Little League Shoulder (LLS)

Who knew there was such a thing?  If you have a youth athlete in Little League, you probably do.  New research has been presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Annual Meeting in which researchers discuss the prevalence of LLS in youth sports.

The study looked at 95 kids 8-17 years old diagnosed with LLS.  Unsurprisingly, according to the authors, 97% of the kids were pitchers and 50% were between the ages of 12 and 13.  This is a vulnerable time for developing bodies.  So much growth can occur during this time, throwing mechanics are constantly changing to accommodate the growth taking place.  Add to that the additional stress tissue recovery and repair place on the growing body and it is not difficult to see why so many of these kids are suffering injuries!

Once the injury occurs, most of the athletes require physical therapy and 50%require a change of position when they return to play.  The saddest part of all of this is that many of these injuries could be avoided all together with shortened seasons and later sports specialization.  These two factors would give the vulnerable shoulder a chance to rest and repair while the athlete plays another sport that doesn’t stress the shoulder joint in the same way throwing-intensive baseball does.  When you consider that the average recovery time for LLS is 4.2 months and the athlete only has a 50% chance of being able to play their position when they return, it seems like a no brainer to make the changes in their training schedule to minimize their risk and keep them able to play baseball long into adulthood.

Need some guidelines to help keep your athletes safe?  Click here!

Thinking about the Running Shoe

When I look around the gym, the ubiquitous running shoe is everywhere.  From minimalist to the highly supportive and cushioned, running shoes are definitely the footwear of choice.  And they’re good for everything, right?  Not exactly.

Running shoes are designed for forward motion.  Until relatively recently, almost all of them had a heel rise and a cushioned sole.  These design elements serve to assist you in your stride and reduce the impact shock on the joints.  The tread is designed to provide varying amounts if grip but always oriented toward forward motion — which is exactly what you need for running.  Playing basketball, tennis, or a pickup game of soccer on the other hand, is something else entirely.  These sports all require movements in a number of different directions (forward, sideways, backwards) and pivoting changing of direction movements.  None of which are factored into the running shoe design.

Think about the last set of indoor soccer shoes or an athletic shoe designed for a court sport (a true tennis shoe).  The shoe itself is flat (no heel lift) and the tread pattern often has a circular grib on the forefoot.  This is to provide some grip but not too much resistance to the knee as a person pivots on the shoe — which saves the knee a certain amount of torque.

Now consider strength training and the running shoe.  That cushioned sole is actually absorbing some of the power transfer you get from your feet pushing against the floor — exactly what its supposed to do for running but not a great use of force when strength training. The cushioned sole also provides an unstable surface to stand on while your are lifting.  Not a bad thing if you are lifting well below what you are capable of, however, if you’re lifting closer to your max, the muscles, ligaments, and tendons stabilizing your ankles may be working harder than they should to provide the ankle stability you need to complete your lift. In addition to that, you’ve got the heel lift which puts you up on your toes.  Even if you sink your weight through your heels as you should, your feet are still sitting at an angle due to the structure of the shoe.

All of these factors should make us rethink our choice of footwear for the gym.  It’s all about using the right tool for the right job to minimize our risk of injury.  I’m not suggesting that running shoes have no place in the weight room or on the gym floor, however, if you find yourself getting serious about your lifting, or playing a court sport often, you may want to think about investing in footwear designed for these activities so you limit your risk of sprain or strain from wearing the wrong shoes.

How do Coconut water, sports drinks, and plain water compare for rehydration?

We’ve talked quite a bit about the role sports drinks should play in maintaining proper hydration levels for athletes.  One of the newest players in the hydration game is coconut water.  Often this product is sold as a more natural (and therefore more effective) hydration drink compared to commercial brands such as PowerAde and Gatorade.  In a recent study published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers compared the effectiveness of coconut water to a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink.

What the researchers found was:

“Findings from the present investigation indicate that all of the tested beverages are capable of promoting rehydration after one hour of dehydrating exercise. With few exceptions at selected time points, findings for all rehydration variables were essentially the same when comparing the carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink, coconut water (concentrated and not from concentrate), and bottled water.”

Something worth noting is the study design of “dehydrating exercise lasting an hour”.  Often, this is the timeframe we work in, however, we cannot assume longer duration exercise resulting in greater levels of dehydration would be addressed equally by water, commercial sports drinks, and coconut water.  There are plenty of studies out there supporting commercially prepared sports drinks providing superior rehydration to athletes exercising at high intensity for longer than an hour or in extremely high humidity/temperature environments.

