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Know When to Change Sports

If your favorite sport causes chronic pain or an injury that does not heal, you should probably switch to another sport. Two recent studies from the Argentine Tennis Association followed players with knee and shoulder problems (British Journal of Sports Medicine, May 2006).

In the first study, men who had anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears showed a great drop in their tennis performance. The knee is just two sticks held together by four bands, called ligaments. Two ligaments are located on the outside of the knee and two ligaments cross in the middle of the knee joint. The ACL runs from the bottom of the upper bone of the knee joint forward to the top of the lower bone of the knee joint. It prevents the upper bone of the knee joint from slipping backward when your knee hits the ground. When this ligament is torn, each foot strike causes the upper bone to slide backward over the lower bone, shears off cartilage in the process and hastens a knee replacement. It is downright dangerous for a person with a torn ACL to play tennis or run until the ligament is replaced. Even then the surgical replacement is not as strong as the original ACL and that person risks joint damage every time he runs, jumps and turns on his knee joint.

The second study followed older men who had played tennis for many years and had no shoulder pain, surgery or trauma to their shoulders. Even with no symptoms, thirty-three percent of these men had significant x-ray findings of joint damage called osteoarthritis in their dominant shoulder, and the older they were, the more likely they were to have this damage. X rays showed increased incidence of joint space narrowing, joint cysts, bone fragments, flattening of the joint cartilage, displacement of the upper arm bone and erosion of the joint cup. If you are a long-time tennis player and have shoulder pain, your doctor will probably recommend that you stop playing tennis.

The good news is that switching to a new sport is much easier than starting from inactivity. Training principles are the same for all sports. Give yourself time to learn new skills and build up the muscles you have not used before.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What should I eat after a hard workout?

Eating a protein-rich meal as soon as possible after this hard workout hastens muscle recovery. Intelligently-increased workloads make an athlete stronger, and anything that helps you recover faster allows you to do more work. When you feel the burn during intense exercise, you are damaging your muscle fibers. The pain that you feel 8 to 24 hours after a hard workout is due to muscle damage. It is now fairly well established that your muscles recover faster if you eat protein as soon as possible after a hard workout or competition.

You’ll be happy to know that a study from Indiana University in Bloomington shows that chocolate milk helps athletes to recover faster from hard exercise than drinks that replaced only carbohydrates or fluid (International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, February 2006). Milk is full of protein, but so are, fish, shellfish, meat, chicken, whole grains and beans, and so forth. Eat any source of protein that tastes good to you.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How common is muscle pain from cholesterol- lowering drugs?

Some patients with high cholesterol levels are afraid to take statins because off fear of developing side effects such as muscle pain. A study from Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego reviews the latest data on side effects of statins (The American Journal of Medicine, May 2006). This review found that statin- induced muscle damage is more common in Asians, people who exercise, have had recent surgery, have kidney, liver or thyroid disease, or have high triglycerides. The incidence of muscle pain and damage from statins is extremely low in non- exercisers, three to ten percent in those who exercise, and very high in competitive athletes.

Most athletes refuse to take statin drugs because they train by taking a hard workout that damages their muscles. Then they must take easy workouts until the soreness disappears and muscles heal. When statins prevent this muscle healing, the athlete must train at reduced intensity for a much longer period of time. Brand names of statins include: Altoprev, Crestor, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor.

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Zucchini Recipes
-- to help you use up your bumper crop

Mexican Vegetable Stew
Ratatouille with Baby Potatoes
New World Ratatouille
Cajun Lentils and Zucchini

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 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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