Images of the brain’s gray and white matter obtained with multiple MRI techniques can help identify and track cognitive impairment in active professional fighters, according to a new study.
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.
Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. For June, Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravers, authors of the just released book, Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech, offer a four-week course in professional acumen, designed to serve you whether you’re a tech founder, an artist, or anything in between. For the first installment, Walravers teaches us the importance of embracing risk in order to reap the rewards.
Karen Catlin took her first computer science class freshman year in college, having never touched a computer before in her life.
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“It was 1981. We didn’t have computers at home, and not many high schools had computers then—mine certainly didn’t. So, it’s not surprising that I didn’t have any computer experience. But to decide to major in it without even writing my first ‘Hello World’ application? What was I thinking?”
Catlin got a B in her first CS class, went on to be an undergraduate teaching assistant in the department, and eventually graduated with a Computer Science degree from Brown University in 1985. The rest, as they say, is history. She went on to become Vice President and Senior Director of Engineering at Adobe Systems, and later an author and advocate for women in technology.
Addressing a group of students at a recent hackathon hosted by her alma mater, Catlin encouraged participants to step outside their comfort zone because, as the saying goes, “that’s where the magic happens.” While comfort may be a sought-after goal in our society, research shows that seeking new experiences and learning new skills can open the door to growth and innovation.
Here are three ways you stand to benefit by taking the leap and stepping outside “the zone.”
#1: Taking risks can lead to big rewards
Cloudflare co-founder Michelle Zatlyn was set to start a “safe” job at LinkedIn after she graduated from Harvard Business School. Instead, she packed her things in a U-Haul and drove out to California with business school classmate, Matthew Prince, to start a new venture.
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“I look back now and wonder, what was I thinking? I can’t believe I signed a lease because there certainly was no guarantee it was going to work,” she says.
Seven years later, San Francisco-based Cloudflare, which provides online services to protect and accelerate websites, has raised $182 million and is valued at over $3 billion dollars. As Zatlyn puts it, “being part of a high growth company is like being on a roller coaster. There are all these highs and lows. But another way to look at it is that people pay to get on roller coasters.”
#2: Challenging yourself builds confidence
Kerri Couillard, founder and CTO of Babierge, a baby equipment rental business, was taking a big leap when she signed up to participate in a 2-week accelerator program for women entrepreneurs, the Women’s Startup Lab.
“I had just begun to scale my business when I realized something was missing—camaraderie. I also knew I had to learn about opportunities for investment to grow. I decided to leave my booming business and young kiddos with my husband in Albuquerque and go to the Women’s Startup Lab to connect with other entrepreneurs and validate my business model – a ‘sharing economy’ for baby gear.”
“Ultimately, there is so much to gain in this world, living with courage and curiosity.”
Participating in the accelerator required living in a “hacker house” in the heart of Silicon Valley for a full two weeks and sharing bunk beds with three other adult women. Couillard, a self-described introvert, says the experience was “way outside” her comfort zone. But, in the end, the benefits far outweighed the costs. She returned to New Mexico with greater self-confidence and a new partner who has helped her scale the business into 41 markets.
“I learned I can live for short spurts outside of my comfort zone, especially if I listen to my body and build in some self-care,” Couillard says. “Ultimately, there is so much to gain in this world, living with courage and curiosity.”
#3: Speaking up opens the door to opportunity
For girls and young women, taking risks and venturing into untrodden territory can be a scary proposition.
“Girls are more likely to worry about being judged and question whether they’re smart enough, pretty enough, qualified enough to participate in class, take on a new task, or apply for a job,” explains Katty Kay, co-author of The Confidence Code, explains. “Those worries can prevent girls from embracing opportunities.”
Poornima Vijayshanker admits she was “one of those shy kids” growing up and realized life was going to be really hard “if I just kept hiding.” The founder of Femgineer, an education company for women in tech, and co-author of Present: A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking, pushed past her fears and joined the speech and debate club in middle school.
“In those really, really awkward years, I blossomed and became a better public speaker, and it dramatically changed my life,” says Vijayshanker. “I nailed my college interview, my first job interview, and then went on to do other things, like help raise capital and recruit teammates for my startups.”
Public speaking has become an integral part of her career. Along with Karen Catlin, she now runs workshops to help other women with technical backgrounds become more “confident communicators.” The team calls public speaking the “multi-vitamin” for women’s career success.
Ready to take the leap outside your comfort zone? Here are some tips:
Do it on a regular basis. Karen Catlin recommends scheduling public speaking gigs on a regular basis so you get “comfortable being uncomfortable.” She made a pledge to herself to start speaking in public once a month and has fulfilled that promise for over four years. Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier over time.
Take baby steps. Poornima Vijayshanker encourages women to start small. Rather than signing up to give a TED talk, start by speaking up at the next meeting or raising your hand in class. After that, you may take a more audacious leap and sign up to speak at an event.
Don’t do it alone. It’s a lot easier to venture outside your comfort zone when you’re not doing it alone. Accelerator programs like the Women’s Startup Lab and MergeLane aim to build a community of women entrepreneurs, investors and advisors who will offer support long after the program ends.
“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.