Most major league teams keep details of athlete physical exams top secret. It is very important competitive information. But the world’s leading federation of aquatic sports clubs, FINA, has taken the important step of publishing its recommendations online.
FINA recognizes that promoting athlete health is even more important than winning medals. And this week’s sad news of a Baylor University student’s fatal injury following a dance exercise backflip has provided an important reminder that injury prevention needs to be a top priority for the best coaches. Swimmer’s are not immune. USA Swimming champion Fran Crippen died suddenly at the age of 26 following a swim meet in Dubai.
Two main goals of pre-competition physical exams recommended by FINA are to ensure that current health problems are managed appropriately and to assess the risk of future injury or disease. FINA experts recommend having a team physician conduct the exams to promote familiarity with the special physical requirements of the sport. The position the athlete plays or the length of swim heats competing in are also important factors. FINA sports are swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming.
While breaks between seasons are considered the best time for a comprehensive physical, competition in most aquatic sports has become a year round activity. Collegiate meets take place from August to May and FINA’s own world championships, as well as the Olympics, take place in July and August.
In contrast to the old saying “no pain, no gain” FINA takes chest pain and other early warning signs of cardiac problems seriously. Other warning signs include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart infection or inflammation. A thorough physical exam can also help asses risk for hypothermia and unsustainable loss in body temperature. Muscle cramps and continued shivering episodes are also occupational hazards. A relaxing whirlpool bath is often a simple and effective treatment.
While many forms of asthma are preventable, swimmers experience symptoms more frequently than the general population. In addition, pool chemical and sun exposure can lead to dermatitis. Thorough physical exams help aquatic athletes modify their regimens to alleviate discomfort and help them to focus on peak performance.