The Olympics aren't the only athletic showcase in Vancouver this year! The Paralympic Games begin soon. To get in the know with all things Paralympics, read the latest IPC newsletter.
What are you most looking forward to about the Paralympic Games?
By Peter Gerbino, M.D.
Approaching the 2010 Winter Olympics, figure skating is in the spotlight. Those who know that I travel as a Team Physician with U.S. Figure Skating want to know why skaters need a doctor, what injuries they get and how they are treated.
Figure skaters are among the fittest athletes in the world. They train as hard as track and field athletes and get banged up as much as lacrosse players. All skaters are injured in some manner most of the time. The injuries include tendinitis, pulled muscles and bruises. At the Olympics, any serious orthopedic problems will disqualify the skater. Minor orthopedic conditions will have been treated and the skater will have a plan. Most of the medical problems are the kinds of issues seen by athletes at any large event. These include respiratory infections (coughs and colds), fatigue problems from sleep disturbance, time shifting, anxiety or dietary changes, and stomach problems from viruses or eating unusual foods. Most athletes have developed strategies to minimize these potentially disabling conditions.
There is no limit to advice from athletes, coaches, parents and self-appointed specialists. Very little has any science behind it. One strategy that does have science behind it concerns stretching before exercise. The finding of a very well-conducted study was that stretching before exercise may not provide any benefit. Most trainers now recommend only warm-up before training or competition and recommend stretching for specific tightness issues. The study most often cited for this is: THACKER, S. B., J. GILCHRIST, D. F. STROUP, and C. D. KIMSEY, JR. The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 371-378, 2004.
Good general recommendations for figure skating can be found on the Internet at many locations. The USFS Web site is a great place to start. Other sites include:
Olympic skaters will have the same risks of injury that all skaters have. Most skaters have rituals they go through before a competition to ward off illness, jitters, fatigue and injury. Whether these rituals have a scientific basis or not is only partially relevant. What is most important is that the athlete remains focused and confident.
It would be fascinating and instructive if skaters posted their eating, sleeping and injury-prevention strategies on the
By Diane Hart, ACSM Alliance Member
By Diane Hart, ACSM Alliance Member
The Northern Canadian House was on our agenda today. It was a spectacular display of the native art and animal species of the Arctic Nunavut and
The foregoing exhibits were a good break from the frenetic pace of the Olympic venues and also extremely educational. Walking around
It is amazing to see so many people from around the world concentrated in a small area and certainly makes the Olympic slogan of "GO WORLD!" very appropriate. Gigantic TV screens on every street keep you current on whatever Olympic event is in progress and various cheers erupt from the crowds on the street when their country scores.
Again, the weather is very conducive to being outdoors and the air is crisp, clean and very breathable. Canadian footwear has been elevated to spectacular and they sure know how to make great boots, beautiful leather purses and men's loafers. I managed to find the first Pandora jewelry store (which just opened last week) in
I will be attending the Victory Ceremony tomorrow when many of the event medals will be awarded and I will hold my breath when the American flag is raised.
By Alan Remde, M.D., FAAFP
Vitamin D (actually a hormone), is an essential fat-soluble hormone required for the health of the bones, muscles, heart and blood vessels, nervous, immune and other systems of the body. Given that many of these systems are critical for athletic performance, the adequacy of vitamin D status is relevant for Olympic athletes.
Sources & requirements: The majority (~ 90%) of vitamin D is derived from direct sunlight (cannot be through windows, sunscreens or clothes) when the sun is at least 40 degrees above the horizon. Thus at latitudes above 35 degrees, there is a “vitamin D winter” when none of us can make enough vitamin D from the sun, and we rely on stored vitamin D banked during the warmer months. The amount of sunlight needed is modest – in the range of 10 to 45 minutes per day, and thus should not pose a significant risk of skin cancer in most people. This range varies due to factors such as darkness of the skin, older age, air pollution and many other factors that reduce the ability to make Vitamin D from sunlight. For example, for people with medium-light skin who gradually tan but sometimes burn (Skin Type 3), 15-30 minutes of sunlight most days is probably adequate. Only a small proportion comes from dietary sources such as oily fish and fortified dairy products, and these should not solely be relied on to satisfy the body’s total requirement.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in athletes. Deficiency is associated with osteoporosis (thinning of bones), stress fractures, muscle weakness, falls, poor coordination, depression and fatigue, as well as many other problems. More research is required to confirm that optimizing Vitamin D levels improves performance. (Cannell, J. J., et. al. Athletic Performance and Vitamin D. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 41, No. 5, pp. 1102–1110, 2009).
