Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Energy drinks and exercise a bad mix?

It is common in athletics/sport where practice precedes research. Energy drinks fall into this paradigm. Athletes have long recognized that a little caffeine intake may improve focus and possibly athletic performance. It then seems as if the mentality of [if a little bit is good, a lot must be better] becomes practice. It did not seem long before the energy drink companies were racing to see which drink had the most stimulating results. Physicians recognized the dangers in 2008 when they petitioned for the regulation of energy drinks. There has recently been another call by physicians for the regulation of these drinks (especially with the addition of alcohol). Athletically, where the problem falls is that any true energy that is derived from these drinks comes from their carbohydrate content. The caffeine, guarana and taurine provide only a perceived form of energy by stimulating the brain and generating a stress response so that the body perceives that it has the energy to respond. Since energy drinks are classified as a food supplement, the FDA does not have the authority to require the amount of caffeine put into the label. Here is the problem; the half life of caffeine is approximately 4-6 hours and the amount guarana and taurine do not have to be listed. How many exercises sessions or sports last 4-6 hours. The heart is a muscle that needs rest just like the rest of the muscles in the body. Not much is known on the relationship of the various ingredients in energy drinks or their possible synergistic effects. With the prolific expansion of the energy drink business where a wide variety of stimulating ingredients (studied and unstudied) are added to the various drinks, it may not be coincidence that there seems to be an alarming number of heart arrhythmia problems being diagnosed in athletes today where energy drinks may be a contributing factor. Since energy drinks basically work by generating a stress response, energy drinks will increase the blood pressure, heart rate, urination (leading to dehydration) and anxiety levels in the adult. These same side effects are often magnified to toxic overdose levels in the youth athlete.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Are we doing enough?

Even with all of the new evidence and research surrounding concussions in sport (especially football), are we doing enough? The Arizona Republic had an editorial Monday 11/1/10 emphasizing the need for Alzheimer’s disease funding (Nation must fund Alzheimer’s fight). They (Arizona Republic) projected that there will be more than 7.8 million people over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease in the year 2030 (up from the current 5.1 million). This is a population that was participating in high school and college athletics in the 1970s and 1980s. When concussions were referred to as “getting your bell rung” or “getting your clock cleaned” and considered a mild injury. To some athletes, this seemed to be a rite of passage. If a head injury did not have signs of a physical injury, the athlete was released to play quickly. Unknown during this period was that concussions are more of a metabolic injury. These are injuries that do not show physical signs of damage to the brain. A question that needs to be considered is: Do these Alzheimer’s disease projections include the results of concussive and non-concussive injuries received by participating in athletics in the 70s and 80s? There is a lot of evidence from research conducted by Boston University (and others) that point to concussive and sub-concussive injuries being a cause of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has been linked to dementia that is related to or similar to Alzheimer’s and ALS. New research from Purdue University was reported nationally on 11/1/10 in Sports Illustrated (The Damage Done) and is to published in the Journal of Neurotrauma is bring to light that damage to the brain may be starting at a relatively young age and by hits that everyone takes for granted in football and are nowhere near close to being penalized. Twenty three football athletes from Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana were given the ImPACT neurocognitive test (while their brains were being monitored by an MRI scan) and had their football helmets fitted with accelerometers. These athletes were then followed, measuring the forced to their helmets and 11 were given follow-up ImPACT neurocognitive tests (post injury if necessary) during mid-season. Four football athletes (of the 11) tested showed signs of visual memory loss. With this new information, the question needs to be asked. Are we doing enough to help keep athletes from being part of the projected statistical increase in Alzheimer’s disease?