Pool Therapy Keeps 'Black Jack' Soldiers in the Fight
August 14, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 14, 2007) - With the opening of Montpetit Pool here last month, Soldiers from the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have had a daily escape from the summer heat.
While most Soldiers are making use of the cool water for leisure, another group of Soldiers meet at the pool every Saturday to work through injuries sustained during their current deployment.
"Normally, in the states, where you have the gym with the pool, you always incorporate pool therapy," said Sgt. John Hart, a physical therapist with Company C, 15th Brigade Support Battalion.
"It allows you to become more functional, faster without compromising the rehab for certain injuries. If you're doing weights or standard exercises in the gym, there's always that fine line where you can be doing the exercises and the next thing you know, the patient has a setback because maybe the resistance is too much," he said.
The pool gives Soldiers both a strengthening and an aerobic workout, according to Capt. Matthew Larson, physical therapist, Co. C, 15th Bde. Spt. Bn. "The water provides good resistance for limb movement and it's a good lower impact, but still vigorous, workout for people with certain injuries."
Patients also meet twice a week at the FOB's gym and three times a week at the troop medical clinic, but Sgt. Hart said the pool sessions are patients' favorite part of therapy.
According to Spc. Tyler Burdette, Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, who is currently undergoing physical therapy after tearing a ligament in his knee, pool therapy is his most demanding workout.
"It's the hardest, most strenuous thing we do," he said. "But it helps because a lot of times, with injuries, you can't support your own body weight, and that's the hardest part about working out."
Like Spc. Burdette, most Soldiers undergoing pool therapy have lower-body injuries, and most of the exercises are designed to work patients' ankles and knees.
"It's mainly a lower extremity workout, so we start with just some basic leg stretches and then some non-impact exercises like flutter kicks," said Capt. Larson. "If you have a knee injury or an ankle injury, you can get a good workout because you're still moving everything, but you're not impacting that injury as hard as you would by running in formation."
Individual, upper body exercises are integrated into the program for Soldiers like Sgt. Amanda Sweesy, who has been undergoing physical therapy for her rotator cuff since March.
"It doesn't cause me as much pain as the gym, so I don't mind it at all," said Sgt. Sweesy, Co. B, 15th BSB.
Even uninjured Soldiers can benefit from pool therapy, said Sgt. Hart.
"You can do it for preventive stuff," he said. "I have a lot of people who have found out about the pool therapy and they ask me, 'Is there any exercise I can do in the pool for my PT''"
The Army has only recently started assigning physical therapists to brigade combat teams. According to Sgt. Hart, it minimizes the time Soldiers may have to spend recovering away from the unit at combat support hospitals.
"It was really demanding on the units because they need the manpower to continue on and do the mission," he said. Physical therapy this far forward is a really good idea. I think it's helping the brigade combat teams stay in the fight better."
(Sgt. Robert Yde writes for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Public Affairs.)