St. Louis University (SLU), home of the Billikens, has a brand-new, 10,600-seat Chaifetz Arena with a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility and a brand new SwimEx. The arena is also home to a three-story office and support building for the athletic department, new locker rooms and new strength and conditioning area.
All 16 of their sports teams use the SwimEx for either rehabilitation, reconditioning or cardiovascular training, and the University uses it for educating Athletic Training Students as well.
“As Education Director, I liked the SwimEx because it gives our students the opportunity to be exposed to cutting edge technology. Once they are ready to go out into the work world, they’ll have valuable experience behind them,” says Dr. Tony Breitbach, Director of the Athletic Training Education Program.
Breitbach was integral to choosing the SwimEx for SLU. “I talked with a lot of others who had them, and the biggest thing is the laminar flow. I also like their commitment to customer service and lower maintenance costs. In my research, I kept hearing the standard joke–‘what’s the difference between SwimEx and others? Your SwimEx is running and the others aren’t.’ And, it fit with our limited footprint.“
Breitbach was also impressed with SwimEx’s in-service training. “After we purchased it, they sent experts out to train us how to use it and made technology real to us as far as possibilities with rehab and physical conditioning. They gave us a bunch of ideas we hadn’t thought of before.”
The key to the SwimEx’s popularity among athletic trainers is the paddlewheel’s smooth laminar flow, which both Breitbach and Jonathan Burch, Assistant Athletic Director-Sports Medicine, both feel helps deliver better therapy, and prevents deconditioning due to non-activity while not irritating an injury.
“The water moves more uniformly than jets do, which allows us to do different things treatment-wise. It’s more predictable, which I think leads to better outcomes. A jet has only one focal point with uneven flow, so you have one spot with strong flow and another with very little resistance. With SwimEx’s steady stream, you can control the current anywhere in the pool and use it to your advantage,” says Breitbach.
“And with jets, you have to position the body just so,” adds Burch. “With SwimEx you can be anywhere in the pool and still take advantage of the current. You can also do active conditioning in one direction, and passive in the other, just letting the current move the arm or leg you’re conditioning.”
SLU’s 900T is one of SwimEx’s newest and most versatile pools, with an extra-deep water well to accommodate seven-foot basketball players. They also chose the integrated treadmill option. With more than 16 team sports – from basketball to baseball, swimming to tennis - and 300 athletes, Burch appreciates the SwimEx’s versatility.
“Its use is limited only by our imagination,” he says. “The color coded stations make it easy for my men’s soccer players with hip injuries to do plyometrics and for others to do explosive drill movements from different height platforms. Right now I’m using it to treat a basketball player with a herniated disk in a treatment I made up that I call ‘traction.’ I hook his feet under the hand rails and turn the current on, which pushes him away from the wall into a weightless stretch, supported by the water and a pair of water wings. So there’s no pressure on the disc and we can get some separation. I can’t do that on the table.”
Burch uses all the features possible: the changeable current capacity, the deep water, the buoyancy and the resistance. At the moment, Burch is also using SwimEx to treat women’s soccer players with ACL injuries, and deep water running for a field hockey player with overuse injuries.
“We’re pretty booked up,” he says, explaining that summertime is rehab season and 80% of the pool’s use is for injuries. During the sports season SLU uses the SwimEx more evenly, 50% for conditioning and 50% for injuries. And with 10 national soccer championships behind them, perhaps SwimEx will be integral in achieving the eleventh. Go Billikens!