What is Aquaboom?; Treating ACL and Meniscus Tears; Treating Tendonitis and Tendon Tears

Episode 17.15 with Hosts Steve Kashul and Dr. Brian Cole. Broadcasting on ESPN Chicago 1000 WMVP-AM Radio, Saturdays from 8:30 to 9:00 AM/c.

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Segment One (01:58): Matt Kredich, Executive Director at Tennessee Aquatics,Photos from AQUA BOOM's post Knoxville and USA Swimming; American Swim Coaches Association World Clinic Speaker. Matt describes the Aqua Boom training device for upper and lower body training and rehab using variable and progressive water resistance; converting a pool into a complete gym.

Segment Two (10:29): Dr. Cole and Steve talk about the causes and treatments for ACL and Meniscus tears in elite athletes as well as the general population.

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Segment Three (18:50): Dr. Cole describes the anatomy of tendonitis, the various types of injuries and tendon tears and the various treatment alternatives.

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What’s making athletes faster, better, stronger

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” or, in English, “Faster, higher, stronger.” And as sports science reporter David Epstein points out from the TED2014 stage, “Athletes have fulfilled that motto — and they’ve done so rapidly.”

Epstein investigates why it is that, year upon year, runners, swimmers, gymnasts, basketball players and so many others are able to push their sports to new levels. Epstein says that it comes down to three factors: changing technology, changing genes and changing mindsets.

Epstein, the author of the book The Sports Gene, starts by taking a look at runners. The winner of the 2012 Olympic marathon would have beat the winner of the marathon of the 1904 Olympic marathon by more than 1 hour and 20 minutes. Similarly, at last year’s World Championships, 100-meter-dasher Usain Bolt beat the world record set by Jesse Owens in 1936 by 14 feet. But much of the difference in these records comes down to technology.

While Owens ran on cinders, and had to dig a hole with a trowel to use for the start of the race, Bolt and his contemporaries run on carpet specifically designed to help them go as fast as possible, and start races from well-engineered starting blocks. Take those technologies away, and Epstein says that Bolt and Owens would have been within a single stride of each other at the finish line. Similarly, while Sir Roger Bannister became the first man in the world to run the mile under four minutes in 1954, last year 1,314 runners did that. But running on cinders is 1.5 percent slower than running on a modern track. Account for that, and about half of those runners are no longer under the 4-minute mark.

Today’s athletes have faster skiis, more aerodynamic bikes, lighter shoes, high-performance swimsuits, and so much more. But it’s more than just the technology, says Epstein. Today’s athletes train at a much more intensive level than they once did. “Even college athletes are professionals in their training compared to Bannister, who trained for 45 minutes a day while ditching lectures on gynecology. “That guy was drinking rat poison and brandy because that’s what was considered a performance-enhancing drink,” says Epstein who, by the way, is one of the journalists who broke the news that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroid use.

But there’s still more to this story — the bodies of athletes have changed. In the 1920s, the average body type was considered the ideal for every sport. Both shot putters and high jumpers were medium height and medium build. “As financial incentives and fame and glory for elite athletes skyrocketed, it accelerated the artificial selection for specialized bodies,” says Epstein. “Athletes’ bodies became much more different from one another … The large got larger, the small got smaller, and the weird got weirder.” Some refer to this as the “Big Bang of Bodies.”

Today’s shot putter is much taller and about 130 pounds heavier than the high jumper. The average gymnast has gone from 5’3″ to 4’9″, while the average basketball player has gotten much taller. Epstein looks at the example of the NBA where, in 1993, players were made partners in the league. Nearly overnight, he says, the number of people in the league over the height of 7′ skyrocketed. “Today, if you know a man over 7′, there’s a 17 percent chance he’s in the NBA right now,” says Epstein.

Another example of a body particularly well-suited to a sport: Kenyan runners. Epstein points out that it isn’t all Kenyans who are amazing marathoners, but those from the Kalenjin tribe, which accounts for about 12 percent of the population. This tribe has “legs that are very long and very thin at the extremities.” Epstein explains that this leg shape is not only ideal for cooling purposes but, because the legs swing like pendulums while running, this shape is more energy efficient. While 17 American men in history have run a marathon in under 2:10, “32 Kalenjin men did that last October.”

And still, there is another entire set of factors at play: the psychological. Human beings are pushing themselves to take on greater physical feats than ever before, which requires a mental push too. “The brain acts as a limiter, preventing us from accessing all our resources to prevent us from hurting ourselves,” says Epstein. “The more we learn how that limiter functions, the more we can learn how to push it back.”

