Fitness buffs who push themselves to the limit during workouts might slightly increase their risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a new study suggests. The same may hold true for working stiffs whose jobs place extreme physical demands upon them, the European researchers said. But the study did not prove that extreme exercise actually causes ALS risk to rise. And it should be noted that ALS remains incredibly rare, afflicting only about 20,000 Americans at any given time, according to the ALS Association. Even with the relative increased risk seen in the study, people should continue getting regular workouts and not worry about working hard, experts said. “If you adopt a sedentary lifestyle, you’re going to die much faster of heart disease than you will of ALS if you go out and exercise vigorously,” said David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “Under no circumstances should anyone stop exercising because of this study.” The study authors said that at work or play, the observed increased risk for what is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease “can be translated into a 26 percent increase in risk, when comparing a person who is more active than average and a person who is less active than average.” There’s also a dose relationship — the harder a person works…  read on >

Women are more likely than men to suffer a knee injury called an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. But — surprisingly — the injury occurs the same way in both genders, a new study reveals. Prior research suggested women are two to four times more likely to suffer ACL tears due to differences in how this type of injury occurs in the sexes, researchers at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., noted. But that theory is wrong, according to the results of a new study of 15 women and 15 men with torn ACLs. Those prior studies were based on slow-motion replays of injuries, while the new work relied on scans and other advanced techniques. “Based on watching videos of athlete injuries, previous researchers have suggested that females may have a different mechanism of injury than males. But it’s difficult to determine the precise position of the knee and the time of injury through footage,” said study leader and biomedical engineer Louis DeFrate. “We used MRI scans taken within a month of the ACL rupture and identified bruises on the surface of the two large bones that collide when the ACL tears — the femur and the tibia — then used 3-D modeling and computer algorithms to reconstruct the position of the knee when the injury occurred,” he explained in a Duke news release. “Our results…  read on >

Staying physically fit can help ward off heart trouble, even if your genetics put you at higher risk for clogged arteries, a new, large study suggests. The researchers looked at nearly 500,000 middle-aged and older adults and found those with higher fitness levels were less likely to develop heart disease over six years. And that was true even for people who carried gene variants that raise the odds of heart problems. That does not mean exercise erases the effects of genes, the researchers added. But if you do have a genetic vulnerability to heart disease, you’re better off being physically fit. “It’s likely that if you try to improve your fitness level through exercise, you’ll benefit,” said senior researcher Dr. Erik Ingelsson, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California. How much, or what type, of exercise is “enough”? The study cannot answer those questions, Ingelsson said. His team did not test any particular exercise regimens. The researchers looked at how people’s fitness levels — gauged during a stationary bike workout — correlated with their risk of developing heart disease over the next six years. They found that regardless of the genes people carried, higher fitness levels meant a lower risk of heart trouble. Among the one-third of people at highest genetic risk, those with the highest fitness levels were 49 percent less likely…  read on >

Toned abs don’t just look great, they’re also vital for good posture and avoiding lower back pain. But there’s a limit to how far the exercises known as crunches will go toward getting you those six-pack abs. These exercises create definition, but they won’t get rid of belly fat, according to a report in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. That goal needs the one-two punch of exercise to firm muscle and diet to reduce fat. That being said, crunches belong in a core workout — that’s one targeting all the muscles in your torso. When it comes to crunches, working smarter is more important than doing hundreds of them. To intensify ab workouts: Increase the number of reps per set. Increase the number of sets. Shorten resting time between sets. Increase the angle of exercises. Wear ankles weights. Hold a weight plate against your chest. Here are specific pointers to improve the effectiveness of the most popular exercises. For the basic crunch, lie on your back, knees slightly bent, feet flat on the floor and hip distance apart. Breathe in, then exhale as you tighten your abs and lift your head and shoulders toward the ceiling. Do not curl up toward your knees. Hold briefly, then slowly return to the starting position, inhaling as you lower yourself to the floor. Start with 10…  read on >

Home exercise equipment has come a long way over the years. It’s a great option if you’re starting a fitness program and don’t want to go to a gym or can’t get to your gym often enough. There’s also the convenience of having your favorite piece of cardio equipment in your home, especially on bad weather days. Whatever your reason, take steps to make sure that the machine is cost effective and that you’re getting all the features you’re used to at the gym or that you’ll need to stay motivated at home. There are different considerations for each type of machine. For instance, for real elliptical movement you need a rear-drive unit with an adjustable incline ramp at the front, the American College of Sports Medicine explains. Less expensive front-drive ellipticals often don’t deliver a natural motion and may not feel comfortable to you. There are equally big differences between electronic stair steppers and manual ones, and between manual and motorized treadmills, for which a 3-horsepower motor is best. Check out the range of built-in speed adjustments. If you’re a beginner, the machine should be able to progress with you; if you’re a seasoned user, it should have enough settings to keep you challenged for the long term. Next, determine what bells and whistles are important to you, such as preset programs, a large…  read on >

