Hydrotherapy is an excellent rehabilitation tool for athletic trainers. It allows for earlier range of motion, weight bearing status and return to certain activities during a rehabilitation protocol. By submerging an athlete in water, gravity is essentially removed and the athlete is able to perform in ways they would not have otherwise been able. This allows for earlier walking, running, cutting and jumping; all done submerged in water.
Hydro therapy is not limited to lower extremity injuries. Iowa State has a plethora of aquatic therapy tools that work with both upper and lower extremities to initiate the rehabilitation process. Many of these tools provide extra resistance for strength workouts as well as building muscle endurance and regaining the body’s normal proprioceptive qualities. Both of our hydrotherapy systems have a flow of water that can be precisely controlled and implemented into rehab protocols. By using the water current in various ways, athletic trainers can rehab the lower extremity, upper extremity, core and cardiovascular systems.
So what’s the difference between SwimEx and HydroWorx?
The SwimEx and HydroWorx hydrotherapy systems are utilized in different ways based on their design. The HydroWorx features a built-in treadmill, focused water jet currents and adjustable water depth, by raising or lowering the floor, that can be used for cardiovascular and gait training. The SwimEx features a paddlewheel generated “Wall of Water” current, built-in platforms of varying heights and angles and adjustable water depth, via removable floor panels, used in rehabs with a focus of strength and functional exercise.
The SwimEx has a series of molded ledges built into the side of the pool that allow for various strength training exercises such as step ups, jumping and lateral bounding. The paddlewheel pulls the water and then recycles the water to form a “Wall of Water” current that spans the width of the pools adding extra resistance to all activity in the pool. The current is strong enough to allow stationary swimming, resisted sprint workouts, and proprioceptive training by acting as a perturbation. The SwimEx also has a drop in treadmill that is powered by the athlete as they go through a running motion. The SwimEx also has a three tier removable floor system that allows the water depth to adjust to a range from four to almost seven feet deep.
Conversely, the HydroWorx is designed as a solid well with flat walls and an adjustable height floor. This floor also serves as the moving belt of the underwater treadmill feature of this pool. The HydroWorx built-in treadmill can be controlled to speeds up to 8.5 MPH and when the floor height is adjusted; the athlete can encounter therapeutically useful changes in their weight bearing status. With a shallow water depth (waist high), the intensity of a workout is increased and the athlete can get a solid lower extremity strength workout and an intense cardiovascular workout. At increasing water depths the athlete will experience less weight bearing, which is useful for gait training and exercise immediately post-injury. Strength and functional training can be achieved with added devices such as hydrotone boots, dumbbells and other devices to increase drag and resistance. The HydroWorx also features multiple therapy jets that can add resistance to the workout and use the handheld massage hose for soft tissue therapy.
Iowa State athletic training and sports medicine is extremely fortunate to have SwimEx and HydroWorx pools at our disposal for daily use in the rehabilitation of our athletes. Even though the main properties of aquatic therapy remain the same; each pool offers differences in design that give them strengths and weaknesses that can be used to our athletes' advantage. With a little creativity and a few tools, Iowa State athletic trainers utilize both hydrotherapy pool systems to maximize the rehabilitation sessions of our student-athletes.