Vitamin D status can be assessed with a blood test for 25 (OH) Vitamin D level.
Prevention: Taking 1000 to 2000 units daily of Vitamin D3 in the colder months will help maintain stores.
Deficiency is treated with higher doses, e.g. 50,000 units oral vitamin D3 weekly for 8–16 weeks. (Modern nutrition in health and disease/senior editor, Maurice E. Shils; associate editors, Moshe Shike…[et al.].—10th ed. Chapter on Vitamin D)
Discussion question: What other vitamins may be necessary for athletic success in the Olympic Games?
By Robyn Knutson Bueling, M.D.
When he steps onto the ice for the first moments of his seven-minute Olympic experience, United States Figure Skating National Champion Jeremy Abbot will put his 20 years of training to the test. Few people have ever reached the pinnacle of sport and attended the Olympics, and few of us understand the perfectly coordinated training that goes into reaching that height.
The average elite figure skater first donned skates in preschool. He likely began in a group lesson, once or twice a week, but once his talent or love for the sport was identified, his training became much more complicated. By the end of elementary school, most promising young figure skaters have made the decision to specialize in their sport, and many will eventually move away from home to train. Once they reach their Olympic dream, most have put in 10, or even 15 years of serious training. Jeremy began in
In an average week, the typical elite figure skater trains six days. He spends the majority of each of those days focused on his craft. A typical day includes two or three training sessions on ice, one or two off-ice sessions, warm-ups, cool-downs, calculated nutrition, visualization and mental training, in addition to the media demands of a national champion.
In a typical skating session, Jeremy will skate 45 or 60 minutes. During that time, he will spend some or all of it with a coach. He has a primary coach, technique coaches for jumps and spins, choreographers and off-ice coaches, each responsible for just a piece of his day. An on-ice session often features 10 or 20 minutes of aerobic skating, including edge-work, speed-work and agility training. He typically performs five or 10 repetitions of each of the seven triple jumps in his repertoire, to total at least 50 total jumps at a force of up to seven times his body weight on each landing. He also includes a quadruple jump in his competitive repertoire and will practice it another five or 10 times. This amounts to upwards of 125-175 jumps daily. He will also perfect his 2-½ minute short program or his 4 ½ minute long program during each on-ice training session. Often, he will run programs back-to-back, to improve endurance, or will run short segments of each program repetitively in interval style. Finally, a session often ends with perfection of short segments of footwork, again in interval fashion, or with spinning practice that focuses on speed and flexibility.
Before and after each on-ice session, Jeremy spends another 20 minutes on his warm-up and 10 minutes on his cool-down. Warm-ups include jogging and jumping rope, dynamic stretching, and dry-land run-throughs of jumps and competitive programs. While cooling down, he focuses again on flexibility, along with monitoring his heart rate and fluid status.
In addition to the portion of his day that focuses on training on the ice, a top figure skater will also spend significant time doing off-ice training. He will alternate training days, with three days per week dedicated to the weight room and three days in the ballet room. While in the gym, he will spend an hour, split between additional cardio training, proprioception, core strength, sport-specific strength training, and, depending on his location in the year’s periodized training table, plyometrics. In the ballet studio, he often performs 30 minutes of yoga or Pilates, followed by 30 minutes of dry-land choreography and musical movement training.
