Making a Splash

water skiing


Nancy Congleton doesn’t let much stop her. Especially not the 74 candles on her birthday cake. In fact, it was when she reached her 70s that Nancy really hit her athletic stride, excelling as a competitive water skier, dominating the pickleball court and even holding her own on the softball field.

Even as an adventurous woman and grandmother, however, aging has caught up with Nancy at times, occasionally testing her determination and spirit. The body’s musculoskeletal system changes with age, it’s unavoidable. But while her muscles, bones and joints may not be what they were when she was 30, Nancy has been able to combat the deterioration by staying active, accepting medical intervention and being aided along the way by her physical therapist.

For the Thrill of the Sport​

It’s easy to hear the joy in her voice when Nancy talks about “flying” over the water ski jump at the Senior Worlds in Santiago, Chile, in December of 2018. Her talent and passion for the sport led her to compete in all three events at the championships that year — jump, trick and slalom. Nobody would have guessed that she did it all despite having had hip replacement surgery a year earlier.

Propelled by an adventurous spirit, Nancy had overcome that speedbump, quickly regaining her strength and health. Unfortunately, the road ahead had more obstacles in store for her.

water skier

“In October of 2019 a herniated disc from a week of hard slalom skiing forced my right leg into serious, constant, throbbing pain,” she explained.

For a month Nancy was resigned to her recliner, struggling with debilitating pain that even strong medication could not alleviate. That prolonged period of inactivity left her much weaker than normal.

Then, three months later, she was back in the operating room, this time facing knee replacement surgery.

“My recovery went well to a certain point,” Nancy recalled. “But my knee joint would not completely straighten.”

Determined to pursue further rehabilitation to get her back on skis, Nancy began asking around for recommendations. A friend referred her to Christine Taylor, physical therapist and clinic director at Therapeutic Associates Richland Physical Therapy.

Christine’s evaluation included not just assessing Nancy’s knee, but a whole-body analysis.

“Her investigation of the interaction between knee, back and thigh when it comes to pain and stiffness is impressive,” Nancy explained. “I appreciate how dedicated Christine is to finding the source of the pain and the cause of limited range of motion and lack of proper movement. She really listens and analyzes what’s going on.”

Christine created an individualized plan of care for Nancy, utilizing evidence-based manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and conditioning, and emphasizing patient education.

“The massage and myofascial release were the best part of each session for me,” Nancy said. “And after passive time on the table Christine would put me through physical strengthening paces – bands, balls, steps, weights, balancing acts with an assistant at my side – and give me homework!”

“I appreciate how dedicated Christine is to finding the source of the pain and the cause of limited range of motion and lack of proper movement. She really listens and analyzes what’s going on.”

Always an Athlete

Through hard work and perseverance, Nancy was able to buckle into her lifejacket and fly across the water on her skis again by the spring of 2020, just six months post-op. When she wasn’t on the river, she was on the pickleball court, dashing around and smashing the ball in friendly competition, another sport she’d come to love almost as much as water skiing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, opportunities to get out and play were limited.

“The lockdown and slowdown of activity left me less than my best and strongest,” Nancy said. “My other hip gave way in August, such that I could not even walk without terrific pain.”

Once again Nancy found herself in the operating room, undergoing a second total hip replacement in September 2020.

“It was an awesome success in terms of alleviating the pain and giving me full function,” Nancy said, reflecting on how quickly she was able to get back to the pickleball court. “I remember thinking, ‘Who needs PT?’ But Christine showed me that I did. I had very little strength, and couldn’t even do some of the exercises she wanted me to do.”

Digging in, Nancy fought her way back, working with her physical therapy team to regain the strength and mobility that surgery and arthritis had taken away. Not only do her hips feel like she never even had surgery, but her back feels better than ever now.

“I didn’t even realize how bad my posture had become,” Nancy confessed. “It’s so good to have someone checking in on me, showing me what I need to be doing and how to do it right.”

pickleball player
pickleball player
pickleball player

While she recognizes that her partnership with Christine and the team at Therapeutic Associates is likely to be ongoing as she strives to remain adventurous and active through the rest of her 70s and beyond, Nancy simply appreciates the role physical therapy has had in her life so far.

She was just 12 years old when she was first plunged into the water behind a ski boat, an experience that makes her wonder how she ever ended up championing the sport.

“It was me getting pulled off the dock on two skis and going underwater for 20 feet until I ran out of breath because … ‘no one told me to let go if I fell!’ Who knew I’d love to water ski after that splash?”

Now, more than six decades later, Nancy’s thrilled to be able to teach her own 12-year-old grandson the sport and to pass on her passion for gliding along the water’s smooth surface and carving big arching turns across the wake.

Patient Success is our Passion

From injury recovery to movement and performance enhancement, our therapists are committed to the application of evidence-based treatment techniques to ensure you experience the best in rehabilitation and preventative care and see progress with every visit.

water skier

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