February 7, 1994


With the opening ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games just around the comer, world famous figure skater Nancy Kerrigan has a lot of work to do to get ready. As if regular Olympic preparation weren’t enough. Kerrigan is also battling the knee injury she sustained during an attack on her at last month’s United States Figure Skating Championships in Detroit.

A few years ago, returning to competition so quickly was simply unheard of for elite athletes. The rehabilitation of such serious injuries used to take several months at the least. But now, thanks to advancement in water therapy and rehabilitation, athletes like Kerrigan can rehabilitate their injured limbs using no-impact water exercises. Working out in the water not only allows Kerrigan to strengthen her knee, but also to maint the conditioning level of the rest of her body so she is still in excellent shape when she returns to competition.

Water therapy worked for Bo Jackson. He trained in the water after undergoing hip replacement surge two years ago and was able to return to the playing field with the Chicago White Sox last summer. Water therapy has also worked for gold medal Olympic athletes like marathon Joan Benoit Samuelson, hurdler Roge: Kingdom, and miler Steve Scott.

Since her accident, Kerrigan has been training in Boston pools using a floatation device called a WET VEST. The vest holds her upright in deep water and allows her to work out without touching the bottom oft pool. This “no-impact” aspect of deep water exercising is what makes it so successful for rehabilitation and training.

According to Dr. Igor Burdenko of the Water & Sports Therapy Institute in Wayland, MA, water is the only place an athlete can go to get no-impact, gravity tree exercise. At his facility, he treats all types of sports injuries with his revolutionary new therapy. Burdenko says that deep water therapy is highly effective for man: reasons.

First of all, water exercise creates absolutely no impact on the body. If a body is suspended in deep water using some type of floatation device, the support decreases gravitational pull and reduces stress on the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Since the feet do not touch the bottom, neuromuscular trauma is virtually eliminated. This allows a person to simulate any movements in water that he or she would so on dry land without the disadvantages of bone-jarring impact. Therefore, a runner who jog five miles a day around a track can do the same in the pool and eliminate the risk of impact-related injury. Secondly, the unique resistance that water offers allows an athlete to more effectively work an injured body pan. Water resistance is on average between 12 and 14 times greater than resistance encountered on dry land. This means an increased workload on the muscles being worked, without an increased workload on the cardiovascular system and the joints. Injuries heal more quickly using this enhanced workout so athletes such 8 Kerrigan are able to return to competition faster than ever before. Thirdly, and very important for rehabilitation, working out in the water allows an athlete to use a full range of motion for all muscles because there is no gravitational pull on the body. During water therapy, the muscles are subjected to isokinectic contractions, which means that an even amount of tension is placed on the muscle throughout a full range of motion. This is much more effective for rehabilitating injured muscles than weight-lifting, which employs isometric or eccentric contractions, and does not work the muscles evenly. This full range of motion even helps improve flexibility so many times athletes feel better than ever after a week or two of water therapy. Keep your eyes on Lillehammer this month to see Nancy Kerrigan’s name added to the list of famous athletes using water rehabilitation and therapy!

For more information: Dr. Igor Burdenko, Water & Sports Therapy Institute, 508-650-3666.