The end result is a minimum of five hours and occasionally as much as seven hours of each day dedicated to training for his sport. Additionally, he prepares meals carefully, concentrates on consistent sleep patterns, and trains his mind using visualization techniques from his sport psychologist. He visits his physical therapist in between media activities, and never knows when USADA might knock on his door for a random drug test. It is a life that he loves, but one that would tire even the reader, let alone the athlete himself.
How do athletes in other sports arrange their training day, year, or preparations for competition at their highest levels?
Why do you think sports differ so significantly in their training patterns?
What training issues should clinicians consider when setting treatment plans for athletes, both to speed up their return to competition and to prevent re-injury through overtraining?
Carl Foster, Ph.D., FACSM, is Professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the
Heather Richardson, a former elite inline speed skater, is competing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in ice speed skating (a similar, but distinctly different sport) and in three different events. While this seems like an unusual transition, it is remarkable in that Heather has only been speed skating on ice for a comparatively short time. However, it is not as unusual as one might think at first. Ever since KC Boutiette became the first “inliner” to successfully transition to ice speed skating at a high level (winning a place on the 1994 Olympic Team), there have been a number of inliners who have successfully made the transition to ice, including Jennifer Rodriquez (2x bronze in 2002), Derek Parra (gold and silver in 2002), Joey Cheek (bronze in 2002, gold and silver in 2006), and Chad Hedrick (gold, silver and bronze in 2006). There have been several other former inliners who have been good enough to make Olympic teams, although not quite getting onto the podium.
Speed skating is, like running, cycling, swimming, and Nordic skiing, an energy-demanding sport, where the main criterion for competitive success is the ability to propel oneself faster than their competitors. As such, it requires a very good physiology in terms of both aerobic and anaerobic energy production. However, speed skating is very much a sport that requires propulsive efficiency, being able to time the push-off to the split second and as well as with the proper form. In that regard, elite inline skaters have some real chance for high-level performance in that they are already very good skaters, and only have to make the adaptation to a steel blade instead of wheels. The dependence on technique also means that athletes like Heather can do multiple events; if you are a good skater, you are a good skater. There are differences in the sports. In ice speed skating the technique is typically more “static” (read “painful for the legs”) and there is no opportunity to skate with your competitor and ride in their draft. In that regard, the sports are very different emotionally; in ice speed skating, you are racing the clock and your nearest competitor may not be in the same pairing.
In most inline events, you are head-to-head with your major competitors. It’s a whole different feel of racing. The transfer of weight and the use of the “rocker” (slight curve) of the skate blade is also very different than the technique of using wheels to transfer energy to the earth. Not every inliner, even the very good ones, can make the transition to ice. However, even with perhaps only 10% of elite inliners able to make the transition, the “wheels to ice” program is one of the major talent pools for U.S. Speed Skating. In fact, until the last year, the program was coached by Derek Parra, one of the most successful athletes at crossing from wheels to ice. Derek is now the long-distance coach for U.S. Speed Skating. So, I’ll be watching with interest when Heather “goes to the start.” Based on the result of other inliners who have crossed over, she might provide a pleasant surprise for American fans.
By Sharon A. Chirban, Ph.D.
That is the question often haunting an athlete following an unexpected loss during high-level competition. For many athletes, it was achieving Olympic-level competition that drove years and years of training and preparation. For some sports (figure skating, ski racing, skeleton, etc.), the Olympics are the largest venue for competition and the Games only come around every four years.
Reorganizing one's identity following athletic loss can be one of the most challenging experiences an athlete faces after the rigors of training and mental preparation for the Olympic stage. Depending on the reasons for the loss (and they have ranged, in Olympic years, from family tragedies to catastrophic injury to burnout, to just not “having it” on the day of competition), the athlete can have a range of feelings from shame for self or for one’s country to anger and extreme feelings of disappointment and/or disorientation.
Some pick themselves back up and commit immediately to their next four years of training. This is a quick resolution to restore the identity and pursue their life path – as many athletes do, over and over. For others, the disillusionment, the pain, the shame can last for months, even years. For these athletes, its often the end of a long road and without glory. It can be devastating to try to make sense of the years of commitment to training and a disciplined lifestyle with an unintended outcome.