The key, as with anything else in sports, is to make sure you are using the right tool for the job.  Sometimes that should be plain water.  Sometimes that should be a drink to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during play — just make sure you are picking the right rehydration tool to support your goals.

 

Youth Athletes Train for Life

Diabetes, heart disease and cancer are the top three killers in the US and exercise can help prevent them all!  For health conscious parents, one of the big upsides of youth athletics is helping kids to learn how much fun exercise can be and having them take that lesson into their adulthood.

Without the proper training, however, injuries sustained in youth athletics could actually increase the risk for a sedentary adulthood.  Recent estimates from American Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) indicate 5.5 million youth and high school athletes receive treatment for a sports related injury each year.  While those injuries range from minor to significant, the shear volume of injuries should give us pause.

The National Institutes of Health research shows the greatest number of youth sports injuries come from three causes:

  • Accidents
  • Poor training procedures
  • Use of the wrong gear or protective equipment

While there is nothing to be done about the accidents that occur in sports, the other two leading risks can be significantly reduced with a little education and small changes to training procedures.

Prehab — this is a term used for training targeting the prevention of common injuries.  Strong muscles and proper body mechanics can significantly reduce the risk of injury to vulnerable joints such as the knees and elbows.  Even though athletes have been jumping, landing and running since childhood, many are not employing mechanics to minimize impact and twisting forces on the knees.  Tight hips may limit movements in the upper body, increasing the risk of elbow injuries associated with throwing sports.  An athletic trainer, sports performance coach, or physical therapist can work with a youth athlete to teach them proper training techniques and mechanics and reduce their risk of injury over their lifetime.

Muscular imbalances — muscles work in pairs — chest and upper back/rear shoulders, abs/lower back, quads/hamstrings, etc.  While one set is contracting to create movement, the opposite set of muscles work to control the movement.  Typically, a particular sport uses a specific set of muscles most often, this can cause one half of a muscle pair to become stronger than its counterpart.  This can cause any number of injuries — from strains in the weaker muscle to unstable joints.  A well-rounded strength training program can bring these pairs back into balance.

What are some other common sense precautions to reduce an athlete’s risk of injury?  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Take breaks: during practice sessions and games to reduce risk of injury and prevent heat illness.

Use the appropriate gear: proper fit is an important piece of gear reducing the risk of injury.  And technological advances in materials and research of sports injuries are changing how protective gear is constructed.  Make sure your protective gear is up to date.

Stay hydrated:  Athletes should be drinking water before, during, and after exercise.  Wearing light, wicking clothing to help keep cool.  Coaches and trainers should limit practice and play when heat or humidity is high.

Build strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons:  Each of these of tissue have their own growth rate — ligaments and tendons take longer to strengthen.  The weakest of these tissues will determine the overall strength of them all.

Increase flexibility: Stretching should be an important part of overall training and competition — not a tacked on extra if there’s time.  Make sure to stretch after muscles are warmed up!

Always use proper technique.  If an athlete is too tired to maintain proper technique, they are too tired to play or compete.  Proper technique is what keeps an athlete safe!

Play safe: coaches and leaders should enforce strict rules against headfirst sliding (eg in baseball), spearing (football), and body checking (ice hockey), and stop the activity if there is any pain.

There is no magic bullet to ensure youth athletes stay injury-free into adulthood but following these common sense principles give athletes the best shot of thriving for a lifetime in the positive environment sports can create.

 

Can Dairy Foods help improve your Performance?

Without strong bones, athletes run huge risks when walking — let alone competing in sports.  We have learned since childhood that dairy foods are an important source of calcium in our diets but what about the other nutrients needed to maintain bone health?

Calcium (Ca), inorganic phosphate (Pi), vitamin D, and protein are nutrients that impact bone and skeletal muscle integrity. Deficiency in the supply of these nutrients increases with aging. Dairy foods are rich in Ca, Pi, and proteins and in many countries are fortified with vitamin D. Dairy foods are important sources of these nutrients and go a long way to meeting the recommendations, which increase with aging.

