She retired at the top of her game, with a team gold medal and two silver medals to prove it. With a half-century under her belt as a world-class athlete on the badminton circuit, Mary Ann Bowles broke her wrist while practicing for the inaugural Americas Masters Games in Vancouver in late summer 2016. Her steely resolve and hard work, with assistance from the therapists at St. Anthony’s Outpatient Sports and Physical Therapy, enabled Mary Ann to compete in and win awards from her final tournament.
“My motto was to wear out rather than rust out, and that’s what I’ve done,” chuckled Mary Ann, 68. A retired Family & Consumer Sciences teacher, she lives in South County with her husband, Russ.
“Mary Ann has trophies and medals and stories, and she’s rubbed elbows with the upper echelon of that sport worldwide,” said her therapist, Certified Hand Therapist Suzanne Dickneite. “Mary Ann injured her wrist while practicing for the Vancouver games. She started hand therapy after she had the pin removed from her wrist. The range of motion in her wrist and finger was significantly impaired. We used fluidotherapy, a method of dry heat; electrical stimulation; and massage techniques to prepare her tissues for passive stretching. She ended up achieving enough motion and strength to participate in the games. Even though she wasn’t fully recovered, we got her to a place of stability so she could compete.” Mary Ann also worked with St. Anthony’s state-of-the-art BTE Primus work simulator, which matches the user in movements that include gripping, driving and pinching to improve strength and functional use of the upper extremity.
“Mary Ann is the most consistently positive, hard-working patient,” Suzanne said. “We worked with her to provide individualized care and specific exercises directed toward her sport that would help to achieve her goals. She was an amazing patient who stayed positive and never let her injury get her down.” Previously, Mary Ann relied on St. Anthony’s Sports and Therapy services for back and knee issues. After the tournament, she returned to finish her hand treatment.
“The therapists are great,” she said. “The wrist is 95 percent recovered; there’s still a little pain, but I’m working on getting my wrist back to its original flexibility. I also went to a trainer at the gym and she gave me exercises.”
Mary Ann was in college and in need of a physical education credit when she was introduced to badminton. Since then, she has earned many titles worldwide and served as a badminton line judge during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. She has served as a badminton coach and is active in USA Badminton, the U.S. Badminton Education Foundation, Midwest Badminton Association and St. Louis Badminton Club. Her husband, Russ, is a badminton coach.
Mary Ann also loves to read and is a big mystery fan; she works at a local bookstore in her spare time. She’s also an avid gardener. While she is hanging up the racquet, Mary Ann still will get her “badminton high” by watching games online and taking trips to tournaments. What many people don’t know is that badminton is not the sedate sport they played in their backyards.
“The perception in this country is that players hit the birdie back and forth to keep it in play,” she said. “That’s not the point at all: the shuttle can be hit at over 200 miles an hour. Hitting the shuttle where the other person can’t get to it is a huge workout. It’s fast, it’s quick; it takes your breath away.”