I’d like to spend a few minutes to share my experience with Dr. Anthony Criscuolo and the Active Release Techniques® (ART®). First, I should explain both the type and amount of training that we do at Eastern Express Swimming.
We are a competitive swimming program and are a member club of United States Swimming. We develop swimmers from the age of six through college, and as our swimmers reach high school age, they train quite heavily. Our high school age swimmers spend between 14 and 22 hours per week in the pool (30 — 50 miles) and another 4 hours per week doing strength work out of the pool.
The majority of injuries that occur in our sport are stress related and this is due to the number of limb and/or joint repetitions that occur in a particular stroke movement — as many as 30,000 per week. Probably 80-90% of these injuries occurs in the shoulder and knee joints. Swim coaches worldwide have for decades searched for ways to avoid the common swimming injury known as “swimmers shoulder”. At Eastern Express, the number one priority of our strength program is injury prevention, but there is no possible way to prevent all of our injuries.
When I first heard of ART® two or three years ago, I was a bit skeptical. Based on the rehabilitation that we had previously followed through orthopedic type programs, I was accustomed to having our athletes spend weeks or months in rehab, and in some cases go to surgery. The idea that our injured athletes could be back at full training within days seemed too good to be true.
In May of 1994, I took part in the first U.S. Swimming national team coaches meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. One of the presentations on our agenda during the weekend dealt specifically with Active Release Techniques®. Dr. Mike Leahy, the creator of ART®, gave a presentation that was both excellent and easy to understand. Dr. Leahy also had the opportunity to demonstrate the technique for us. Dady Vincent, a member of the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team who was attending a training camp at the OTC, had not been able to train at full capacity for some time due to a nagging shoulder injury. After Dr. Leahy spent about five minutes treating Miss Vincent, we were all able to see an immediate strength gain and Dady felt an immediate reduction in pain as well as a significant increase in range of motion. I think it is worth noting that Dady went on to qualify for the US World Championships team three months later in August.
Upon my return from Colorado Springs I contacted Dr. Leahy to find out if there were any doctors in my area who are certified in ART®. Fortunately for me and my athletes, Dr. Anthony Criscuolo, one of only three of Dr. Leahy’s certified instructors, is only an hour’s drive away.
Dr. Criscuolo began working with about 10 of our athletes in late June. Their individual situations varied from range of motion limitations in specific joints to a 12 year old girl who had had surgery because her orthopedist had told her family that her joints were not made for swimming. We have seen terrific results.
The young girl who had the surgery is at this time swimming 60-70% of her workouts where prior to seeing Dr. Criscuolo, she had been limited to kicking for nearly a year. Andy, a high school senior and our most high profile swimmer, was one of our athletes who was facing periodic bouts of shoulder pain due to his high volume of training and a very old injury that had occurred years before. After Andy’s second treatment, his shoulder was pain free and he was able to train through the remainder of the summer season without limitation. Andy narrowly missed qualifying for the US Pan American Games team by one place, and I don’t believe he would have been that close without Tony’s help.
I want to thank Dr. Criscuolo for the help he has given Eastern Express athletes. He is very knowledgeable about how the stresses of our sport affect the body, and his mannerisms and professionalism make him very easy to work with. I look forward to a long and successful relationship between Eastern Express Swimming and Dr. Anthony Criscuolo.