Category Archives: Programming

Aging, Health and Well Being of United States Master Swimmers

To see if United States Masters Swimmers (USMS) had a more favorable health status than the general population, the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming, led by Dr. Joel Stager, conducted research at the 2004 United States Masters Swimming Championships.

The subjects, who averaged 4.7 hours moderate and 7.1 hours of vigorous activity per week, exhibited numerous traits that were consistent with optimal aging outcomes such as retention of pulmonary function, muscle mass and strength, and a more favorable blood lipid and blood pressure profile.

The study suggests that the better (higher) scores on the instruments used to assess physical health, mental health, and quality of life obtained from the swimmers is due to a higher level of activity.

The results revealed that the USMS population is participating above and beyond the ACSM and CDC recommendations for physical activity, and that this may be an important factor in the greater overall health status and quality of life that these individuals enjoy.

To review the complete study visit:  Aging Health and Well Being of Master Swimmers   

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Angled Wedge-Shaped Footrest For Starting Blocks

About 18 months ago FINA approved starting blocks with an angled wedge-shaped footrest on the back edge.  The idea is that athletes will have the advantage of producing more force from the blocks and therefore faster starts/races.  In addition to the wedge some manufacturers are able to provide side handles on the blocks that athletes can use to generate speed.  Such handles were part of the custom blocks at IUPUI that were installed 30 years ago and have been allowed for many years.  The measure of the amount of advantage of the adjustable footrest is not conclusive but testing indicates that the handles offer significant advantage.  USA Swimming and recently the NCAA voted to allow the wedge style blocks but NFSHSA has not yet approved them.  KDI Paragon, SR Smith and Spectrum, have wedge-style blocks with side handles. Omega has wedge-style blocks.   Anti and Kiefer only offer side handles only.  Older blocks by KDI Paragon and Spectrum can be retrofitted to have a wedge and handles.

There are negative aspects to the wedge.  Different athletes will want different locations so wedges must be easily movable.  Some athletes do not like the wedge and choose not to use it.  Some athletes may not be used to the manufacturer’s method of adjustment.  Delays in meets may be common.  The wedge also may need to be safely removable during relay starts.  Then, where does it go?  Who replaces it?  With rear step starting blocks stepping over the wedge can be a safety concern.  With side step starting blocks stepping over the handles may be a problem.

Minimum Water Depths Under Starting Blocks

On July 20, 2012, the Facility Design and Construction Model for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was posted for public comment due October 14, 2012.  In section 4.8.3.3. a single sentence could change the industry standard for minimum depths  under starting blocks to 6 feet and 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet.  This could have a significant impact on swimming pools around the country and industry professionals are encouraged to participate in the public input process.  In order to make an informed decision, the following data is offered for consideration. 

Competitive swimmers execute headfirst dive entries from starting blocks into pools where water depths can vary. If the swimmer’s head strikes the bottom of a pool, this could result in damage to the cervical vertebrae, thus may result in quadriplegia. This was a significant topic of conversation in the industry in the early 1980s when a varsity swimmer at a university was injured in practice. Before 1970 this was unheard of, but in the early 70s, goggles were introduced and different methods of completing racing dives were developed to maximize speed and minimize the potential for losing goggles.  

In prevention of Cervical Spinal Injuries (CSI), a cohesive plan currently does not exist for a minimum uniform water depth, which would lessen the likelihood of catastrophic tragedies. “No Diving” signs are posted when the water is less than five feet deep in some states, and four feet in others. There is still more inconsistency. What is the right depth for balancing safety and function for underneath starting blocks? Moreover, should we build all-deep water pools? What depth? And what about recreation swimmers?  

Here’s the Confusion

Up until the early 2000s the industry standard water depths were in the 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet range. November 2001, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) changed minimum water depths from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet. USA Swimming followed suit with a note that teaching off a starting block shall be limited to 6 feet water depth. 

