Take it LauraWarning to all coaches and swimmers,
Bodies break down. It may take only a few years, but when the former swimming athlete is progressing into middle age his/her body will scream out for pain relief. When doctors tell you, “swim, itʼs a non impact, great exercise" or "It's good for you”, watch out.
Some of you know know that swimming is probably the last thing you should do, as the mere thought sends pain throughout the body. If you feel as though a nice easy thousand yards would be the right ticket for your swirling mind, then you realize the agony of pushing off of the walls and twisting your neck turns you into a blithering pain ridden fool and stops you.
Hear me out.
This is my story of the body versus mind and whatʼs become of a relatively honed body.
I was never a top ranked swimmer. I was among the thousands of girls who had very few athletic opportunities in the 1950ʼs-60ʼs. My father, who ran swimming pools throughout New Jersey, private country clubs, public pools and taught swimming at Seton Hall University introduced me to swimming at birth. He taught me and many others, and he introduced the “swimming meet” to the clubs. One day after I suffered a bad asthma attack my doctor told said. “Get her on a swim team. The humid water and breathing rhythm will help with the asthma. And it did. I remember the first day, at age 7, like it was yesterday [there is some conflicting research on asthma and swimming, despite the common physician recommendation].
Boylan Street Pool in Newark, 50 meters x 25 ydʼs. It was BIG! Lots of girls swam up and down the pool. The coach, “K”, greeted me and said, “You stay in the outside lane, and if you need to hold on there is the wall”....
“Are you kidding me!”
Thus began the years of up and back....
In those days, we didnʼt have weight training per say. We had K. Under Kʼs leadership we did pull ups from the pool to the deck. She filled buckets with cement and attached them to a rope and spindle, which we curled up and slowly let down, and we dragged each other on our pulling lengths. She used cut off broom handles for sticks to keep our hands out in front swimming freestyle. She had us meet at a local university in the “off” season to run the track, throw discuses and shot puts, and hop over hurdles. K was an Olympian runner! She yelled, she screamed and we did lots and lots of miles. K taught form in stokes. We did starts and turns for what seemed forever. We never thought we were wearing out our joints. No one did. Until...
Now, I have participated in many sports since then. I played basketball for the CYO, tennis when allowed at the clubs, and many pick up games of whatever was playing in the streets and parks of Maplewood, so my cross training was all on my own. I have sprained my ankles many times, broke a nose from an angry bat wielding brother, and flown off many a bike. But when, in the midst of a awesome beach volleyball game, I swung my arm to spike a shot, it stuck there....
I tried to just go with it for months, I finally saw a doctor, who is a well known specialist in Boston who says, “Where you a swimmer?” [personally, this is a bold prediction by any physician, but whether it is from swimming or another overhead sport, there is a common shoulder presentation.]
Hmmm swimmersʼ shoulder, he diagnosed! He knew from the tests that I had over used my shoulders from swimming, not from all the other sports. We scheduled the operation to clean out the shoulder of calcium deposits, bone chips and shave down the acomion to give rotation some room. He removed the bursa sack sewed me up I was good to go, until the next shoulder gave out.
He did the other side. Same procedure. The explanation for all this was “When you were swimming, those years, you didnʼt do the correct exercises to pull your shoulders back. You needed to do back strengthening exercises. Overall, youʼll be fine. You can swim, but use fins to eliminate the pressure on your shoulders while swimming laps." He then asked, "How are your knees?” Really! “Pretty good”.
Perhaps I spoke too soon, ten years later I had my left knee meniscus trimmed. This was the second time a doctor said to me, “Were you a swimmer?”
“Bet it was breast stroke.”
He then told me I could swim if I didnʼt push hard off the walls [as a Physical Therapist, I'd be more worries about twisting the knee or large knee flexion].
All was going well until I turned sixty, and all hell broke loose in my body. I donʼt know if hormones are to blame, but doing workouts to stay in some kind of shape to avoid the dreaded weight gain, caused injuries that I couldnʼt shake. First a torn hamstring, then a strained Achilles tendon, and now a massive amount of arthritis in my right knee [all uncommon injuries in swimming. When asked Laura reports golfing, weight lifting, and officiating during this time period.]. Now the right knee!
So I see my knee guy and he sends me to his top surgeon and he says to me, “you were a swimmer right, bet a breaststroker!”
Ahh come on guys.
So, they canʼt give me anymore shots into it, cortisone or synvisc, or use any other delay tactic. Walking is wicked painful bone on bone and the wonder how I even can walk and when I'll soon need a total knee replacement.
I am throwing this out there because we need research to pass on to the new generations of swimmers. We need data from all us olʼ folks who swam and swam for preventing short and long term effects of swimming. I am a big believer in doing multiple sports. Overuse is hurting out bodies. Some of the techniques and equipment being used by coaches with their swimmers is hurting them. I officiate meets and watch young children walking around with ice packs wrapped on their bodies.
This is not good.
Knowledge and science is available. We need to pass it on. Parents and coaches need to develop their athletes without causing injuries.
Written by Laura Menza Wanco. Born and raised in New Jersey. She swam with the Watchung Lake
She started the Women's Basketball Team at Seton Hall University in 1971, from the Intramural teams. Coached Tennis at Summit High School, Mens and Women. Coached High School Swimming Team at Columbia High School.
She moved to Cape Cod, MA. where she started a team in the local health club and became an official. She has officiated local, sectional, and state tournaments, swimming and diving and officiated at the NCAA Womens D1 championships.