Epstein gives the example of Kilian Jornet Burgada, who recently did a vertical assent of 8,000 feet, going up and down in three hours. “Talented though he is, Kilian is not a physiological freak,” says Epstein. “Other athletes now will follow, as they did Sir Roger Banister.”

Because after all, the human body is uniquely suited to athletics. We have little body fur, sweat glands that keep us cool, joints that absorb shocks and amazing butt muscles that help us run upright, says Epstein. “Innovation in sports, the democratization of sport and the spread to new bodies and new populations have conspired to make athletes stronger, bolder and better than ever,” says Epstein.

Live From TED

Why Tai Chi Is As Good For You As CrossFit

Why Tai Chi Is As Good For You As CrossFit

You’ve probably seen groups of people practicing tai chi in a park, so you have some idea what it’s all about. Slow, mindful movements. No weights. Low intensity. The practice combines aspects of ancient Chinese medicine, philosophy and martial arts, and it’s the antithesis of most modern exercise programs that emphasize fast, vigorous activity.

Indeed, certain parts of tai chi are thousands of years old. But while tai chi may look mundane—even boring to some—experts who’ve studied it say its benefits are vast and hard to oversell.

Tai chi is a richly researched exercise, with health improvements ranging from better blood pressure scores to a sharper mind. “We’ve seen improved immunity to viruses and improved vaccine response among people who practiced tai chi,” says Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of behavioral sciences and director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. During the past 15 years, Irwin has published more than a dozen studies linking tai chi to lower rates of insomnia, depression, illness and inflammation.

It holds up when compared to other more strenuous types of exercise. “Over time, we see people who do tai chi achieve similar levels of fitness as those who walk or do other forms of physical therapy,” Irwin says. One study in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that tai chi was nearly as effective as jogging at lowering risk of death among men. Another review in PLOS One found that the practice may improve fitness and endurance of the heart and lungs, even for healthy adults.

Part of that is due to tai chi’s soothing effects on the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which tends to activate when a person is under stress. Much like aerobic exercise, tai chi seems to increase hormone and heart-rate measures linked with lower SNS activity, which could partly explain its ties to stronger hearts and lungs, Irwin says.

But how could such low-intensity exercise—something that involves movements with names like “cloud hands” and “lifting a lute”—offer these kinds of fitness perks?

“One of the most striking things we’ve found is that [tai chi’s] physiological impacts can’t be explained by its physical activity component,” Irwin says. It’s the mindful, meditative quality of tai chi that makes it so compelling, and that may explain the practice’s broad benefits.

Tai chi may also be a more approachable form of mindfulness training for those who struggle with the sit-and-breathe forms of meditation. “Directing attention to the body and pairing hand movements with balance and flexibility is easier for a lot of people than breath focus,” Irwin says.

Tai chi may be especially healthful for older or sick adults who can’t perform more vigorous forms of physical activity. Among these groups, the practice is associated with improved balance and mobility, reduced risk of falls and better reaction times, Wayne says. A study in the Journal of Rheumatology tied tai chi to reduced pain and stiffness among people who have arthritis. It may also improve kidney and heart function among people suffering from related health issues, according to another study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.

But maybe the most compelling reason to give tai chi a shot is its ability to strengthen the connections between your mind and body, which can help you move through life with greater awareness and pleasure. “You might enjoy exercise more than you did before because you’re more mindful of your body,” Wayne says. “Or you may avoid injury or falls because of body awareness.”

It’s a rare aspect of exercise. Unlike almost every other form of physical activity, tai chi demands focus, which is central to its meditative benefits. “Even with yoga, you can do it and have your mind be somewhere else,” Irwin says. “It’s very hard to do tai chi and not be present.”

By Markham Heid for  TIME Health

When Should You See Your Athletic Trainer?

By  Haley Overton for Athletico Physical Therapy

Many athletes are familiar with the athletic trainers on their teams. These healthcare professionals are responsible for the prevention, rehabilitation and emergency care of musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses that impact people on the teams they work with.

What many athletes are unsure of, however, is when an ache or pain is worth mentioning to their athletic trainer (AT). Although any sign of injury is a good reason to seek out an AT, here are a few major signs that an athlete should stop by the athletic training room:

Abdominal Pain: Abdominal pain can occur due to numerous reasons, including food poisoning, ulcers or appendicitis. ATs can help identify the source of the pain by conducting a comprehensive assessment on the affected athlete.

