The 21-year-old backstroke champion from Ahmedabad, Maana is all set to create history in the coming global sports event, Tokyo Olympics 2021. She is the first and the only Indian female swimmer in Tokyo Olympics, Maana Patel.
This achievement came with its own hurdles. In early 2016, a shoulder injury almost ended her budding career. In medical terminology, Maana’s injury was diagnosed as a “superior labral tear extending from anteriorly at 11 o’clock and up to 2 o’clock posteriorly.”
Her dream came to a still when a surgeon told her to stay away from the pool for three months, Maana was devastated. She entertained thoughts of quitting altogether, lost weight and on some days even struggled to find the motivation to get out of bed.
At that time, Maana found a second home at the Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai. Under the expert physiotherapy care of Heath Matthews, who heads the Sports Science and Medicine department along with Chandan Poddar and Shruti Mehta besides Strength & Conditioning trainer Akhil Mehta from Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Maana found her way out.
She would spend hours at the centre and the rehab sessions were extensive and involved manual therapy, massages, exercise therapy, dry needling and taping. If the rehab failed, Maana would have needed surgery and be unable to swim competitively for anywhere between 6 to 9 months.
“Initially her rehab process was painful, and she would find it difficult to perform the exercises and very often perform them with pain,” remembers Dr Poddar, Deputy Consultant – Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. “However, she was determined to get past this phase. Her mother played a huge role in the process as well, motivating her to be resilient, pushing her to overcome the injury and compete again. She was a real pillar of support, would accompany her every day to the hospital and would sit and watch her sessions for hours.”
“Stability and power are what she needed in the final stages of her rehabilitation,” said Dr Poddar. She was very thin when she started her strength and conditioning sessions with Akhil. Over the next 6-8 months it was fantastic to see her body transform and her athleticism improve immensely. She went higher and higher on box jumps and she progressed from bodyweight squats to weighted jacket work, informed Dr Poddar.
While working on her rehab, strength and conditioning the staff at the hospital remained in close contact with Maana’s coach at the time, Peter Caswell. A holistic injury management plan that involved input from Caswell and her orthopaedic surgeon allowed Maana to make a gradual return to the water. Daily manual therapy sessions helped release tight muscles and keep her mobile and lower body strength became another area of focus, so Maana’s core strength during time away from the pool continued to be built.
Before leaving for Tokyo, Maana told to media, “The feeling of getting a berth to the Olympics is simply amazing.” Like many kids, she too grew up watching TV and reading about the Olympic Games. “Now you are there as a participant, a competitor and representing your beloved country before the world stage. It is surreal,” she said.