Olympic passion spreads from Europe to eastern Connecticut

A young woman is living in Manhattan in 2007, applying her Ivy League education in the financial field.  It is an ideal life by many standards.  Then, while visiting her sister in Vermont, they go for a bike ride in the hills.  Upon her return to Manhattan, she purchases her own bicycle and begins a daily regimen of riding each morning at 4 a.m. in Central Park.

After several months, she enters an amateur race with her sister.  She not only wins this race but also catches up to the professionals who had started five minutes earlier.

This event sparked a passion in Evelyn Stevens that led her to leave her comfortable life in 2009 to begin a journey that has culminated in her first Olympic cycling competition.

Many Olympic athletes are seasoned veterans in their sports by the time they are teenagers.  Stevens story goes against this trend.  Starting at age 26 may give her a physiological and psychological advantage.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Backus Hospital is sponsoring an Olympic participation program.  The program is designed to encourage participants’ involvement in a variety of sports.

Information regarding this innovative program, along with training tips, can be obtained by going to backushospital.org/medalist

Another Olympic story of interest involves physicians and medical personnel chosen to treat American athletes.  There are 80 medical professionals available to treat 525 athletes.

Among these practitioners are physicians, chiropractors, nurses, athletic trainers and massage therapists.  This team must be ready to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including complex orthopedic problems and general medical issues like influenza.

The Olympic games continue to evolve as a spectacular sports event that provides entertainment value for everyone.

Training the brain for high-speed decision-making

Repetition is a time-honored method for sharpening technical skills needed in an emergency.  Physicians, pilots, soldiers and police have utilized sophisticated simulators to create scenarios requiring rapid and precise decisions for many years.  There may now be a way for athletes to train their brains in a similar way.

The nervous system can be described as an electrical grid with wires (neurons) that interact to form intricate networks.  These networks carry sensory and motor signals that result in conscious actions. Neural plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to create new pathways that replace injured areas of the nervous system.

Recent studies have looked at a generation of subjects who have been playing video games.  The results show that people who play action games are able to make decisions 25% faster than people who don’t, without sacrificing accuracy.

Experienced video game players can process information and act on the information four times faster than non-gamers.

Axon Sports is known for designing and implementing computerized cognitive testing used in the assessment of concussion.  Their latest venture involves training the brain to make rapid and accurate decisions in a variety of athletic situations.

Computerized sports training is specific to an athlete’s sport and position played.  Quarterbacks are presented with different defenses and batters visualize various pitches.  One goal is to present many game situations without subjecting the player to injury.

The “athletic brain” is trained for high-speed decision-making, visualization, emotional regulation, focus, reaction and spatial reasoning.

“The athletic brain is a vehicle for athletes to make optimal decisions in game-time situations,” said Jason Sada, President of Axon Sports.

Soon these computerized training programs will be accessible to the general public and many young athletes.

In addition to aerobic and resistive training it appears that cognitive training is becoming an essential component to a balanced fitness regimen.