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Sports Injuries Can Be Explained with Bio-Mechanics

Running seems like a safe sport, so many people are surprised to learn that it causes frequent injuries to muscles, tendons, bones and joints. During running, your foot strikes the ground with a force equal to three times body weight, a force more than double that of walking. Many common running injuries have bio-mechanical causes. For example, pain in the side of the right knee is often treated just by getting the runner to stop running on the roads. To facilitate drainage, roads slope a few degrees from the middle to the sides. Running on the side of a road, facing traffic, causes the right leg to be higher than the left and a larger proportion of the force of the foot strike to be transmitted up to the lateral part of the knee of the higher leg.

Pain behind the kneecap is often treated with special inserts in shoes. When you run, you land on the outside bottom part of your foot and roll toward the inside. This causes the lower leg to twist inward at the same time that the kneecap is pulled by the quadriceps muscle in the opposite direction. This causes the kneecap to rub against the long bone of the upper leg. Special inserts can be placed in running shoes that limit rolling in of the foot and prevent kneecap pain.

Bio-mechanics can explain injuries in other sports as well. Low back pain in bicycle riders is often treated just by raising the handlebars. Bending over excessively places excessive stress on the lower back muscles. Raising the handlebar stem can decrease the forces on the lower back and cure the pain. If something hurts when you exercise, ask yourself what you can do bio-mechanically to eliminate the excessive stress on that part of your body.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I overcome the sleepiness I always feel after lunch?

If you feel tired most afternoons, you are normal. Studies of office workers and school children show that people work best in the early morning. As the morning progresses, they lose their ability to concentrate, go out to lunch and function way below their capacity for the rest of the day. The best time to use your mind effectively is just after you wake up. When you have to write a report or letter, prepare for an exam, or perform difficult calculations, do it in the morning or shortly after you wake from a nap.

Tiredness is a signal that your brain needs a rest. If you suffer from afternoon tiredness, find a quiet place to lie down during your lunch hour and take a nap. There is no good data to support the often-quoted recommendation that you should exercise when you feel tired because exercise perks you up. Some people report feeling more tired after a meal that contains a lot of sugar or starch, but no one has shown that eating or avoiding specific foods prevents afternoon tiredness. Some people take a prescription drug called modafinil, which has been approved for treatment of narcolepsy, a serious medical condition that causes people to suddenly fall asleep. This can work if you take it only on the rarest of occasions, but no drug replaces sleep as a treatment for tiredness, and as keep on taking it, it can lose its effect. The only effective treatment for tiredness is rest.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'd like to convince my 78-year-old father to join a T'ai Chi class. Can you help me?

T'ai Chi is a specific training program aimed at teaching people how to maintain balance so that they can withstand the attack of an enemy and remain on their feet. It involves slow, purposeful movements that apply the same forces on muscles that require far heavier forces with faster movements. So T'ai Chi strengthens muscles with far less likelihood of injury.

Older people often lose coordination and are at increased risk for falling. With T'ai Chi, an older person can get the same strengthening of muscles and balance control with slow movements that a younger person gets by using far faster movements with much greater force on muscles. It can help older people improve balance, which can protect them from falling and breaking their bones. It is also a safe way to build muscle strength. The risk of injury in T'ai Chi is very low, which is an advantage at any age but exceptionally important for older people who are starting a new exercise program.

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Recipe of the Week
Three Sisters Soup
One of my favorite soups to take advantage of the bounty of fall produce, from your garden, the local farm stand or your supermarket.

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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