The intersection of technology and sports has seen massive spurts of innovation over the last five years.
Particularly, scientists and trainers have been working together to leverage technology to help athletes get back on the field quickly, and up to full speed.
While medically-conscious technologists are creating solutions to medical problems, we’ve seen the opposite also occur with externalities of “forward” innovation. That’s right. The negatives, often not talked about, that come from using technology are definite causes of health problems.
Terms like “text neck” and “iHunch” refer to issues that Millennials encounter after spending too much time in front of a screen and tilting or craning their neck forward. This often results in the unnatural curving of the back and neck.
So the real question here is what can we do to balance the adverse effects of using technology?
Introducing sports proprioception.
It Starts With Poor Posture in the Workplace
In addition to resulting in physical pain, slouching and poor posture often give off a poor presence and can do emotional damage. We see this in a form of reduced morale, confidence killers, and depression throughout the day. This problem is extremely widespread to anyone who ever sits at a desk throughout the day. Whether you are the man in charge or the intern, chances are you are not getting enough daily exercise built into your routine after being standstill at your desk.
"If you're sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type. But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly," says Epidemiologist Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina. “Because the major muscles aren't moving, metabolism slows down.” A sedentary work lifestyle, according to Blair, is slowly killing us.
When your muscles tighten up and shooting neck or back pain does strike, what do you do about it? Take a sick day? Muddle on through the pain? What is it costing your business?
It is estimated that ten to twenty percent of the population reports neck problems, with the annual cost of neck pain estimated at seven billion dollars. (3) About eighty percent of adults also experience low back pain during their lifetime; “it is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days.”
Is there relief for back or neck pain? So how can we escape this pain? Well, the first place that many people turn to is the pharamacy. Specifically, many buy inflammatory-relieving medication which is okay for short term relief. Long term thinkers generally turn to physical therapy and rehab. All of this is done after the damage is done, so it is more for recovery rather than prevention.
The biggest technological advancement in the sports medicine space has been with a new philosophy that focuses on understanding the brain, specifically those connections which bridge the pain associated with our bad habits.
Understanding the Mind/Body Connection
By not making a conscious effort to focus the mind on healing, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Dr. Lev Kalika, the head clinician at the New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Center, even goes as far to say that “Athletes or active people who regularly work on a computer actually de-train connections to the brain which only work when skill-specific movement is engaged in sports.”
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The integrative functions of the body and nervous system, together called proprioception, are essential to good musculoskeletal health and a “back-pain-free” life. The human brain, specifically the function of the cortex, helps prevent injuries and boost sports performance.
The best athletes of our time are not necessarily the most physically prominent. Look at players like Roger Federer or Wayne Gretsky, their not the biggest or most agile in their sport. They simply have the ability to use and connect information more quickly to produce the most coordinated movements in the simplest of ways.
The brain (pre-frontal cortex) integrates the power of neuronal systems to process information that is necessary for peak performance. That’s why technologists and researchers are finding that simulating this effect using Proprioceptive training should be the first thing that a new player should do to get better. More seasoned athletes can also immensely benefit from this training because it allows the athlete to orient him or herself without any optical involvement.
The team bridging the divide between the brain and body is C.A.R.E.N, a Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment. C.A.R.E.N. leverage technology, focusing on the proprioceptive method to train athletes by tracking and stimulating parts of the nervous system that are crucial for musculoskeletal health, injury prevention, and rehabilitation.
They also use their services to help rehabilitate other patients with neurological and orthopedic problems like back pain, balance, and walking disorders.
Rewiring the Mind for Better Balance
Perhaps the magic is to coordinate proper exercises with proprioceptive training. This combination can not only help balance, but also any sort of kinesthetic coordination. The abundant benefits of this balance training (7) will also have positive emotional and physical benefits - crucial for any sport or activity.
You can consult a certified physical therapist to help find exercises which improve proprioception and balance. Most of these help you find your balance, and better understand your body and the space around you.
Can Sports Nutrition Help Relieve Muscle Cramps?
Perhaps the last piece to this puzzle, besides the mind and exercise, is sports nutrition. A balanced diet is essential to a strong workflow and workday. And it all starts with a great breakfast. The problem is that most busy athletes and professionals do not have much time for a big healthy breakfast.
That’s why the HOTSHOT was created. A drink based off of a breakthrough for a nutritional “smart-shot” for athletes and desk jockeys that suffer from leg cramping that was recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual meeting and published in the Journal of the American Medical Athletic Association.
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HOTSHOT™ is a drink that is now being touted as a possible preventative treatment for muscle cramps by stopping them where they start: at the nerve. It was originally believed that muscle cramps were a sole byproduct of extreme dehydration, but this new theory shows that there is actually a neuromuscular connection which reflects a throwing off of balance.
For the part-time athlete who spends most of his or her time at the computer desk with sporadic bursts of energy, fear not the pain associated with sports or the loss of time from work due to injury; science and technology are coming to your rescue.