Policy makers, swimming pool rulebooks, and state swimming pool codes still lack research in regard to water depth requirements under starting blocks. Moreover, water depth requirements under starting blocks in governing bodies’ rulebooks not only conflict with one another but often conflict with state statutes, which may in turn conflict with local county and municipal ordinances.  

The following shows a variance among the four aquatic governing bodies, as well as the YMCA and the American Red Cross, in regard to water depth for headfirst entries. 

Federation Internationale DE Natation (FINA): 4 feet 5 inches.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): 4 feet.

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS): 4 feet.

USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming: 4 feet for racing, 6 feet for teaching.

YMCA: 5 feet.

American Red Cross: 9 feet.

 

The Research

The Counsilman Center for The Science of Swimming completed a study in 2011 on racing start safety published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.  Joel Stager, Director reports the water depth needed to prevent contact with the bottom of the pool that could result in injury is well beyond 6 feet 7 inches and the critical link to safe starting block starts is education.  In summary this research indicates:

  1. Swimmers go deeper in deeper water
  2. Older swimmers go deeper than younger swimmers
  3. All ages ( and experience levels) of swimmers go shallower when asked to do so
  4. There are differences in head depth as a function of block height
  5. Virtually all starts are fast enough to cause injury if an impact should occur
  6. Very few swimmers go deeper than five feet even in seven feet of water. 

We are at a crossroads between safety versus programming when they should be compatible.  The key to safety in this matter is instruction and how participates learn how to dive.  The reality is no water depth is safe without proper instruction.  When making an informed decision, one must balance the threats and benefits from an activity.  There has been plenty of research on the health advantages of recreation, lesson, fitness, and competitive swimming and how it impacts safety and lifestyle. Here’s a nice shout out to water safety programs and ongoing swim lessons nationwide. Even though more and more people are exposed to a growing number of swimming pools at new aquatic facilities across the nation, drowning death rates in the United States have declined in the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

 

Should We Build All-Deep Water Pools?

Is the answer that we build all-deep water pools? And if so, how deep? Twenty years ago swimmers swam nearly their entire race at the surface. Today most elite swimmers swim a large percentage of their races 3 to 4 feet below the surface, utilizing a butterfly (dolphin) kicking technique.  

Championship pool depth may impede many instructional, fitness, and recreational opportunities and consequently, revenue potential. And since people frequent pools for a variety of reasons—fitness, relaxation, instruction, competition, and therapy—today’s swimming facilities do not just accommodate competitive swimmers but are multidimensional centers encompassing all types of swimmers.  

To provide a fiscally sustainable facility, multiple users must be able to use the same space for different purposes at different times. Building an all deep-water competitive pool would significantly limit other uses such as recreation, lesson, fitness and therapy.  The following shows preferred water depths for various types of swimmers. 

0 – 3.5 Feet

        Toddlers

        Recreation

        Wellness / Therapy 

3.5 – 5 Feet

        Recreation

        Lap Swimming

        Wellness / Therapy 

5 – 10 Feet

        Competitive Swimming

        Water Polo

        Synchronized Swimming 

11.5 Feet +

        Diving

Unintended Consequences

Some may suggest that the Facility Design and Construction Module is limited to new construction and would not apply to existing facilities.  I would suggest that given the United States legal system this is naive.  I cannot envision an outcome that defines separate solutions water depth solutions for new and older pools.  In 2001 when the NFSH changed the minimum depth standard from 3 feet six inches to 4 feet, many high school pools moved the starting blocks from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end.  For pools without diving wells, this proposed change would likely require structural modifications to the pool shell.  To renovate a six lane 25 yard pool from a maximum water depth of 4 feet to 6 feet 7 inches for a distance of 20 feet in front of the pool edge is estimated to be in the $200,000 range.  Not only will the pool depth be effected but the mechanical equipment will need to be upgraded to services the increased water volume.  For new construction the differential cost is not as great with an estimated increased cost in the $20,000 range.  