Many high-level athletes talk about not knowing who they are outside of their performance domain. Researchers (Palmer, 1981) explain that who athletes feel they are is heavily dependent on what roles they have carried out. For some, it’s the only role they know, and adjustment to post-athletic life can be very difficult. Those who identify more with their athletic role (Brewer, Van Raalte, and Linder, 1993) often have traded other life roles in order to pursue training and competition at the highest levels. Recovering from this kind of identity disorganization often follows similar stages as recovering from loss. Some athletes who do not move through the phases with ease may need professional assistance to negotiate a reorganized identity to make a healthy transition to post-athletic career adjustment.
Post your comments: What cases of emotional distress and disappointment from competitive loss have you seen in athletes you’ve worked with?
By Diane Hart, ACSM
Wish you were here!
When people travel and say “Wow, the people are really friendly,” that would definitely be an understatement for the people of
I watched last evening at the Pacific Coliseum venue as Apollo Anton Ohno won a silver medal and went down in history as the most decorated male Olympian of the Winter Olympics. The strength and endurance on the ice demonstrated by all the athletes can be felt in your heart and the agony of defeat of the fallen skaters is certainly more agonizing when seen in person rather than on a TV screen – no matter how high-def the TV! I decorated myself in red, white and blue, including a
Visiting the Coca-Cola celebration site was amazing and the entire focus of the exhibit was on recycling of plastic bottles and preserving our environment. They even offered a free professional photo with a replica of the Olympic torch which they would download directly to your computer. What fun.
The weather is definitely not what I expected. I purchased every piece of puffy, down-filled clothing that I could find and I don’t even need to wear gloves because the temperature is pretty constant at 50 degrees with off-and-on rain. It is definitely spectator weather and unfortunately not athlete’s weather, because many events have had to be postponed. Today I was supposed to be at
“Enjoy the moment” is one of the slogans of the Vancouver Olympics and I am doing just that and it is truly remarkable. More to come...
By Gemmie S. Devera, PA-C, MPH
Olympic Figure Skating consists of women’s singles, men’s singles, pairs, and ice dancing. Elite competitors skate at the senior level. To reach this level, skaters must pass 16 rigorous tests in Moves in the Field and Free Skating. Moves in the Field showcase skating skills and transition elements such as spirals, a move that involves balancing on the skating leg and extending the free leg, or non-skating leg, into the air. Free Skating moves highlight jumps, spins, and transition elements in a choreographed program. Ice dancers complete a separate series of dance tests.
Each Olympic year, the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships double as the Olympic Trials. The number of athletes a country can send to the Games depends on the country’s placements at the previous year’s World Figure Skating Championships. Winners from the last U.S. National Championships or World Championships automatically qualify for the U.S. Nationals. Other athletes qualify from a top placement at another major event or by advancing through both Regional and Sectional Championships.
At the Olympics, the women, men, and pairs have six minutes to complete short and long programs. The top men will attempt quadruple jumps that rotate four times before landing. The women will attempt triple – triple combinations. Pairs will attempt dangerous twists, throws and lifts. Ice dancers will display their unison with intricate footwork sequences in three dance performances.
Reaching the Olympic podium takes strength, flexibility, endurance, musicality, charisma and strong mindsets. Skaters typically train at least 15 hours on the ice, five days per week, and also do off-ice training. Skaters need strong core muscles to pull the body in tightly and rotate. A triple axel, for example, uses a forward take-off from a quarter-of-an-inch skate blade and completes three-and-one-half revolutions in 0.7 seconds. Skaters acquire strength from skating, Pilates, or weight training. Yoga and ballet increase flexibility and awareness of body position in space. Run-throughs of skating programs build endurance. Music and the arts develop musicality and a point of view. Periodization of training helps skaters avoid injury. Elite skaters have achieved a certain level of athletic performance, and a positive mindset allows skaters to express figure skating’s unique blend of artistry and athleticism on the Olympic stage.
Discussion question: What training aspects in the days before the Olympics, mental or physical, are most important for a peak performance?