A Faster Road to Recovery

November 14, 2016

A Faster Road to Recovery

JCC Member Neil Shaffer Strengthens Two “New Knees” 

Long time JCC Member Neil Shaffer has had four arthroscopic knee surgeries and two total knee replacements in the last 6 years, yet that doesn’t deter him from getting out to the J’s fitness centers four to five times a week.

Neil’s injuries occurred over the course of time, through wear and tear. He’s been determined to get things back as best as he can, knowing his new knees may degenerate as well.

A former runner, basketball and softball player, Neil is thrilled to do his elliptical, ride the bike, and walk the treadmill routine. He gives great credit to his orthopedist, Dr. Jon Koman, and his JCC Personal Trainer, Sivan Fagan, for giving him his mobility back, and for now, he’s says, he is pain free.

Neil should give most of the credit to himself, and his motivation and drive to get well.

A 58-year-old native Baltimorean and Pikesville High grad, Neil was one of the original members of the Weinberg Park Heights J, in the 1960’s. He remembers the Baltimore Bullets practicing at the J before they became the Washington Wizards.

Neil has been married to Lori Shaffer for 33 years and is the father of two daughters, and the grandfather of a beautiful 14-month old granddaughter. He currently works for the Social Security Administration as an Information Specialist.

Neil picked Sivan Fagan to be his personal trainer at the J because he saw how “intense” she was with other clients.  After his surgeries, his back was bugging him and he still felt stiffness in his knees so he inquired about training with her.

Sivan has been working with Neil for six months and she says he’s doing amazing. Neil committed himself to working with Sivan at least twice a week.

I was just looking to pick up my granddaughter and do every day normal things that you take for granted.

According to Neil, “I’ve worked out my whole life. But when I got the knee replacements, Sivan had to tear down what I’d been doing all these years. I wasn’t looking to have a super physique, I was just looking to pick up my granddaughter and do every day normal things that you take for granted. Sivan had the experience to get me healthy again.”

“When we first started Neil didn’t have mobility in his hips,” says Sivan. “He was very stiff, and he also has partial paralysis in his lower leg. But he’s very dedicated, and he’s made a huge improvement with his mobility and movement patterns, and got stronger overall.”

Today, Neil is able to jog and squat, although he will not take up jogging again to stay in shape.

“It took a good month and a half to really see results and feel improvement,” says Neil. “My body had to relearn how to stretch and strengthen in different areas. What you get away with when you’re younger takes its toll as you age if you did not strengthen and stretch areas to help support the knees and back.”

“The goal with Neil has been to strengthen his muscles. That’s the scientific approach. Stronger people move better. Strength training is the fountain of youth,” explains Sivan.

According to Neil, “Sivan brought me off physical therapy and we used the foam roller to increase blood flow and neural input to tissues.”

“Neil was excellent with cardio,” Sivan says, “But his quads weren’t strong enough. Getting Neil to feel the muscles, getting him more coordinated, we’ve done lots of work on joint mobility, getting him to move with better range. Now he’s able to squat, lunge, hip hinge (push his hips back); we did a lot of single leg work as well.”

“Generally speaking, knee patients need to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg. Since every patient is different, exercise protocol varies based on individual. This is what ‘personal’ training is all about. Fit a program to the individual, and not fit the individual to a program.”

Neil is proud of his work. He boasts about walking six miles in New York City one day recently. He is proud of the fact that he can now walk up the stairs at the Weinberg J like he did before any knee issues.

“Neil’s overall quality of life has improved and he feels stronger,” Sivan says.

Sivan has been a member of the JCC Personal Trainer team since 2009.

“Sivan helped get me to where I wanted to be, able to play on the ground with my granddaughter, able to take a nice long walk and do normal everyday things pain–free,” he says.

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