Bleeding: External bleeding is typically caused by trauma. Any athlete experiencing external bleeding should stop by the athletic training room so they can get their wound cleaned up and bandaged. ATs can also demonstrate how to properly care for the wound to optimize the healing process.

Chest Pain: Chest pain can occur for a variety reasons, including heart conditions, asthma, GERD (acid reflux) or muscle strain. The sensation can range from mild discomfort to sharp, stabbing pain. Athletes experiencing chest pain may have shortness of breath or feel burning, tightness, fullness or pressure in/around their chest. When these symptoms arise, an AT should be sought out immediately to determine the seriousness of the condition. After performing an assessment, the AT will provide a plan of action specific to the evaluation.

Dislocations: A dislocation occurs when there is separation at the joint line (where two or more bones meet). ATs can identify them, administer immobilization and contact emergency medical services (EMS).

Flu or Cold Symptoms: Athletes should stop by the athletic training room when they are experiencing flu or cold symptoms, such as coughing, congestion, headaches (or pressure in the head), tenderness around the nose and eye area, generalized body aches or fever. ATs can take a detailed history of each symptom and its duration and establish the best next steps for care.

Fractures: Fractures can present in a variety of ways, including open (broken through skin), simple (closed, or non-piercing), displaced (loss of alignment), non-displaced, stress (hairline) and more. Regardless of the type of fracture, medical attention should be sought immediately. ATs are skilled in immobilization techniques and infection control, which can help stabilize and prepare the injury until the athlete can be seen by a physician.

Infections: Infections will typically present as red, swollen, hot, painful and can be coupled with puss. If an infection has begun, ATs can assist with cleaning and dressing the area until the athlete can seek further medical attention from their physician.

Limited Range of Motion: Limited range of motion can be a result of a fracture, dislocation, swelling or nerve dysfunction. Through a series of tests, ATs can determine the cause of the limitation and aid in resolving the issue.

Head Trauma: Head trauma should always be reported to an AT, regardless if consciousness is lost or not. Athletes should keep in mind that it can be difficult to self-recognize concussion symptoms. ATs are specifically trained to identify and assess concussions. The sooner a concussion is diagnosed, the quicker the recovery process can begin.

Loss of Consciousness (without Head Trauma): Loss of consciousness can occur without head trauma due to things like dehydration, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, heart irregularities or syncope. If this occurs, an AT should be alerted immediately so they can ensure that the athlete receives proper care.

Persistent/Increased Symptoms: Nagging aches and pains that haven’t gone away with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) or have even become more severe over time should be examined by an AT. The AT will perform a comprehensive exam and provide next steps for the treatment process, which may include physical therapy, immobilization and/or a referral to a physician.

Rash: A rash will typically present as red, swollen, flat or raised, wet or dry, and can have peeling or crust on top. The affected area may also be itchy or painful. ATs can examine the affected area and ask questions to identify the cause of the rash, which could be an allergic reaction, bacterial infection or viral infection. After the examination, ATs can provide athletes with next steps to start the healing process.

Sprains/Strains: A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments, while a strain is the stretching or tearing of muscle or tendons. Both injuries can present on the spectrum of general soreness to debilitating pain and/or inability to use specific parts of the body. ATs base their diagnosis on an I-III grading scale for both sprains and strains. Although grade I and grade II injuries typically do not need surgery, grade III describes severe damage that oftentimes requires surgery and a longer recovery time. Whenever a sprain or strain is suspected, athletes should be examined by their AT so they can receive a tailored plan to heal the injury properly.

Swelling around an Injury Site: Swelling is often the result of inflammation or build up of fluid following an injury. Although the body uses swelling as a protective and restorative measure, it can extend the return-to-play timeline. An AT can accelerate the healing process by creating the optimal environment for recovery with a few interventions, including cryotherapy (cold therapy), massage, compression devices, electrical stimulation and/or therapeutic exercise. Since the inflammatory phase typically only lasts 72 hours, it is imperative to seek an AT right away so that interventions can be successful.

When in Doubt, Seek an AT Out!

The aforementioned signs and symptoms are just a few of the many reasons that athletes should make a visit to the athletic training room. ATs are skilled in evaluation and diagnosis, which allows them to distinguish between emergent and non-emergent situations. For more serious injuries, ATs can help with contacting EMS or referring the athlete to a physician. A good motto to follow is: “When in doubt, seek your athletic trainer out.”

Click here to learn more about Athletico’s Athletic Training Outreach