Specialized Therapy Puts Musikfest Performer Back on Stage
It is a well-known fact that musicians spend a lot of time practicing before a performance. But for one performer at this year’s Musikfest, preparation has a whole different meaning.
Mark Gutman founded the Main Street Cruisers, a nationally-known 50's - 70's rock and roll show band, 12 years ago. As group leader and manager, Mark and his six fellow Cruisers delight crowds around the country with tunes from Frankie Vallie, Elvis and Bill Haley, just to name a few.
When complications from an old knee injury from his days in the Navy started to limit his ability to perform, Mark was determined to find a way to continue doing what he loved.
“I sing and play guitar,” says Mark. “A lot of my performance is based on moving around and interacting with the audience, but my knee pain was forcing me to sit a lot more than I wanted to.”
As a performing artist, Mark knew he needed more than standard physical therapy. He turned to Good Shepherd’s Performing Arts Rehabilitation Center in Bethlehem, where specially trained therapists blend traditional physical and occupational therapies with the specific needs of performing artists. The goal is to help dancers, musicians and actors recover from and prevent performance-related injuries as well as outside injuries that limit performance.
Cathie Dara, PT, DPT, OCS, STC, is one of the therapists who worked with Mark. Cathie says that the first priority was to get Mark’s knees in the best shape possible. She developed a comprehensive therapy plan consisting of recumbent stepper for building endurance, leg press machine for increasing strength and progressive exercises to gradually improve his standing tolerance. Initial therapy focused on helping Mark transfer between sitting and standing more easily, increasing his core strength and knee mobility.
“Core strength is really important for people with knee issues, and especially for performers. like Mark,” explains Cathie. “When your knees are not working properly, it throws off your back. Improving Mark’s core strength helps keep everything aligned and allows him to stand longer.”
Once Cathie got Mark’s knee pain under control, they worked on a strategy to maximize his performance on stage. They analyzed footage of what Mark and his fellow Cruisers did on stage and attended a live show, looking for ways they could modify Mark’s stage performance to better accommodate his knee limitations.
“We broke each of my sets into smaller pieces and developed a plan so I knew when to sit and when to stand,” says Mark. “I did a lot of therapy at Good Shepherd standing and playing my guitar. Cathie helped me develop strategies so I could gradually increase my endurance and stamina.”
For Mark, who started playing guitar when he was 11, stamina is a crucial piece of his recovery. The Cruisers started out as a local group playing Lehigh Valley pubs and clubs, but the 7-piece group now does 30 to 40 three and a half hour shows at major venues throughout the US every year.
Today, Mark’s ability to bend his knee has returned to normal, his strength and endurance has improved to the point that he can stand for 20 minutes at a time during his sets, and he continues to work on his home exercises to maximize his mobility and performance ability.
Mark says the improvement has been remarkable. “I can do things now that I couldn’t even think of doing a year ago. As long as I can sing and play guitar, I want to perform. I love what I do.”