Tag Archives: training

Three-quarters of swimmers suffer from ‘swimmer’s shoulder’

Credit: Pixabay.

“Swimmer’s shoulder’ is an umbrella term used to describe shoulder injuries suffered by both the swimming and general population. According to a new study, as many as three-quarters of competitive swimmers suffer from the painful overuse injury.

The shoulder is particularly vulnerable to injury due to its structure and complex biomechanics. The shoulder joint is made up of three important bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collar bone), and humerus (arm). There is a very small surface area where the bones articulate with each other, which means it is an inherently unstable joint.

Some swimmers might notice pain in the back of the shoulder after 25-30 minutes of swimming, while others may experience a sharper pinching feeling in the top of the shoulder at the same point in every stroke cycle. Similar symptoms might be incurred following an intense shoulder workout at the gym.

The researchers at Stanford University led by Eli Cahan surveyed 150 high school and youth club competitive swimmers aged 13-18, finding that 76.7% reported shoulder pain within the last 12 months.

When we perform a swimming stroke, the shoulder experiences a great deal of strain. Amateur swimmers typically have not much to worry since they don’t have to swim large over large distances on a daily basis like competitive swimmers.

Elite swimmers generally perform around 2,500 shoulder revolutions per day during their training sessions. The study found a strong association between distances swum and the incidence of shoulder pain. Those who reported no shoulder pain swam 1,568-3,513 yards (1,433-3,212 meters), whereas swimmers who experienced pain in their shoulder swam a median distance between 2,001-6,322 yards (1,829-5,780) per practice.

“Shoulder pain is significantly associated with median swimming distance but not with stroke type or specialized practice drills. To best tailor injury prevention programs for adolescent swimmers, programs must consider overall distance swum across strokes and drills rather than in specific scenarios alone,” the authors found.

Overtraining is also fostered by a “No pain, no gain!” culture. The study found that 66% of the surveyed competitive swimmers agreed with “mild shoulder pain should be tolerated” if they want to become successful swimmers and 61% that “taking time off from swimming is not ideal.” 

“This research showed that pain was normalized for both high school and club swimmers,” Cahan said in a press release. “Additionally, we found that nearly half of the athletes in our study know peers who use medication to address swim-related injuries, so we worry about the exposure to medications especially in the context of the opioid epidemic.”

Swim clubs were more associated with ‘swimmer’s shoulder’ than high school teams, the study also found.

“Both hold practices with similar frequency, but club practices are significantly longer in duration and length, the authors wrote in their study.

Brain scan.

Taking short breaks to reinforce memories is key to learning new skills or re-learning old ones

Taking a break is a key part of learning anything, new research suggests.

Brain scan.

Some of the brain areas that saw increased activity during the trials.
Image courtesy of Cohen lab, NIH/NINDS.

A new study from the National Institute of Health says that our brains retain the memory of a skill we’re practicing a few seconds faster by taking a short rest. The findings will help guide skill-relearning therapies for patients recovering from the paralyzing effects of strokes or other brain injuries, the team hopes. However, they should be broadly-applicable to anybody trying to learn a new skill that involves physical movement.

Slow and steady wins the race

“Everyone thinks you need to ‘practice, practice, practice’ when learning something new. Instead, we found that resting, early and often, may be just as critical to learning as practice,” said Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and a senior author of the paper.

“Our ultimate hope is that the results of our experiments will help patients recover from the paralyzing effects caused by strokes and other neurological injuries by informing the strategies they use to ‘relearn’ lost skills.”

Lead researcher Marlene Bönstrup, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Cohen’s lab, says she had believed, like many of her colleagues, that our brains needed long periods of rest (i.e. sleep) to strengthen new memories. This included memories associated with learning a new skill. However, after seeing brain wave recordings of healthy volunteers in ongoing learning and memory experiments at the NIH Clinical Center, she started questioning that view.

These brain waves were recorded in right-handed volunteers with magnetoencephalography, a very sensitive scanning technique. Each participant was seated in a chair facing a computer screen under a long, cone-shaped brain scanning cap. Volunteers were shown a series of numbers on the screen then asked to type the numbers as many times as possible in 10 seconds using their left hand. Then, they took a 10-second break, and started typing again; each participant repeated this cycle of practice and rest 35 times.

Volunteer’s performance improved dramatically over the course of the trial, leveling off around the 11th cycle, the team reports. However, an important finding was ‘when’ this improvement seemed to take place in the brain.

