I keep hearing scar tissue, knots, more scar tissue and knots…. this is good news! These are fixable! What’s frustrating is to hear that most of these ailments are not from my original injury; they have developed from many years in the sport of swimming.
Teri McKeever and Milt Nelms believe that this long-term accumulated damage comes from the un-natural movements in the strokes that are taught in swimming.
The way Kipp Dye, MSPT describes it, we swimmers slowly lay down layers and layers of scar tissue from the effects of these repeated un-natural movements. The human body reaches a breaking point.
It might not be when we are 13 or 16 or 19 years old, but the longer we continue to lay these layers of scar tissue, the more certain a serious injury becomes. It becomes a question of not whether the injury will occur, but when the injury will occur.
I had the advantage of training in possibly the most health-conscious high performance program in swimming, but I got to the point in my career where the accumulation of injuries and physical breakdown was making swimming a high-risk activity. I was starting to feel like a broken-down NFL veteran, not an athlete from a sport that should, logically, be one of the safest and healthiest on the planet.
It was not just the pattern of injury after injury that became my concern, it was also the bizarre unpredictability of when these injuries would occur. The last thing I wanted was to invest my own time, and the time of my family, coaches, and advisors, to suddenly have an injury prevent me from being able to race at an important moment.
It became clear that a new journey was needed, which led to the decision to work harder and more diligently on my health than I ever worked in the pool. Reversing years of injuries in a few months is a daunting challenge, but it is a challenge that is exciting to me.
The first steps here in Boston are to break up the years of scar tissue and to clear my muscles of knots so that we can then begin to re-train my muscle fibers to allow me to function more normally. We are finding layers of scar tissue in my “non-injured” joints and on ligaments and tendons from the years of training un-natural movements that were taught to me at a young age.
So far each session has been unearthing more and more roadblocks that can be cleared to lead to better performance. Through moist heat, e-stim, ultrasound, and massage I feel that in just the few days I’ve been here I am feeling a difference in my body already!
Proud of you Dana! Keep fighting!!!
Your title caught my interest. My daughter is 11yo and is the least flexible person I know, even more so than me at my age. I know it’s from her swimming muscles – a lot of girls in her group are the same way. No flexibility! I have a feeling it’s also from the tissue problems you are describing in this post.
Have you learned any tips on prevention? We have started a nightly stretching routine to help her flexibility. But I’m not sure what we could do to help avoid scar tissue and knots.
Dana Vollmer says
I have been learning recovery tips: stretching techniques, use of a theraroll and many others. I am working on a post about recovery and maintenance. stay tuned!
Beth D. says
Wow, as a mother of an 11 year old swimmer, I found this fascinating. I hope someone studies it!
Really interesting! My 14 year old daughter swims 6 – 7 days a week pretty much all of the year. Her specialty events are distance and fly. She has started seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist to help with aches, pains and knots. Can’t wait to see your posts about recovery and maintenance.
Can’t wait! Thanks so much for sharing.
Billy Howard says
When will Milt be writing a book so that more of his ideas can be shared through the swimming world? The last really accessible work that we have from Milt (that I have anyway) is the Richard Quick series of videos. I have to believe that Milt has come a long ways since that time in his understanding of how to create more organic and healthy strokes.
As a Coach who cares about the long-term health of my swimmers, I want to start applying these principles as soon as possible so that my swimmers can be healthy, happy, and as fast as their bodies allow. I talk to my kids about when they are old enough to be parents of young children, and how much joy there is in lifting a child up and playing with them with pain free knees and shoulders, and how I want that for them (because my shoulders are not great), which is why we spend so much time on (what they consider to be) “boring” technique work.
I wish I could have been at the clinic recently, but money & schedules get in the way. I would, however, gladly invest time & money into books & videos that let me learn about how to make this all possible. My Team might even consider paying to have Milt come and teach us for a clinic, so long as my Coaching Staff had access to it and could learn about this, and have follow-up consultations to make sure we are getting the information correctly.
Who was more helpful to have there to support you, Andy or Mallie? 🙂
Fran Leslie says
You should look into the Graston technique of tissue treatment to help in eliminating damaged muscle tissue. I have found as a physical therapist that this is a successful method of treatment for muscle tissue injuries. It can significantly improve muscle tissue performance. Perhaps some of those old injuries to the muscles were due to the previous ingestion of gluten and egg that affected your body with a different reaction and you anticipated or contemplated.
Hey beautiful lady! Great blog. Smart move. Very proud of you. Are you or have you ever done any acupuncture?
bon rétablissement Dana
Pastor Kim Risedorph says
I admire your approach and am cheering for you!
Dana Vollmer says
Hi Koree!! You know, I did acupuncture a long time ago during my back injury. I get a little freaked out thinking about all the needles, so I try other methods first. But I do remember thinking that it helped.