As athletes get larger, focus on spinal injuries grows

Kinetic energy is best defined as “the energy possessed by a body because of its motion.”  This physical principle provides a basis for the excitement and attraction of high-velocity collision sports.  Unfortunately, it may also be the basis for their downfall.

It is no secret that athletes have become larger, stronger and faster over the past decade.  Attending a high school or youth sporting event will provide sufficient proof.

The human body is an efficient and durable machine but the question of whether it can withstand the kinetic forces it is currently subjected to in sports is now in question.  This issue has particular importance regarding the bony vertebrae that protect the spinal cord.

Last week alone, two high-profile football players sustained significant spinal injuries.  Devon Walker, a defensive back for Tulane University, suffered an awkward head-to-head collision while tackling an opponent. This resulted in a fracture of the spinal vertebrae just below the skull in an area known as the cervical spine.

Roger Saffold, a tackle for the St. Louis Rams, was also involved in a head-to-head collision and had to be taken from the field on a stretcher.  Although no fracture was reported in Saffold’s injury, there is concern regarding the potential for further injury.

The spinal cord provides the main link for the nervous system between the brain and the peripheral nerves. Those nerves provide sensation and movement.  Head-to-head impacts result in the entire kinetic force of the collision to be directed on the spine.

Similar to other forms of injury, an inflammatory response is triggered and produces swelling and subsequent damage to the nerve fibers.  Unfortunately, this damage is often permanent and results in paralysis of all extremities (quadriplegia) or just the lower extremities (paraplegia).  Aggressive treatment and surgery can often limit damage.

As kinetic forces increase, so does the apparent danger of participation in football and similar sports.  A solution to this dilemma is a necessity.

Cardio Tennis serves up a workout with a twist

Tennis is an exciting sport that incorporates fitness, strategy and technical skill.  The game has now entered a new phase in the form of “Cardio Tennis.”

The modern game of tennis developed in the late 19th century.  Since then, the rules have changed very little. The original lawn surface has added options of clay and a variety of artificial surfaces.

The tennis racquet has undergone dramatic change from its origins.  Originally made from wood with thick strings, the incorporation of space age materials and dramatic changes in the shape and surface area of the racquet over the past 40 years has resulted in an implement that bears little resemblance to its predecessors.

Tennis is a sport that requires episodic bursts of activity that can require extreme fitness as demonstrated by long, intense professional-level volleys or a slow-paced doubles match.

Cardio Tennis is a training program that incorporates tennis skills with a high-energy aerobic work out.  Like other forms of aerobic exercise, the goal is to raise the athlete’s heart rate to a safe level and maintain that level of exertion.

In Cardio Tennis, the emphasis is on the fitness component and ability to burn calories rather than the ability to play tennis.  Constant movement during the hour-long class is combined with returning forehand and backhand volleys.  The groups consist of up to eight participants of varying ages and skills.

“Cardio Tennis is perfect for people looking for an unintimidating, cardiac workout that is designed for all fitness levels,” said Bobby Schlink, a USPTA certified tennis professional who teaches Cardio Tennis at the Lyme Shores Tennis Center.

Multiple studies have confirmed that aerobic exercise performed for sixty minutes three times per week can increase longevity.  Cardio Tennis is one way to achieve that health goal.