By Lori Thein Brody and Paula Richley Geigle
Some form of rest is often the treatment recommendation for an injured athlete. The rest may be relative rest, in which the athlete reduces the intensity of training or activity, or it may be absolute rest, during which the athlete performs no activity. In either case, rest for an athlete can be problematic. The research of Coyle et al. (1986 and 1984) showed that a significant decline in cardiovascular fitness can result from as little as 3 wk of inactivity. A 14 to 16% decline in maximal oxygen consumption has been documented after 6 wk of rest (Coyle et al., 1986 and 1984). Given that 3 to 6 wk is not an inordinately long period and certainly within the realm of the time needed for recovery from a musculoskeletal injury, the loss of cardiovascular fitness needs to be considered. An athlete may rehabilitate an acute injury only to find that he or she returns to the sport with a significant loss of conditioning. Fortunately, the aquatic environment can help to mitigate some, if not all, of the potential fitness loss.