Recent fad diet trends have pushed to limit or eliminate dairy from our diet all together.  For athletes, it is an important consideration to ensure adequate nutrient intake to support strong bone and muscle health.  Dairy foods provide several of these nutrients in forms our bodies know how to absorb and digest.

Along with these nutrients, dairy also provides protein.  Dietary protein, while often associated solely with muscle recovery, also promotes bone formation by stimulating both Ca and Pi intestinal absorption and the production of a bone growth factor. And while vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, vitamin D and protein supplementation are required together to improve strength.”

This is just another example of how nutrients work together and their sum is greater than their parts.  With athletes competing at older and older ages, it’s more important than ever to take care of our bones — both as a means of preventing future injuries and improving our bone and muscle health today!

 

 

What is 18 times dirtier than a toilet handle? Your electronics!

Think about all the places your phone and headphones end up:

  • Bottom of your gym bag next to your sweaty socks
  • Next to the sink in the locker room
  • On the floor next to your stretching mat
  • On your kitchen counter
  • In a sweat-soaked armband

….gross!!

And unlike your performance clothing — you can’t just pop them into wash and clean them up with some soap and hot water!

Cleaning electronics can be tricky but don’t be afraid to detach the rubber covers on many of the earbud style headphones and wash them in warm, soapy water.  Just remember to dry them thoroughly before you put them back over the speaker to prevent water from getting into the speaker.

The mesh screens over the speakers can be cleaned with a mild (less than 3% concentration) of hydrogen peroxide.  This can be done by applying a little peroxide to the screens and letting them sit for 5 minutes to soften the wax.  Once the wax is soft, take a small toothbrush and carefully brush the wax off the screens.  When you’re finished make sure to gently shake out any excess liquid from the headphones.

For your phone (which, by the way, has been found to be 18 times dirtier than a toilet handle!), do some research.  Each phone manufacturer uses different types of materials in the construction of their phone.  Glass, for example, will need different cleaning solutions than certain plastics.  And many phones have coatings on their surfaces to reduce the collection of oil on the phone.  You don’t want to use a product that would remove those coatings!

The popular phone and headphone manufacturers have sites devoted to giving you accurate information on how to keep their products in good working order.  Our advice: USE THEM!  We take our phones into all sorts of germ-infested environments — makes sure to clean them up!

 

 

Why are 3 States are Sueing the makers of 5 Hour Energy

Between what energy drinks do and what they say they do lies a huge gap in scientific knowledge.  This lack of evidence is leading 3 states (Oregon, Washington, and Vermont — with more states expected to follow) to sue Living Essentials, the manufacturer of 5 Hour Energy.

Oregon’s original lawsuit has its basis in the idea that the company has violated Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act by making claims about the products that are “false, misleading and/or unsubstantiated by competent, reliable scientific evidence”.  Washington and Vermont filed similar suits on similar grounds.

Several claims are called to issue but the one I find most interesting is whether  any ingredient in the drink besides the caffeine is responsible for providing extra energy, focus, and alertness.  Caffeine has been found to provide these benefits, although to be more precise, caffeine has the ability to mask fatigue — not necessarily take it away.  But the role of 5 Hour Energy’s “unique combination of ingredients to boost energy” has yet to be determined to the satisfaction of the scientific community.

Hopefully, the suit will be a wake-up call to the American public who is spending $750 million dollars a year on energy drinks, making them the fastest growing segment of the $10 billion beverage market.  These products aren’t offering anything that couldn’t achieved given a healthy diet and enough sleep.

I think Fooducate said it best:

“Like many other processed products that are supposed to make us healthier, thinner, sexier, smarter, AND more alert, there is unfortunately not enough evidence to support their claimed benefits. These products are targeted at young people who don’t always exercise proper judgment. And at older people who are looking for a panacea that does not exist.”

Don’t let your performance rest on marketing claims made by those that can’t backup their claims with research.  There’s just no substitute for what a nutritious diet, plenty of water, and enough sleep can do.

Interested in learning more about the suit? Click here!

 

 

Fit for Life

We have this idea that once an athlete, always an athlete and those that played in college are, somehow, more highly evolved in the “fitness for life” world.  A new study out indicated this is just not the case.

The purpose of this study was to ”to equip student-athletes with solid foundations to maintain strong, healthy lifestyles long after their last competition.”  What the study found was that college athletes need help transitioning from sport-specific training, which is what they know well, to general/lifetime fitness programming.

