Too much of a healthy thing?

The most surprising detail about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal was not that he used performance enhancing drugs. I was more surprised to learn that long-distance cycling might be very unhealthy for riders.

Mr Armstrong’s teammate, Tyler Hamilton writes in his memoir that he was unable to walk short distances even though he was an experienced athlete. The reason might be that cycling affects the body in a specific way.

“Recent medical literature has shown increased cardiac mortality in cyclists related to ultra endurance exercise. With prolonged aerobic exercise the heart muscle thickens and the heart chambers get very efficient at pumping. Unfortunately, some of this muscle thickening interferes with blood flow and sometimes the conductivity of impulses in the heart increases the risk of sudden death from arrhythmia as well as ischemic related complications,” Dr Ty Affleck, a sports medicine specialist, told The Word.

Dr Affleck pointed out that these risks are unique to ultra-endurance sports. People with less demanding fitness regimes are not likely to be at risk as cyclists.

However, some sports do have other risks to the health of players, though not the kind which high-endurance athletes face. American football is another sport which has a lot of health risks. Brain damage caused by concussion to players has been acknowledged for a while. Even the NFL, which denied the connection between football and brain damage, carried out a study in 2009. The NFL’s report showed that diagnoses of brain damage were 19 times higher for players between 30 and 49 than non-players of the same age. Last year 80 former players made a complaint in court against the NFL because the organization hid the risks from players.

Concussion is also a risk in soccer. It can happen when a player accidentally hits his or her head into another player when trying to header the ball. However the more common health complaint for soccer players is knee injuries, especially tearing of the ligament. The injury happens most often when a player turns too quickly.

Rugby players also suffer from head injuries. The organizations which represent the sport claim that rugby is not as dangerous as American football. However, an increasing number of rugby players are complaining about mood swings and headaches probably due to concussion.

This is not to suggest that sport is bad for you. Doctors agree that regular exercise of about 30 minutes a day is necessary to be healthy.

As Dr Affleck said, “Participants with a less vigorous schedule of participation do not seem to suffer these long-term cardiac changes and in fact gain the benefits of aerobic participation including lowered blood pressure, lowered risk of diabetes, improved cholesterol profiles, and greater sense of well-being.”

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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We usually think that playing sport is good for our health. However some sports can create serious health problems.

Tyler Hamilton was once a cyclist. He wrote in his memoir that he was very unhealthy because of cycling. He couldn’t walk short distances even though he was an athlete.

Cyclists also have problems with their hearts. The heart gets damaged from too much riding. Marathon runners can have the same problem.

American football is another sport with dangers. Many players have problems with their memory. Players hit their heads often. The impact causes brain damage.  Last year 80 former players complained in court about the NFL. They said the NFL didn’t tell them about the dangers.

Head injuries also happen in soccer. Players can accidentally hit his or her head into another player. However the more common health complaint for soccer players is knee injuries, especially tearing of the ligament.

Rugby players also suffer from head injuries. More players are complaining about mood swings and headaches.They think head injuries are the reason.

Sport is still good for you but to reduce the problems people shouldn’t exercise too much and should warm up before.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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One of the most surprising revelations to come out of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal was not that the disgraced cyclist took performance enhancing drugs. Call me cynical but the use of drugs in professional sport doesn’t surprise me. Some people will do whatever it takes to win. What does surprise me is the revelation by one of Mr Armstrong’s teammates, Tyler Hamilton, that professional long-distance cycling is quite damaging to the body.

Whatever it takes: To do whatever is necessary

Mr Hamilton writes in his memoir that despite being able to spend hours on his bike, he was unable to walk short distances. His body had become conditioned to cycling and little else. The causes of health problems are various but a lot can be traced back to the constant wear on certain body parts and the unequal use of muscles. Cyclists often complain of pain in the piriformis muscle, located in the thigh near the groin. Pain arises because this is one muscle they don’t use much.

Another health problem for cyclists is changes to the heart. Dr Ty Affleck, a sports medicine specialist, spoke to The Word about how long-distance cycling affects this vital organ.

“Recent medical literature has shown increased cardiac mortality in cyclists related to ultra endurance exercise. With prolonged aerobic exercise the heart muscle thickens and the heart chambers get very efficient at pumping. Unfortunately, some of this muscle thickening interferes with blood flow and sometimes the conductivity of impulses in the heart increases the risk of sudden death from arrhythmia as well as ischemic related complications,” he said.

Dr Affleck pointed out that these risks are unique to ultra-endurance sports. People with less demanding fitness regimes are not likely to suffer the same risks as professional cyclists.

While the cardiac changes are peculiar to high-endurance sports, other sports pose risks of a different sort. One of the most controversial sport related injuries is the prevalence of dementia among American football players. The risk of brain damage to players has been acknowledged for a while. Even the NFL, which had long claimed credible data connecting the sport to dementia didn’t exist, carried out a study in 2009. The NFL’s report found that diagnoses were 19 times higher for players between 30 and 49 than non-players of the same age.

Suit: In civil law a suit, or more correctly, lawsuit is when an action is taken by one person or group to claim that another person or group has caused them loss or injury.

The brain damage is a result of concussions which players routinely suffer. Some of the blows are so severe a player can be KO’d for several minutes. According to one estimate, players can sustain 1,500 hits to the head in a year. Players are not being passive in their concerns. Last year 80 former players filed a class-action suit against the NFL for deceiving them about the risks. The helmet manufacturer Riddle was included. The case has yet to be resolved.

Concussion is a problem in other codes of football. Rugby players are obvious casualties. The play doesn’t officially include direct contact to the head, but the tackling is rough and players can sustain concussions from running into an opponent’s arm or when hitting the ground. At present, rugby’s governing bodies are stressing the difference between rugby and American football. However with an increasing number of players complaining about mood swings and headaches probably due to concussion, attitudes may change.

Even soccer – or football to people in Europe – has risks of concussion. Though rarer due to the non-contact nature of the game, a player can inadvertently bring his or her head in contact with another player when trying to header the ball. However the more common health complaint for soccer players is knee injuries, especially tearing of the ligament. The most common cause is the sudden pivoting on a stiffened leg which can cause the tibia to turn too far in its joint. Knee injuries are also quite common among basketball players and skiers.

Hyphens: Use a hyphen when a phrasal verb becomes a noun. ‘Warm-ups are very important.’ Don’t use a hyphen when it is a verb. ‘Before the match he warmed up.’

This is not to suggest that sport is bad for you. The current medical consensus is that regular exercise of about 30 minutes a day is a necessary part of healthy living. Dr Affleck was very clear on the health benefits of physical exercise.

“Participants with a less vigorous schedule of participation do not seem to suffer these long-term cardiac changes and in fact gain the benefits of aerobic participation including lowered blood pressure, lowered risk of diabetes, improved cholesterol profiles, and greater sense of well-being,” he said.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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