Headed to a Major League Baseball game? Be prepared to duck and cover. As the 2018 season gets underway, a new study finds that fans’ risk of being struck by a foul ball or flying bat at Major League Baseball (MLB) games is on the rise. Each year, about 1,750 fans are hurt by foul balls at MLB games. That works out to about two injuries for every three games — more common than batters getting hit by wayward pitches, according to Indiana University researchers. The researchers did not examine injuries among the more than 40 million fans who attend minor league games. But fans’ risk of getting hit at MLB games rose as nearly two dozen new stadiums opened since 1992, the study found. The added risk is easy to explain, the researchers said. “Fans today frequently sit more than 20 percent closer to home plate than was the case throughout most of the 20th century,” said study author Nathaniel Grow, an associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “When you combine that with an increase in the speed with which baseballs are being hit into the stands, fans have less time to avoid errant balls or bats heading in their direction,” Grow explained in a university news release. A typical foul ball enters the stands at…  read on >

Tiny pellets could treat arthritic knee pain, delaying the need for knee replacement surgery, a small study has found. Microparticles inserted into small blood vessels around the knee helped reduce the pain and improve function in eight arthritis sufferers, according to clinical trial results. The results were presented Monday at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual meeting, in Los Angeles. “Patients overall were able to improve their physical function in the knee after the procedure, and there were no adverse events related to this treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Sandeep Bagla. Bagla is director of interventional radiology at the Vascular Institute of Virginia in Woodbridge. Boston Scientific, maker of the microparticles, funded the study. Much of the pain that comes from knee arthritis actually stems from inflammation in the lining of the knee joint, also called the synovium, Bagla said. In fact, small blood vessels created by degenerative arthritis feed this inflammation by increasing blood flow to the lining. To treat this, Bagla and his colleagues decided to try blocking those tiny blood vessels using microparticles — spheres about a tenth of a millimeter in size made from a synthetic gel-like material. The microparticles are inserted using a catheter run through a pinhole-sized incision, in a procedure that lasts between 45 and 90 minutes, Bagla said. “It’s an outpatient procedure, and no physical therapy is…  read on >

Knee replacement patients can continue to enjoy sports — such as skiing, tennis and dancing — without worrying that high-impact activities might compromise their new joint, a small, new study finds. The researchers tracked patients for between five and 15 years after knee replacement surgery, known as total knee arthroplasty. They found that sports participation had no significant impact on the longevity of artificial knees. Historically, knee replacement patients are advised against high-impact activities to preserve the new joint. “Patients were coming back for their annual review . . . and were participating in a range of ‘prohibited’ activities. There were patients competing in downhill skiing and tennis, but there was no wear, no dislocations, no loosening and no revisions,” said study author Dr. Samuel Joseph. He’s an orthopedic surgeon at Linacre Private Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. “Yes, there are patients running marathons and participating in triathlons after knee replacement surgery,” he added. More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The procedure replaces the natural joint with a prosthetic version made of metal and plastic. It’s typically done because of severe arthritis, trauma or other joint damage. Joseph and his colleagues identified 355 knee replacement patients who continued to participate in sports after surgery, more than 100 of whom…  read on >

If you love exercise, one of the hardest parts of suffering an injury is being sidelined. But if you take the time to heal a sprain or strain correctly, you’ll get back in the game faster. First, understand your injury to treat it appropriately. A sprain affects ligaments, the bands of tissue that connect bones at a joint. A strain is damage to muscle and the fibers that attach it to bone. Both injuries are classified from first-degree (the mildest) to third-degree (the most severe). Resist minimizing your injury. If you’re in a lot of pain or can’t put weight on a limb, call your doctor. Getting the right treatment is essential for a full and healthy recovery. You might need a splint, protective pad or brace, or crutches. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, treatment starts with an approach called PRICE, a variation of RICE, to limit swelling and speed healing. “PRICE” steps include: Protect against any further injury. Restrict activity for 48 to 72 hours. Ice the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 60 to 90 minutes. Compress the area with an elastic bandage or other compression aid. Elevate the injured area to minimize swelling. The next stage usually includes gentle movement of the muscle or joint, mild resistance exercise, and a very gradual return to your favorite activity.…  read on >

While football is frequently blamed for concussions, a new study shows that it’s also the sport in which athletes are most likely to suffer neck injuries. A neck fracture, commonly referred to as a broken neck, is a break in one or more vertebrae in the upper part of the spine. Neck sprains involve injury to the soft tissue surrounding those bones. The neck is referred to medically as the cervical spine. “We expected that American football was the leading cause of cervical spine injury, and it was for overall injuries [fractures and sprains],” said study author Dr. J. Mason DePasse. He’s a trauma fellow in the department of orthopaedics at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I. “Most neck fractures during sports don’t involve paralysis,” DePasse added. “Certainly that can happen, but most people … can have arm weakness.” DePasse and his colleagues combed through data collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2000 to 2015. More than 27,000 patients with neck injuries sustained from sports were identified, including 26,380 neck sprains and 1,166 fractures. Compared to women, men’s injury rates were 1.7 times higher for neck sprains and 3.6 times higher for fractures. Trailing football as the most common cause of neck sprains in men were cycling and weightlifting/aerobics. Women suffered the most neck sprains in weightlifting/aerobics, trampoline and…  read on >