement is performed during a flip turn.

Commonly, the hamstring is more widely understood as a muscle that bends the knee, rather than moving the hip backward. Many coaches and athletes strengthen and stretch this muscle for knee bending. A popular stretch used prior to a completion or practice is sitting poolside, bending at the hip with knees straight and grabbing the toes. Similarly, strengthening is performed in a seated position kicking backward at the knees. Yes, these two positions are one way to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings, however both of these exercises are focused primarily at the wrong location, the knees.

The role and position of the hamstrings off the block and during a flip turn is for the hips. Strengthening and stretching the muscle group in a more sport specific motion would (in my opinion) be a more effective approach to improve sport performance and prevent muscle injury.

Sport Specific Strengthening and Stretching:

 When strengthening the hamstring for a swimmer it is important to mimic the point at which the muscle will be recruited. In this scenario, the hamstring will be recruited for max push off on the block. Therefore, strengthening the hamstrings into a backward motion is critical for carryover to the pool. Below are some strengthening and stretching exercises specific to the aquatic athlete.

Single Leg Romanian dead lift

Kneeling hamstring curl

Supine ecc hamsting

Active SLR stretch

Cable hamsting stretch.

These can be found using a simple Google search. Take a look and get back to the pool stronger and faster!


Cardiovascular Deficits After a Concussion and What That Means for Return to Play


If you ask someone what the signs and symptoms of a concussion are they may say they have complaints of a headache, nausea, dizziness, blurry vision, balance difficulties or short term memory issues. Did you know, it is common for someone with post-concussion syndrome to have deficits with their cardiovascular system, which causes poor activity tolerance? Some of these deficits include altered CO2 sensitivity, low heart rate variability, and altered blood flow to the brain. When they try to participate in physical activity that increases their heart rate it may lead to increased reports of headache, difficulty concentrating, fogginess, and nausea. Someone with poor activity tolerance has an increase in symptoms due to their altered cardiovascular system.

A physical therapist is someone who can diagnose and treat a concussed athlete with poor activity tolerance from these cardiovascular deficits. By using the Balke Treadmill test and tracking symptoms and vital signs, a physical therapist is able to appropriately prescribe an aerobic conditioning program to help get an athlete back to the field quicker.

Make sure after a concussion a physical therapist is ensuring the cardiovascular system is ready for return to play. We are the movement specialists!

5 Ways To Change The Way You Move (& to make you a better athlete)

If you’ve ever watched a child learn to crawl,  walk or develop a new skill, it’s amazing how persistent they are until they have achieved their goal.  It’s even more incredible how quickly they can master these skills and how smoothly they move in the process. As athletes, our rapid growth interferes with this innate ability to move.  Here are some suggestions on skills to practice to regain  what we lost in adolescence or to maintain it while we still have it.

1. Deep squat every day.  If you’ve ever watched a child play, they are able to hold a deep squat for ten minutes at a time.  We quickly lose this as we grow due to tight calf muscles, stiff ankles and hips,and decreased body awareness.  Start by holding onto something such as a couch or Hold deep squatchair if needed.  Gradually increase your hold time until you’re able to text, scroll through your social media feed, do homework, or make it through a whole commercial break in this position.
2. Get outside and “play”.  Kids love to be outside and practice free play.  Too often this is the part that we cut out of our lives when it gets hectic. Free play allows for improved creativity and mental/physical growth.  Every day, no matter the weather, get outside.  Take a walk as a family, swing on the monkey bars, sit and read a good book, or just enjoy mother nature’s beauty.  This helps us to reset our internal clocks and our minds as well as to help develop stability on uneven surfaces.
3.  Get enough sleep.  Children usually get 12-16 hours of sleep per day to fuel their rapid growth and development.  Obviously athletes can’t expect to get that much sleep, however 8-10 hours is recommended for adequate recovery between workouts and especially when injured. If our body and mind works hard during the day, there may not be enough blood flow to the body parts that need it for recovery.  Easier said than done? Try to avoid procrastination for a week and I bet you’ll be able to get to sleep earlier than usual.  Even 30 minutes extra per night can be helpful.
4. Spend some time barefoot.  Help to develop arch control and strength in your foot.  Shoving your foot in shoes, especially non-supportive shoes helps to undo the practice we got as kids.  Being barefoot also helps to develop the body’s natural ability to balance.
 Deep squat
5. Practice mindfulness. Kids have naps to rejuvenate  but you might not have that luxury.  Find at least 10 minutes a day to practice meditation, mental imagery, or to just let your mind wander. If you need help, search for apps that help guide this such as Headspace.
If you start to forget these things, just spend some time watching a small child.  You’ll quickly realize how fast we lose those little things which make us strong yet mobile and stable.  This is often part of what leads us down the path of injury and pain.
**Deep squat picture compliments of**

Are You Wearing the Right Sneakers?

Proper-fitting sports shoes can enhance performance and prevent injuries. Many problems in the feet can respond to stretching and conditioning, choosing a different shoe, and simple over-the-counter shoe modifications. Right off the bat let me say that Nike does not make the best shoe on the market. Nike has the best marketing team in the business, no one can argue that. If you want to know how to brand and market a business, look at Nike. But please don’t look at them for footwear. Now some people swear that Nike makes the best shoes and I am not going to argue with them. If you run in them and you have no pain and they feel comfortable, then by all means continue. However, bio-mechanically they are generally not the best for your feet. Your feet are essentially designed to do 2 things: absorb shock and act as a lift so they can push your body off the ground. In a nutshell, this is what sneakers are designed to do too.

In the beginning I stated that Nike’s were generally bad, only in the fact that most of their shoes were designed to look good and they all act as shock absorbers so when you put them on for the 2 minutes in the store they feel great. Unfortunately they just don’t feel so great after an intense workout. If you can twist or fold your shoes in half, your foot is not getting proper support and may lead to foot problems down the road. Some of the best shoes are Brooks, New Balance, Saucony and Asics. All of these brands have very good shock absorbing and stability shoes.


How can you tell what shoe is right for you? The 3 F’s of shoe selection can help you.

  • Function
  • Shoes should bend near the ball of the foot and not near the center. Also, a good shoe will not twist excessively in the center of the shoe.
  • Fit
  • Proper lacing should allow the upper to fit snuggly around foot to platform.
  • Feel
  • Shoes should be comfortable, stable, and supportive while walking and running.


***Check out the American College of Sports Medicine website for more information on finding the right athletic shoe for you!


Concussion Signs and Symptoms

As we discussed in a previous post, the mechanism of a concussion is not always immediately observable by a coach, parent, or athletic trainer.  Often the only way to diagnose a concussion on the field is from an athlete self-reporting his or her symptoms.  To ensure that an athlete is reporting a possible concussion he or she must have a full understanding of how those symptoms may present.


So what should the athlete report?

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Balance Issues
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling foggy
  • Confusion or memory issues
  • Not feeling “right”


What should parents and coaches be looking for?

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment, position
  • Forgets plays/responsibilities
  • Is unsure of the score or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Cannot recall events prior to the hit or fall
  • Cannot recall events after the hit or fall


It is very important that the athlete, parent, and coach recognize the above signs and symptoms of concussion and immediately seek medical attention by a medical provider who specializes in the management of sport-related concussion.  If an athlete is returned to play with concussion-like symptoms he or she is at risk of suffering a second trauma that could complicate the recovery process.  Parents and coaches need be playing an active role in keeping athletes safe, and knowing what to look for after a suspected head injury is a step in the right direction.