We’re not talking about the bruises and sprains from contact sports. We’re taking about the shoulder soreness from long-distance swimming, or the elbow pain from too much tennis. Wait. Why are we talking about that? Because researchers at Michigan State University have found that such overuse injury can lead to, among other things, “psychological exhaustion.” That’s because the sneaky injuries come on slow, hurting just a little more each day, and may go untreated for far too long, wearing down our bodies and our spirit. A Michigan State news release reports that the researchers also found that even with athletes as young as college age, overuse injuries account for 30 percent of reported injuries.
For decades, physical therapists, not to mention the helpful geezers at the gym, have been telling us to “go home and put some ice on” overworked or injured muscles. Now, it appears, that can be chillingly bad advice. Writing in the Well column of the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds reports on a meta review of three dozen studies of the pros and cons of putting ice on sports related injuries. Reynolds directs us to a 2004 review of icing-related studies that found that could ease the pain, but not much else, and to a recent and small trial in which cooled body parts did not hurt less or heal faster than uncooled body parts. The final answer, Reynolds says, is that most studies showed that in the short run icing numbed soreness, but it also impaired performance for up to 20 minutes. And the long run? Little benefit, and very few negative effects. So what to do with sore or injured muscles? Just chill, but not with ice.
Here's another idea the wife is unlikely to go for: standing for three minutes in a chamber chilled to -166 degrees Fahrenheit after the daily workout. Yet acccording to the New York Times, that is the recovery method of choice for a growing number of elite soccer players, rugby teams, professional cyclists and track and field athletes in the United States and Europe. Talk about takin "chill out" too seriously. The paper reports that cryotherapy chambers were originally intended to treat certain medical conditions, but athletes soon adopted the technology in hopes that supra-subzero temperatures would help them to recover from strenuous workouts more rapidly. It also reports that there is little evidence that they work. But, curiously, there is some: one study published in July in the Public Library of Science One, involved a group of trained runners who did a simulated 48-minute trail run on a treadmill. Afterward, half of the runners entered a whole-body cryotherapy chamber once a day for five days. The Times reports that from the first day, the runners who’d entered the chamber showed fewer blood markers of inflammation than the group who had recovered by sitting quietly. The good news, the researcher say, is that the therapy could “save two to three days” of training time, and allow tired athletes could return to hard training sooner. The bad news is that they would also return to cryotherapy sooner.
Two things not to do with golf carts: drive them in traffic with larger, faster vehicles; and drive them after drinking. HealthDay reports on research conducted at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, not far from the home of the Masters Golf Tournament, that found that 59 percent of accidents involving golf carts driven by people over the age of 16 were alcohol related. The study, which looked at 68 injuries, and was published in the June issue of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, noted that golf cart riders and passengers rarely wear helmets or other protective gear and, unlike motor vehicles, golf carts typically lack doors and safety features such as seat belts, mirrors and lights. Because they are less stable than cars, sudden rollovers or ejections are more likely. Twenty-six patients (about 38 percent) sustained injuries when they were ejected from the golf cart. Rollovers caused a similar number of injuries, the study found. Another 13 injuries came from collisions with a motor vehicle, and three injuries resulted from hitting a stationary object.
Forget everything you've been told faking it: on the soccer field at least, it's the men who are faking injuries far more often than women. The Los Angeles Times reports on research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in which scientists studied videotapes of international men's and women's soccer matches. In the men's matches, the researchers found an average of 11.26 apparent injuries per match, in which players were writhing or rolling on the ground, grabbing a body part, yelling, having an anguished facial expression or hiding their face. They concluded that only 7.2 percent of the apparent injuries were real, meaning that the "injured" player left the game within five minutes or blood was apparent. In the women's games, the researchers found half as many apparent injuries as the men had, about 5.74 per game, and that women's injuries were twice as likely as men's to be real.
and the they previously saw pparent injuries were definite injuries, twice the proportion as in men's soccer.
Quick: What's the most common sports injury? Correct, it's a sprained ankle. Next: What's the best way to avoid a sprained ankle? Lift up your feet when you walk or run. Eureka Science News reports that researchers at the University of Georgia collected data on more than 30 male recreational athletes, some with a history of repetitive ankle sprains and some without. The researchers then used motion capture equipment to study joint movements in the participants during walking and running. Here's what they found: those athletes with a history of repetitive ankle sprains had lower clearance heights between their feet and the floor during running and pointed their toes down more during walking. Read more from Eureka Science News.
What are the most important muscles for runners? Core Performance reports that researchers at the University of Calgary who reviewed 20 years worth of published studies found that weakness in a runner’s hip muscles significantly increase their risk of chronic knee pain, Achilles tendonitis, and pain in the sole of the foot. The researchers found that hip abductors (on the outside of your hip) are weak, knees are more likely to roll too far inward with each running stride, increasing the risk for patellofemoral pain syndrome, which causes pain under and around the kneecap; or iliotibial band syndrome, where pain arises in the outside of the knee. The good news, Core Performance reports, is that the researchers found that just six weeks of hip-muscle training can alleviate pain from various running injuries in most patients, while building up protection from future injuries. Core Performance recommends these hip strengthening moves.
It sounds a bit like the placebo effect (believe it and it shall be), although at high speed. Researchers at McGill University have found that an athlete’s level of confidence has a major influence on the likelihood of injury. Gretchen Reynold reports in the New York Times that, in a study of former athletes who were learning new skills required to join the Cirque du Soleil, researchers looked at self-efficacy, a kind of enhanced self-confidence, the feeling that you are easily capable of performing the task ahead. They found that athletes who had a low self-efficacy score on the health questionnaire were almost twice as likely to be injured as those who had scored high on that measure. And now the hard part. As one researcher put it: How do you differentiate someone who has appropriate self-efficacy because they are not actually as good as others from those who lack confidence despite being better? Don’t ask.
Doctors performing the all too common anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair have two choices of body parts to turn to when grafting a new tendon: they can use one from the knee or from the hamstring. Now comes a study that should put an end to cocktail party debate among orthopedic surgeons about which is better. The Los Angeles Times reports on research that followed 180 people who had ACL reconstruction surgery for 15 years. Half of the patients had a knee tendon graft, and the others had a hamstring tendon graft. The researchers found that those who had the knee tendon graft had much worse results than those who had the hamstring graft after 15 years. The hamstring group reported less knee pain and discomfort but higher levels of activity than the knee tendon group. Wait, there’s more: Among those in the hamstring tendon group, 77 percent could do at least strenuous activities,compared with 62 percent in the knee group. When it came to assessing pain while kneeling, 26 percent of the hamstring group and 42 percent of those in the knee group said they had aches. The knee group also reported worse results for osteoarthritis and loss of motion. The bottom line: Go with the hammy.
In an article about not-quite-proven therapies for boomers’ sports injuries, here’s how the Boston Globe describes the vaguely vampirish treatment called PRP, which is short for plasma rich therapy: “PRP involves removing a small amount of a patient’s blood and spinning it in a centrifuge for about 15 minutes to separate the red blood cells from the platelets, a type of cell that contains chemicals called growth factors that can help the body heal itself. Then the platelet-rich portion of the patient’s blood is injected in or around a damaged tendon, muscle or cartilage to try to spur the growth of new tissue.” Creepy, but does it work? That’s the tricky part. Although, as the Globe reports, PRP has been used by professional athletes for two decades, it still falls into the “unproven” category of injury treatments, as well as the unpaid for by insurance category. A review of the studies, commissioned by the International Olympic Committee and published in November in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found basically that sometimes it does work, and sometimes it doesn’t. The short answer: More study is needed.