Our front desk hears this story much too often Monday mornings in mid-July: “I hadn’t been water skiiing in years and it was the perfect day, I had to give it a try. The popping sound was incredible and so was the pain, now may leg is all black and blue.”
I’ll put my money on the following M.O.: A 40+ year old male, sedentary work environment, minimal time spent stretching and strengthening the lower extremities in the past years, failed to warm up prior to water skiing, and rejected the offering to use two skis.
And the Prognosis:
- permanent functional mobility loss through the leg
- recurring hamstring issues with any attempt to quickly accelerate or attempting to disperse a heavy load taken on by the legs or pelvis
- focal pain sitting on hard chairs
- sensory nerve pain in the lower leg/foot
- sitting on the dock the next summer watching your friends water ski while rationalizing the matter away via self-deprecating humor including: “Hey, I’m getting old!”
Or…start now with the following exercise to help ensure that this summer is injury free on the water, the day culminating with a toast to a successful return to a sport you love.
Exercise needs to be sport specific, particularly as the years go by, with the ability to break down an activity into component parts to allow for safe exercise progression without injury. With the appreciation of limited time for most to exercise, this one cuts right to the chase. As able, the addition of calf and hamstring stretches, squats, lunges, isolated quad strengthening, will add a layer of insurance.
Using resistance sport cord or a cable row with a small straight bar to hold onto, place body weight through the heel and lateral foot, knee cap directly above the second toe. Start with a weight that can be perfectly controlled (no swaying of the arms or body side to side) through the motion as you balance on your dominant leg moving back and forth from the two extremes of what could occur while water skiing:
- Standing erect on the dominant leg, knee slightly bent with hands close to the stomach
- Forward bent through the torso, knee and elbow straight, arms parallel to the ground
Start with two sets of 12-15 reps using the dominant leg as well as 1 set on the non-dominant leg initially to improve upon balance and muscular coordination as well as making early mobility gains for the hamstring and calf musculature. There should be no back or hamstring pain. If so, you have exercised outside of your safe realm. Reduce the weight and decrease distance moved. As you become more stable/stronger with the process, allow the weight to further take you into the forward bent position (this is the position where the hamstring tears or the back is injured). If there is lower back pain during exercise, bend at the knee and slowly return the weight to the rest of the stack. STOP and consult with your PT.
In 2-4 weeks, start to increase upon the resistive load such that 6-10 reps can be accomplished. Functional power such as this is required at the “start” as your body is being pulled out of the water. The addition of lunge exercises (try adding some dumbbells in your hands) or squats on a BOSU (ask your health club staff, again with hand weights) will help to improve upon your endurance, allowing for the extra lap around the bay; your kids will have a new appreciation for the “old man”. Work on this a couple of times per week and remember to spend a few minutes stretching the hamstrings and calf muscles on the day when you can finally “walk the talk”.
As always: If there is any odd pain or discomfort beyond that of normal exercise, STOP and consult with your PT.