“I noticed that participants’ brain waves seemed to change much more during the rest periods than during the typing sessions,” said Dr. Bönstrup. “This gave me the idea to look much more closely for when learning was actually happening. Was it during practice or rest?”

The team explains that the data shows participants’ performance increased primarily during the short rest periods, not while they were typing. These improvements made while resting added up to create the overall gains each volunteer saw during the trial. Furthermore, the sum improvements seen during these breaks was much greater than what the volunteers experienced over time (the trial spanned two days) — this last tidbit suggests that the short breaks played as critical a role in learning as practicing itself.

By looking at the brain waves, Dr. Bönstrup found that the participants’ brains were busy consolidating memories during these short rest periods. The team reports finding changes in the participants’ beta rhythms that correlated with the improvements the volunteers made during the rests. Further analysis reveals that the changes in beta oscillations primarily took place in the right hemispheres and along with neural networks connecting the frontal and parietal lobes. These structures are associated with planning and control of movements. These changes only happened during the breaks, and were the only brain wave patterns that correlated with performance.

“Our results suggest that it may be important to optimize the timing and configuration of rest intervals when implementing rehabilitative treatments in stroke patients or when learning to play the piano in normal volunteers,” said Dr. Cohen.

“Whether these results apply to other forms of learning and memory formation remains an open question.”

Dr. Cohen’s team plans to explore, in greater detail, the role of these early resting periods in learning and memory.

The paper ” A Rapid Form of Offline Consolidation in Skill Learning” has been published in the journal Current Biology.

Music baby.

Musical training makes your brain better at paying attention

Musical training won’t just make you cool at get-togethers — it also gives you better control and focus over your attention, new research reports.

Music baby.

Image via Pixabay.

Individuals who train in music see lasting improvements in the cognitive mechanisms that make us more attentive and harder to distract, the study reports. Trained musicians exhibit greater executive control of attention (a main component of the attentional system) than non-musicians, it explains, and this effect increases the longer they train in music.

Professional advantage

“Our study investigated the effects of systematic musical training on the main components of the attentional system. Our findings demonstrate greater inhibitory attentional control abilities in musicians than non-musicians,” explained lead investigator, Paulo Barraza, PhD, Center for Advanced Research in Education, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.

“Professional musicians are able to more quickly and accurately respond to and focus on what is important to perform a task, and more effectively filter out incongruent and irrelevant stimuli than non-musicians. In addition, the advantages are enhanced with increased years of training.”

Our attention is made up of three types of functions: alerting, orienting, and executive control. The alerting function is associated with maintaining states of readiness for action. The orienting function is linked to the selection of sensory information and change of attentional focus. The executive control function is involved both in the suppression of irrelevant, distracting stimuli and in top-down attentional control. Each is handled by an anatomically-distinct neural network, the team writes.

For the study, the team worked with 18 professional pianists and a matched group of 18 non-musician professional adults, whom they ran through an attentional network test. The musician group consisted of full-time conservatory students or conservatory graduates from Conservatories of the Universidad de Chile, Universidad Mayor de Chile, and Universidad Austral de Chile. On average, participants in this group had over 12 years of practice. “Non-musicians” were university students or graduates who had not had formal music lessons and could not play or read music.

The participants were asked to view a series of rapidly-changing images and provide immediate feedback on what they were being shown to test the efficiency of their reactive behavior. On average, the musician group had a score of 43.84 milliseconds (ms) for alerting functions, 43.70 ms for orienting, and 53.83 ms for executive functions, the team reports. For non-musicians, the mean scores were 41.98 ms, 51.56 ms, and 87.19 ms, respectively. The higher scores show less efficient inhibitory attentional control (i.e. a poorer control of attention).

The authors say their results point to musical training having a lasting (and beneficial) effect on attention networks that previous research didn’t spot.

“Our findings of the relationship between musical training and improvement of attentional skills could be useful in clinical or educational fields, for instance, in strengthening the ability of ADHD individuals to manage distractions or the development of school programs encouraging the development of cognitive abilities through the deliberate practice of music,” says noted co-author David Medina, from the Department of Music, Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences, Santiago, Chile.

“Future longitudinal research should directly address these interpretations.”

The paper ” Efficiency of attentional networks in musicians and non-musicians” has been published in the journal Heliyon.