Conclusion

The State of Michigan is the only state that requires water depths under starting blocks to be 6 feet 7 inches.  If the MAHC codifies this unique standard it will change the national standard as defined by the governing bodies of sport.  In this writer’s opinion, the unintended consequences maybe the dramatic decline of competitive swimming activities in the United States similar to the effects of removing high dives across the country in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  If this happens what are the negative health effects on childhood obesity and an increased sedentary lifestyle? 

 

Birmingham CrossPlex To Host NCAA Division II Swimming Championships

The NCAA has announced that they will be hosting the Men’s & Women’s NCAA Division II Championships at the Brimingham CrossPlex.  The Birmingham CrossPlex is a world-class facility designed for three primary sports: indoor track and field, volleyball, and competitive swimming and diving. Located just two miles from theBirmingham-SouthernCollegecampus, the Birmingham CrossPlex is proud to begin hosting events that will attract athletes, coaches, and spectators from all over the world.

The team of Counsilman-Hunsaker and Davis Architects designed the state-of-the-art natatorium with the ability to hold 1100 spectators in the stands and 500 athletes/coaches on the deck. The facility features a 50-meter competition pool with bulkhead, which not only accommodates multiple racing and training configurations, but also features a flow-through design which minimizes waves rebounding on turns. The extra deep concrete/tile gutter system creates a calmer pool, thus reducing the amount of turbulence swimmers must face.

12,600 sq. ft. Competition Pool

  • Ten 50-meter lanes
  • Twenty 25-yard lanes
  • Depth ranges from 7 ft. to 13 ft.
  • Fiberglass movable bulkhead to accommodate multiple racing and training configurations
  • Two 1-meter and two 3-meter springboards
  • Generous decks all around the pool
  • Regenerative media water filtration
  • Ultraviolet water treatment system
  • Extra-deep concrete/tile gutter system
  • Water polo

A Different Approach to Rehabilitating our Wounded Soldiers

The cost of war is high.  As of April 2012, approximately 633,000 veterans — one out of every four of the 2.3 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — have a service-connected disability, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   

Returning US veterans, who have sacrificed so much for their country, are challenged to not only rehabilitate their bodies but their minds and acclimation into a new daily routine.  In 2007 the Department of Veteran Affairs opened the Center for the Intrepid National Armed Forces Rehabilitation Center at the Brooke Army Medical Center, in Fort Sam Houston.  Considered one of the most advanced rehabilitation facility in the world, Center for the Intrepid was designed for military patients and veterans with severe extremity injuries, amputations, and burns the facility’s goal is to rebuild their minds and bodies to regain their pre-injury abilities in a supportive, healing environment.   

Of the 49,000 Iraq and Afghanistan casualties, more than 1,400 have been amputees.  Among the amputees treated at the Center, 17% have returned to active military duty once recovered, with some eventually redeploying, often in support roles, and some returning to active combat. 

Working with the Smith Group, one of the nation’s largest A/E firms, Counsilman Hunsaker was honored to be enlisted as the aquatics specialist on the project.  The aquatics portion of the facility includes a 30 ft. by 50 ft. six lane split pool consisting of multiple water depths and accessible entry points. The intent of this pool was to provide numerous therapy and training programs including kayaking, water basketball and volleyball, water polo, and swimming for returning soldiers. 

A unique feature of the facility is the FlowRider, an indoor simulation of a natural ocean wave used to improve balance, coordination, motion, strength, motivation, and confidence. This feature’s propulsion technology creates an inclusive and exhilarating activity that’s safe and enjoyable way to progress the soldier’s rehabilitation of balance, coordination and strength. 

NBCnews.com posted an inspiring story of the facility’s success with many moving photographs of veterans determined not to be defined by their injuries.  A link to the website can be found here:

http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/17/13318622-wounded-warriors-show-grit-determination-on-journey-to-recovery?lite 

Counsilman Hunsaker supports our troops and wishes all the injured a speedy recovery and safe return. 

Link to additional information on the Center for the Intrepid

http://www.counsilmanhunsaker.com/projects/the-center-for-the-intrepid/