Every coach goes through this difficult process. A swimmer breaks their arm, or wrist, and has to wear a cast for weeks on end. The swimmer inevitably thinks their season is over. But in reality it may be one of the best things that could happen to their swimming career.
Assuming the swimmer gets a waterproof cast, and doctor’s approval to exercise, the swimmer is now faced with a choice.
1. Spend the next many weeks (4-6 is not uncommon) kicking. Underwater kicking, surface kicking, vertical kicking. Every type of kicking you can image.
With this option, the swimmer not only gets much stronger legs, but also gets much stronger mentally. At first their legs will burn and they’ll have trouble walking up stairs. It will test their resolve. But if they’re tough enough, and if they have a proper program with sufficient recovery, their mind and legs will become stronger than they’ve ever been. When the cast is finally taken off, a gradual introduction of arms can take place, while the swimmer relies on their drastically improved kicking to get them through practice. And after just a few weeks with the cast off, the swimmer will be able to finish practices. WARNING: The coach just has to adjust their practices or the back / legs can get injured. It’s not advisable to just go to the back of the lane and kick every swim set.
We’ve had an experienced national age group qualifier do multiple PBs as little as 9 weeks after getting the cast off, and that was after a full 6 weeks with the cast. It’s not just possible to do this, but I’d say that the more powerful kicking and faster, longer underwater makes it probable. In the end, it could be the best thing that could happen to them.
2. Unfortunately, the other option is far more common. The swimmer gets unspeakably bored of kicking, tired of having sore legs, and hates not getting to swim with others. And so excuses are given and attendance drops off. Before you know it, the cast is off and you have a swimmer with weak arms, weak legs and a serious lack of endurance that can require many, many months to overcome.
Ultimately, a broken arm / wrist is a test of the individual. It’s a test of how deeply they want to get better, and how much they’ll put up with to make it happen. It’s a life lesson that they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.
Waterproof Casts and Coverings
The following companies make products that either work with non-waterproof casts, or help protect the injury when using waterproof casts. I haven’t tested any of them, and make no assurances of their effectiveness, and there may be other companies that I missed in my cursory internet search. If anyone knows of other companies with products in this area, please provide them in the comments!
AquaCast Liner – http://aquacastliner.com/
BLOCCS – https://www.bloccs.com/default.aspx