It’s been my experience, many former student athletes need help in creating the mindset shift from the overarching goal of competition to one dominated by health.  We’ve talked about clarifying goals in the past (when your goal is to win, the strongest course of action may be something that puts you at greater risk of injury.  However, when your goal is lifetime health, given that same choice of actions, you would chose the option that brings you closer to health — which could mean choosing a rest day over a competition day).  College athletes are not trained to think this way –even Little League athletes, U12 soccer players, and other youth athletes are not trained to put their health first!

Perhaps this is worth giving some thought.  As parents, coaches, and even teammates, what skills are we teaching our athletes.  As athletes ourselves, once we are finished with high-level competition, what skills do we have to fall back on to keep us physically fit and healthy?  If you’re not sure how to make the transition from being coached to prepare for competition to self-coaching to maintain a lifetime of health, maybe it’s time to start investigating the differences in those training methods and skill sets.  You don’t want to be one of the 40% of former athletes the study found was not even meeting the ACSM guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week!!

Ways to keep your shoes in good smelling shape

Shoes wear out quick enough – 300-500 miles happens faster than you might think!  So don’t let odor be the reason you avoid wearing your favorite pair of running shoes!

Here are a couple suggestions to fight the stink and create a healthy environment for your feet.

1. Remember that odor comes from bacteria.  Bacteria like damp, dark places to grow.  After your workout, make sure you untie and open up your shoes.  Pulling the tongue toward the toe to will open them even further.  This will let the air circulate as much as possible and get the shoe dry before your next workout.

2. Use deodorant on your feet.  I know it sounds kind of weird but why wouldn’t it work? Spray deodorant is easier to apply but if you choose to use the solid, just make sure you’re buying a stick EXCLUSIVELY for using on your feet.  This will keep them dry and reduce the rate of bacteria growth.

3. Make sure you have good socks.  Sock technology has come a long way!  Socks woven with silver threads actually do have antibacterial properties.  If your foot odor is bad, it may be worth investing in high tech socks.  If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, make sure you are changing your cotton socks often.  Every workout at a minimum! But on especially long and hot workout days (August is right around the corner!), you may want to change into fresh socks when you stop for a water break.

4. Tea bags, baby powder, baking soda, and Febreze are all options to deodorize your shoes after every workout.  Experiment and find the product you like the best.

5. Don’t be afraid to wash your fabric shoes — just don’t put them in the dryer!  Wash in warm water with detergent and some ammonia or Oxiclean.  If they are especially gross, you can let them soak.  Just remember: don’t dry them!  The high temps in the dryer (although another great way to kill bacteria) can cause the glue holding your shoes together to fail.  Just run them through the wash, open them up as discussed above, and let them air dry.

The summer is moving along and if you have been sweating in your shoes, it may be a great time to clean them up!  Both for your sake and the sake of your workout partner!

 

MCT – what is it? And…will it help you?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil has been popping up around the media (think Dr. Oz and the like) as a way to improve athletic performance.  MCT is touted to improve muscle gain and fat loss. But before you out to get yourself some, let’s look behind the curtain.

First, MCT is an oil not naturally found in this form. Made from coconut and palm kernel oils, which are solid at room temperature, this oil has gone through a process that removed some of the saturated fats from each molecule.  This changes its physical properties from the naturally occurring solid at room temperature to a liquid at room temperature.

One interesting fact about MCT’s, and part of the reason they have gained some attention, is they may be more readily absorbable than longer chain fats.  They are also easily converted into usable fuel for muscle and organ tissues.  This can mean they are less likely to be stored by the body as fat.

Be that as it may, MCT oil comes with a list of side effects ranging from the increased by-product production of ketones and creating an increased workload on the liver (where is it metabolized) to nausea and gastric discomfort.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that research has not come to a solid conclusion on whether the benefits of this supplement outweigh the risks.  It is a case of not enough research to make a determination…yet.

Studies are mixed on whether this type of oil will actually improve body composition and whether, in all cases, it is used efficiently as a fuel source.  And it is a fat — which means it packs a caloric punch.  Adding it to your diet without limiting calories somewhere else is likely to result in weight gain.

You may not want to fall for the hype.  Save your dollars — each nutritious food, train hard, rest well, and let your body do what it was designed to do.  MCT is not the miracle in the bottle some people are claiming.