Thanks to a one million-dollar grant from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, Washington State University researchers plan to create the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute (NASMI).


This will be the worlds premiere center for aquatic health research, says the institute director, Dr. Bruce Becker, a physician and research professor in WSUs College of Education. There is no other lab with this mission and focus. The addition of the foundations one million-dollar grant gives us tremendous movement forward. Becker and Assistant Professor Kasee Hildenbrand want to find ways to make the most of aquatic exercise. We intend to build on our initial research and fill the knowledge gaps of how water benefits our hearts, lungs and endocrine systems.


Judy Mitchell, dean of the College of Education, said that creation of the institute will build upon WSUs reputation for world-class research. This research is driven by the need to know more about the effects of aquatic exercise, not only on general health and well-being but on specific medical conditions, such as asthma, hypertension, osteoporosis and obesity, Mitchell noted.


The National Swimming Pool Foundation has supported Beckers research for three years. This latest grant will pay for staff and equipment, allowing the researchers to create NASMI. Becker works alongside Assistant Professor Kasee Hildenbrand, who teaches in the College of Educations movement studies program and directs its athletic training education program. She and Becker conduct their research in the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Laboratory, located in the Bohler Gym Addition. They are awaiting final WSU administrative approval to turn the laboratory into an institute.


In the last four years, the National Swimming Pool Foundation has given more than $1.5 million to institutions of higher learning. Those grants focus on the understanding of aquatic health benefits and on prevention of drowning, illness, and injury. We are committed to creating centers of excellence that will influence society, said Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the foundation. Research in aquatics has been a dry basinWSU is the key to open the flood gate.


The researchers' first respiratory study compared the effects of exercise on land to exercise in the water. Hildenbrand will incorporate the aquatics lab research findings into WSUs athletic training program so its graduates have a sound scientific basis for the exercise advice they give to clients. The lab links physiology, education and athletics in ways that have opened collaborative opportunities throughout WSU and with other universities, said Hildenbrand.


As it is, a lot of advice given in the sports world is not evidence-based. For example, Becker said that football players spend time in chiller tanks after practice because they say it makes their legs feel better. I have a gut feeling it works, but there is no science looking into the physical effects of standing waist-deep in 52° water for 45 minutes, he said. We can measure things like blood flow, muscle oxygen delivery and other measures that can really make chiller tank immersion more beneficial.


Beckers goal goes far beyond educating the athletic community. We need medical professionals to understand and use the benefits of aquatic exercise. The public needs to know also because you can safely do it on your own, he said.


Becker first became excited about aquatic rehabilitation when he worked in Eugene, Oregon, and saw how much it helped injured Olympic runners. But he was dismayed that there had been little research into its effects since before astronauts were sent into space. Immersion is as close to weightlessness as there is on Earth, he said.


Becker is fascinated by the mental as well as physical benefits of immersion. Water exercise rivals meditation, he said. You feel good, better than you do with other exercise. I want to find out what that Aaah is about.


The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1965, dedicated to improving public health worldwide by encouraging healthier living through aquatic education and research. NSPF has partnered with Human Kinetics in its launch of the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education (IJARE), the quarterly peer-reviewed source for aquatic research and educational information, available in print and electronic format. The NSPF funds grants to help reduce risk at aquatic facilities and to study aquatic health benefits in swimming pools and hot tubs. For more information, please visit


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