No guts no glory: Harvesting the microbiome of athletes


Scientists have tapped into the microbiome of elite runners and rowers, and have identified particular bacteria that may aid athletic performance. The goal is to develop probiotic supplements that may help athletes — and even amateur fitness enthusiasts — recover from a tough workout or more efficiently convert nutrients to energy. The researchers will present their work today at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

New mindfulness method helps coaches, athletes score


When it comes to success in sports, coaches and athletes understand that there’s a mental component, but many don’t have an understanding of how to prepare psychologically. That’s where the concept of mindfulness can be beneficial, via a program to help athletes and coaches at all levels develop that mental edge and improve their performance.

Article highlights three common conditions that could take varsity or professional athletes out of play — ScienceDaily

Nearly one in three competitive athletes experiences low back pain. According to a literature review in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, lower (lumbar) back pain is a commonly reported symptom among the general population; however, low back pain among elite athletes who play varsity or professional sports requires additional important considerations.

“Competitive players stress their lumbar spine for hundreds of hours a month, thereby predisposing themselves to specific injuries that should be recognized by healthcare practitioners,” says Wellington K. Hsu, MD, lead review author and orthopaedic spine surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The human spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of one another. In between each of these bones are flat, round disks with a tough, flexible outer exterior and a soft, jelly-like center that act as shock absorbers when walking or running.

Athletes are at greater risk of developing lower back conditions when:

Intense training regimens start and continue between the ages 10 and 24 years. This may increase the likelihood that young athletes develop symptomatic lumbar disk degeneration — a natural degradation of disk, and narrowing of the space between vertebrae due to the aging process. Surgical management, considered as a last resort, includes removing the diseased disk, and fusion (locking one bone to another bone) or total disk arthroplasty (replacing the diseased disk with an artificial device). However, few studies have looked at the outcomes of surgically treated athletes with lumbar disk degeneration.

Participating in elite sports with intense, repetitive movements between the ages of 20 and 35 years. This may also increase the likelihood that athletes experience lumbar disk herniation (LDH) — when the jelly-like center pushes against and through the outer exterior of the disk due to wear and tear, or a sudden injury, causing pain.

Among the general population, more than 90 percent of patients with LDH improve within six weeks of injury with nonsurgical treatment. An estimated 82 percent of elite athletes were able to return to their sport after nonsurgical treatment.

Young athletes showing signs of notable or severe low back pain should be checked for spondylolysis, also known as a pars interarticularis stress fracture or the breaking of a small connecting bone in the lower back that could cause a spinal bone to disconnect and slip forward. Spondylolysis is often noted in younger athletes who participate in sports that involve repeated stress on the lower back, such as gymnastics, wrestling, weightlifting, and diving. Early recognition of the symptoms could lead to healing of the injury.

Additionally, lifting heavy weights in unsupervised extreme sports training or without low back protection in any age group also could put athletes at greater risk of lower back injuries.

According to Dr. Hsu, nonsurgical therapy should be the first-line treatment in all athletes with lower back conditions because successful recovery rates from rehabilitation protocols are high. Nonsurgical treatment options may include medications to reduce inflammation, psychological support to establish an expectation for recovery and the rehabilitation process, and/or physical therapy to focus on core and back muscle strengthening and flexibility. Surgical management of lower back injuries among elite athletes is typically considered after all nonsurgical treatment has failed. “Expectations regarding surgical outcomes should be tailored for elite athletes depending on sport, and to sport-specific demands” says Dr. Hsu.

After surgery, recovery time, performance, and career lengths of elite athletes depend on the sport and its physical demands. As with any persons with a lower back injury, elite athletes should complete a rehabilitation program and be individually assessed for medical clearance before returning to work or play.

What Professional Athletes Have Learned From Career-Threatening Injuries

“In 2012, I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus, six months before what would be my first Olympic Games in London. I never questioned my work ethic throughout my rehabilitation, but I was afraid my body wouldn’t heal the way it should or that I would never be able to play at the highest level again. 

There were plenty of days I struggled [during the recovery process], but I tried to keep a good mindset. I learned I needed to set small goals for myself to achieve daily in order to feel like I’m progressing forward. It helped that I had a great support system surrounding me. My teammates, my entire family, my best friends and the incredible fans would always send me encouraging messages, emails, cards and phone calls or texts. 

I learned how to listen to my body and understand how to push myself and also when to rest. I learned that not every day will be easy and that crying profusely some days is not a bad thing. I learned not to be so hard on myself. Most importantly, I learned not to take any opportunity I have stepping foot on the soccer pitch for granted and to cherish every single minute because I never know when it’ll be my last.”

Krieger, a veteran defender for the Orlando Pride, is also a FIFA Women’s World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist.

Self-Motivation Tips from 7 Top Female Athletes

Career cred: Gleich was the first skier to be a Blue Climate and Oceans Project ambassador.

“When I’m on a spicy, knife-edge ridge and climbing along, I say to myself, ‘Humans are very sure-footed animals.’ It’s a mantra I learned when I was a little kid on a horse backpacking trip. High up on the trail, I get scared, and the horse guide would say, ‘Don’t worry, horses are very sure-footed animals.’ It helps me stay calm and keep my footing. When I’m doing something really scary, I sing a song to myself. One is from a silly YouTube video of fuzzy animals playing in a band. It goes, ‘Fuzzy, fuzzy, cute, cute.’ Something about the baby hedgehog reminds me to stay calm, because freaking out never helps anything.”