Sports Medicine And Nutrition – A Non-Drug, Non-Surgical Approach

Nutrition for AthletesLet’s talk about sports medicine and nutrition.

In the case of any injury, if there is to be proper healing the injury must be treated in the proper manner at the proper time. In sports medicine this means there must be a coordination of responsibility between the patient and doctor, or trainer. Whenever an injury occurs the body will immediately begin the healing process. Our job as patient or doctor is to facilitate this process.

The first and most important step is to rest the injured area. This does not necessarily mean rest our entire body; we may work out other areas while one area heals. The injured area should be rested until any swelling, discoloration and most pain are gone.

Ice is always the treatment of choice in sports medicine for any acute injury (with exception of frostbite and in patients with circulatory disorders). The reason behind this is whenever the body is injured, the initial response is inflammation. This is good the body is attempting to swell, splint and protect that area. But the body may at times be almost too efficient. Too much swelling can begin to cause damage and breakdown of the tissues. Ice is used to control the swelling and to reduce the pain by numbing the area. Ice should never be applied directly to the skin; a bandage or handkerchief should be placed between ice pack and the skin.

Gently wrapping the area with an ace bandage will help immobilize the injury, help prevent more swelling from occurring and remind that patient to take care not to re-injure the area.

Be elevating the injury, preferably above the level of the heart, blood vessels will be in a position to facilitate drainage and minimize swelling. The swelling will also create pressure on the nerves and this will increase pain.

Remembering the word “R.I.C.E.” will make this much easier to put into practical use. “R” stands for rest. “I” for ice. “C’ for compression and “E” for elevation. Any injury in which there is no rupture or fracture may be treated in this manner. Once the pain and swelling is reduced, gentle exercise to the area may begin. As a general rule, if it hurts, don’t do it! The theory of no pain, no gain does not hold true in injury cases.

Oftentimes in sports medicine, pain killers, muscle relaxants and other drugs are given. If the injury is not severe and the pain is not disabling, drugs may do more harm than good. Pain killers do just that, they kill pain. They do not treat the cause, they only treat the symptoms. In many cases the pain is reduced and the patient will return to regular activities. This has a tendency to expose the area to re-injury, due to the fact the patient will put stress on the already injured area, and when the painkillers wear off, the re-injury is usually worse.

Muscle relaxants will affect every muscle in the body, not only the injured ones. Remember that the heart, colon and blood vessels are specialized muscles and the drug, by its own nature, will also affect these areas.

If you are serious about your own body, it is recommended that you check a book called the “P.D.R” PHYSICIANS DESK REFERENCE, available from your doctor or any library for the side effects of any drug you may happen to be prescribed. All major drugs and their side effects are listed in this book for you.

I do not mean to impose that drugs are never necessary in sports medicine. In many cases the conservative approach is more effective and much less dangerous than a more radical approach. It is a good idea to discuss the alternative with your doctor or trainer before making your decision. Remember whenever there is pain, this is a signal to rest and listen to your body!

The ultimate goal is to avoid injuries and thus not be concerned about treatment. An aspect that can take pages to discuss but we will only briefly touch on, is nutrition.

Our bodies are nothing more than thousands of chemical reactions occurring in unison. Depending on what chemicals we add to this mix will determine how our bodies will function.

The biggest menace to the athlete is sugar. Somewhere in our past someone stated that sugar gives us energy. This is one of the most outrageous misconceptions of our generation. Simple sugar, what we call white sugar, is found in a large percentage of our food, usually in a concentrated amount. Whenever sugar is ingested in a concentrated form the results are always the over reaction of the pancreas which causes a weakening of the muscles of the body. The easiest proof of this is just to eat no sugar for one day. The next day, have a doughnut, soda, candy bar or any form of concentrated sugar and see how you feel. Then decide for yourself if sugar gives us energy!

Many times we are told that certain bottled drinks will replenish “vital body nutrients.” The most popular brands of thirst quenchers have two chief ingredients, one being water and the other sugar. The leading brand has sugar as three of its first four ingredients!

Do not be fooled by advertisers, read the labels yourself. Any ingredient ending in the letters – OSE is a sugar.

Alcohol and proper body functions do not mix. Alcohol, aside from the obvious effect on the thought process, reflexes and coordination, will act as a diuretic. That is, it will dehydrate the body. Anyone who has ever had a “hangover”, knows how the body aches and throbs. This is due to the shrinking of all the organs and muscles as a result of the dehydration. We cannot function in a dehydrated state.

Some general rules for athletes, as well as anyone else, are to eat food that grows. That is fruits, vegetables and grains. When we are thirsty, drink water. Add a splash of fruit juice for flavor if necessary. Read ingredients, if you cannot pronounce the ingredient, do not eat them. Healthy food is easy to pronounce. Avoid fatty foods they will affect how oxygen is transported through the body and make you tired and sluggish. Dairy products are very high in fat so try to avoid them if you wish to maintain high energy levels.

It is obvious there is much to learn about foods, but space is limited. The best place to learn more is from the experts and from one’s own personal experiences; if it hurts, don’t do it. If it doesn’t make you feel good, avoid it. Listen to your body, it will never lead you wrong.