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Preventing Sports Injuries

Hamstring tears are very common soccer injuries. A study in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports shows that preseason strength training helps to prevent injuries to these muscles in the back of the upper legs (Volume 13, Issue 4, 2003). Players from two of the best soccer teams in Sweden were divided into two groups. One group received specific hamstring training of 10 weeks of twice a week, using a special device to overload the hamstrings eccentrically. The trained group had less than one third the hamstring injuries of the untrained group, and also had greater improvement in hamstring strength and running speed.

The findings of this study should encourage preseason strength training for other muscle groups stressed in any sports. While stretching can make muscles longer to exert a greater torque on joints, it has not been shown to prevent injuries. Muscles are injured because the force on them is greater than their inherent strength, so they tear. Resistance training makes muscles stronger so that they can withstand greater forces and therefore helps to prevent injuries. You'll find reports on the most common sports injuries in the Fitness section of


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I get rid of the fungus that has made my big toenail thick and yellow?

Fungus infections cause less than five percent of deformed nails. Drying of skin and skin conditions such as psoriasis are more common causes. The part of nails that you see is dead. Living nails are located underneath the skin at their base. It takes four and a half months for the nail to grow from the nail plate to its end where you cut it off. During this time, the nail dries out and the ends can crack and fray. So the most common cause of deformed nails is drying, which is best treated by coating the nails with nail polish to slow water loss.

Most deformed nails are caused by skin conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. If you have thickened toenails, check with a dermatologist who will clip off a piece of the nail and place it in a special bottle to culture it for a fungus. Since a fungus infection in the nail starts in the plate underneath the skin and no creams can get into the nail plate, pills are the most effective treatment for toenail fungus infections. A special laquer called Penlac can cure some fungus nails when applied for several weeks. Fungus infections can be cured with drugs such as itraconazole or terbinafine, but if no fungus is present, fungus pills will not help. If no fungus is present, most effective treatment is to keep the nails short. Go to a medical supply store and buy surgical quality nail clippers that are strong enough to cut thickened toenails without tearing them.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is potassium deficiency a common problem in athletes?

Not unless they are trying to control weight by vomiting. A few years ago, one of the best female long-distance runners in the country came to me to find a cause for her sudden drop in performance. All tests I ordered were normal except for a low blood level of potassium. The most common cause of potassium deficiency is vomiting, but she repeatedly denied doing this. I then requested that she collect her urine for one day, and the laboratory reported that it contained three times as much potassium as normal. This proved that she was bulimic. To control her weight, she was sticking her finger down her throat and making herself throw up. After she was able to accept the diagnosis, she got help, stopped vomiting and went on to win several long distance running titles.

The kidneys and sweat glands conserve potassium so effectively in response to low body levels that potassium deficiency rarely occurs in healthy athletes. Even with prolonged exercise in very hot weather, potassium needs can be met by eating a normal diet because potassium is found in virtually all foods except refined sugar. On the other hand, potassium deficiency can be caused by drugs, such as diuretics and corticosteroids. It can also be caused by diarrhea or repeated vomiting. With diarrhea, potassium is lost in the stool. With vomiting, potassium is lost in the urine. In both athletes and non- athletes, the most common cause of low potassium blood levels and high potassium urine levels is vomiting.


Celebrate Spring with GREEN vegetable soups!
Make lots – they freeze well.
Very Green Pea Soup
Green Minestrone

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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