Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(Your) Back In Action

This week’s contribution is provided by long-time colleague and Biomechanic, R. Barry O’Donnell, M.S. Barry comes with some impressive credentials including being a member of the 1976 US Olympic wrestling team.

We rigorously defend our lift-drag protocol as far safer than the bent-over technique used in other settings. For this reason: safety, we’re emphatic about Challenge Competitors using proper technique. We’re very proud of our record- one of the safest sports out there.

The Biomechanics of lifting and dragging with a neutral spine and in flexion:

The strategy of lifting with the spine in flexion increases the effects of shear loading on the spine and increases the chance of injury. The fully flexed spine shows myo-electric silence in back extensor muscles and strained posterior passive tissues with high shearing forces on the lumbar spine. A neutral spine (standing tall, shoulders back lumbar curve in place) recruits the pars lumborum muscle groups to support the reaction shear and reduces total joint shear (1).  A great example of this posture is demonstrated in the CrossFit article (Brandon Cunningham, dummy rescue). As a result of lifting and dragging in this posture the extensor muscles appear to contribute to the posterior shear force that supports the anterior shear action on the upper body so that the shear forces are reduced from 1000N (Newtons ≈ 224 lb.) to 200N (approximately 50 lb.).

When lifting with the torso flexing about the hips with a neutral spine (think of the hip as a hinge) in contrast to flexion of the spine, thereby reducing the risk of injury.

The fully flexed spine is weaker than one that is moderately flexed (2).

Posture coupled with the required muscular strength and endurance is paramount when lifting and dragging to avoid injury and possible spine buckling. In addition proper training will help to decrease errors in motor patterns that may cause injury.

This is why we exercise our prerogative to intervene when we observe unsafe practices and stop Competitors from hurting themselves. 

1.   McGill, S.M. Journal of Biomechanics. 30, (5) 1997.
2.   Adams et. al. Clinical. Biomechanics. 1994 9: 5-14

Thursday, February 23, 2012

One of our Own

Tragedy can come in many forms; losing all your earthy possessions to a fire is a devastation of inordinate proportions. And the irony of being a veteran firefighter that’s seen this kind of catastrophe makes it even worse.

Chuck LeBlanc, one of the most easily recognizable figures at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge lost his condo this past weekend due to a defect in the insulation around the chimney in the common space. If there’s any good news, it’s that Chuck and his wife are okay. Thank God.

The next question is, “What’s the insurance company going to do?” It’s highly unlikely that they’ll make him whole. So, what can we all do? Well, I’d like to suggest donations through our non-profit First Responder Institute. One-hundred percent of monies collected will be conveyed to Chuck.

We at On Target will do everything we can to restore Chuck’s awards, prizes and premiums. Since Chuck’s career spans almost two decades, this will take some work. But, I know that there are hundreds of Challenge Competitors who will be pulling for Chuck.

The address to mail your donation is:

First Responder Institute
15312 Spencerville Court
Suite 100
Burtonsville, MD 20866

You can also make a donation through our PayPal account by following the link on the home page.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doctor My Eyes (with apologies to Jackson Browne)

For more than 45 years, I’ve been plying the highways and back country trails on an assemblage of bicycles. I first got the bug during my sophomore year while studying abroad in England. Specificity of exercise is a principle that says that training is specific to the activity. So, working on your tennis backswing isn’t going to do much for your mountain biking. However, cycling provides one of the best carry overs to skiing. And, the older I get, the more I see the need for well-rounded conditioning since I hope to ski until I'm 100, at least. 

During the winter months when a lot of people retreat indoors and hibernate, I and my compadre Dr. Carl Schneider meet daily at 5:30 and crank around our 12 mile loop that’s uphill both ways. Working out in the winter presents the challenge of keeping warm, but not to the point of heat stroke. I’ve spent a lot of time in the cold and wintered over at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Sierras. 

Windchill is a well understood phenomena. Let’s say that we could maintain a steady clip of 20 mph. Our feet are going about twice that fast. And the effect on the face causes me no small amount of eye watering. (In an upcoming BlogSpot, I’m going to talk about protecting your feet.)

Eye protection on a bike is hugely important; one of my most painful experiences is being stung on the eyelid by a wasp. I got stung once before on the lip which I thought was bad, but this sent me over the edge. In about the nanosecond that I saw it, it bounced off my face and ended up behind my glasses. Ouch! 

So, now I always wear protective lenses that wrap around my face. This is more complicated than a simple pair of sunglasses since I need a prescription to see where I’m going. Enter the Smith Optics Aegis eye protection system. You can’t put a wrap around prescription into a sunglass frame. But you can put the prescription behind the shield. Tearing is reduced to a minimum and I have interchangeable lenses for varying light conditions. 

What I like most about the Smith product is the ease with which you can swap out the lenses. Plus, the system comes with an adaptor that holds the prescription frame in place behind ski goggles. 

I know that there’s some guys like John Pennington and Steve Borski who have way more time in the saddle than I, but they have the fortune of 20/20 vision. So, if you require corrected vision and don’t want to let that get in the way of your outdoor athletic pursuits, consider the Smith Optics solution. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.