Gym injuries are often overlooked because people are often times embarrassed they happened, or they don’t think it is “manly” to report. A recent article in the New York Post stated that an Equinox Gym in Manhattan got sued because one of its’ personal trainers continued to have a patron exercise an injured part of his body. See Article HERE. To be specific, this patron, David J. Walker, was a former Green Beret Paratrooper, who admittedly had a significant injury to his lower back. The trainer allegedly instructed Mr. Walker to use a foam roller on his lower back and rotate his legs in a semicircular motion. Mr. Walker complained of pain to the trainer, who encouraged him to keep going. Due to the pain he suffered and worsening his injury, he sued Equinox gym.

How Could this have Been Avoided?

Any personal trainer who has a solid certification such as NSCA , American College of Sports Medicine, or Fitness Institute, International, knows you must do a thorough health history before training any client. This type of injury could easily have been avoided if the trainer knew he had a lower back injury. If the trainer was aware of this type of injury, they should have taken precautions in that specific area. If the complexity of the injury is outside the scope of the personal trainer’s knowledge and experience, they should be referred back to their doctor to have a license physical therapist work the area of the injury.

With regard to the exercise itself, I am not an expert, however, simple research shows that foam rolling of the low back is not advised. If low back foam rolling is not advised for a healthy spine, one could assert it would not be healthy for an injured spine.

Do they Care?

Most chain gyms hire their own personal trainers to sell packages to new or existing clientele. From this article Mr. Walker purchased a 24 session package for over $2500.00. While this may seem extravagant at $100 per session, an experienced personal trainer with the accreditations listed above could easily expect that per session. The problem is that the gym is the one charging per session and is probably paying much lower rate to the trainer themselves. It’s not uncommon for big-box gyms to hire trainers with easily obtainable certifications and less experience, because they can pay them less. If a big-box gym is paying a trainer $17 an hour and charging $100 an hour for service that’s quite a markup.

 What Can You Do?

To avoid an injury like Mr. Walker suffered you should only hire a well-qualified personal trainer. There is a difference between certified and qualified. Here are a few things to consider when hiring a personal trainer.
• What kind of certification do they have? (look for NSCA , American College of Sports Medicine, or Fitness Institute, International)
• How long have they been a personal trainer? (I would take a new trainer with the credentials above before someone with a Cracker Jack certificate who has been doing it 1 year)
• Do they have experience with your demographic (Athlete, Retiree, or you have a specific injury)
• Do they personally carry liability insurance?
• Do they have you fill out a personal health questionnaire? More importantly do they go over it with you with specific questions? (If they don’t it is a clear sign they don’t care about your health, or don’t know enough about what they are doing to know it matters)
• Do they take your heart rate when going over your health questionnaire?
• How much are you paying them? (You get what you pay for).
• Do they have any recommendation from other clients?

These are only some of the questions you want to think about when hiring a personal trainer. You are paying good money to get into better physical health, why flush that money down the drain and higher someone inexperienced who could leave you in worse shape. Take the time to educate yourself about the type of trainer you need, then make the right choice for you.

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