Physical Therapy Relay Team Swims English Channel

ALEXANDRIA, VA, August 20, 2009 — A six-person relay team from the physical therapy department at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in St. Augustine, FL, successfully swam the English Channel on Friday, August 14, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Led and coached by APTA member and physical therapy student Teresa Sebastian of Pineville, LA, the team completed the swim in 15 hours and 22 minutes. Others on the team were faculty members Jeff Rot, PT, DHSc, OCS, FAAOMPT, from Oswego, IL, and Rob Stanborough, PT, DPT, MHSc, MTC, from St. Augustine, FL; University alumni, Dennis Conlon, PT, MPT, of Ann Arbor, MI, and Linda Kuligowski, PT, of Lockport, NY; and University Advisory Board member Rex Painter, DDS, of St. Augustine, FL. Sebastian, who is pursuing her doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree, said the Channel swim has brought the school closer together. "I never went one day without someone asking me how training was going," she said.

A competitive swimmer and coach, Sebastian said, "I started swimming competitively when I was seven years old and organized our swim team for a fundraiser in which we pretended to swim the English Channel. I never imagined that I would actually live that dream twenty years later."

University founder and physical therapist Stanley V. Paris PT, PhD, FAPTA, served as the team's manager. Paris, age 72, successfully swam the Channel a week earlier on August 6 as part of a four-person relay team. He also attempted a solo swim on August 18, but was forced to end his attempt due to severe leg cramps. Paris completed two successful solo Channel swims and one successful relay swim in the 1980s.

The team credits Paris with their success. "Dr. Paris' knowledge as a physical therapist and his expertise in cold-water/channel training has made the difference between our success and failure," Sebastian said. According to Paris, "They all return home as heroes having completed an outstanding performance for the team, the University, and for themselves."

Team training has included swimming in cold water springs, open ocean swims, and cold showers and baths. "We tried to simulate Channel conditions as best we could," Sebastian explained. "But I have to say that I'm really looking forward to taking a hot shower again."

Sebastian, who expects to graduate in May 2011, says her education as a physical therapist helped her become a more efficient swimmer. "I now have a better understanding of how the muscles and joints in my body work and am able to engage my muscles in specific ways to make my stroke more efficient," she explained.

Click here for photos and more about Paris' journeys as an English Channel swimmer.

Physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery or the side effects of prescription medications. APTA represents more than 72,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical therapist practice, education, and research. In most states, patients can make an appointment directly with a physical therapist, without a physician referral. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area at