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Snow is falling! Some of us think, yay winter activities, other are less enthused and can't help by grumbling at the thought of... yep you guessed it SHOVELLING!
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe if you are like most of the population and can't or won't hide from the snow.
- Warm up before you pick up that shovel.
Prepare your muscles for the activity they are about to perform, just like you would before a workout.
- Wear appropriate footwear.
No. Uggs. Your feet need to grip the group or else you WILL fall.
- Point your eyes, shoulders, hips and toes in the direction you wish to shovel
Avoid twisting movements while shoveling to reduce the sheering stress on your joints
- BEND. YOUR. KNEES.
Don't make me come find you to remind you. Because, I will.
- Take breaks
You aren't doing yourself any favors rushing. You'll fatigue easy and compromise your technique. Take breaks often.
- If all else fails, move to Florida
I probably should have started with this one.
BE SAFE FRIENDS!
In 2011 Virginia Tech released the results of a new rating system of adult football helmets that is designed to reduce the risk of concussion, the STAR Evaluation System. For the first tome researchers had provided the public with comparative test results of football helmets. The evaluation involved 120 impacts on each helmet in multiple locations and impact forces, the system weighed each impact force to a corresponding number of impacts a player would see throughout the course of a single season. Depending on how well each helmet performed, a risk was associated with each impact.
Since 2011, the list of football helmet ratings has been updated to include new models. In the spring of 2014, five new helmets were introduced and each earned a 5 STAR rating. The system is independent from helmet manufacturers, however that the effect the rating system has on the manufacturers in evident in the new helmets being produced. An assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech stated
Consumers care about safety, and as a result, helmets that are rated poorly are not selling [...] Not only are consumers using the ratings to purchase helmets, but manufacturers are using our system to design helmets to achieve five stars.
It is evident that this rating system has had an effect on consumers and manufacturers of football helmets, and in 2015 the STAR system evolved to include linear and rotational accelerations in the sport with the highest rate of concussions of all sports: hockey.
Virginia Tech researchers tested 32 models of hockey helmets using the STAR Evaluation System, this time to include over 2,000 impact tests done both in a laboratory setting and on the ice. The results published March 29, 2015 showed low ratings of all helmets tested from manufacturers of Warrior, Reebok, Bauer, CCM, and Easton. Of the helmets tested, 9 earned no stars, a rating of not recommended by the STAR system, 16 got one star, 6 received a rating of two stars, and one helmet tested the best to received three stars. Interestingly enough, the ratings did not correlate with price of the helmets. Although the results were low, the researchers hope that the findings will be used to help advance the technology in hockey helmets, and not hurt the sport.
How often do you see someone using a foam roller? Why are they doing it? Do they even know, or has it become a an obvious part of a training program that no one even thinks to question it? Every once and a while you'll hear the word fascia. Fascia. What is it? It is widely described as a fibrous connective tissue that envelopes muscles and joint capsules, the casing in which our musculoskeletal system lives, if you will. It is much more than that, it isn't a standalone structure that either limits or improves muscle length, it works with the body to produce movement and store energy which allows us to run and jump. Along with our muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and nerves it is part of the vast system that determines our flexibility and ability to produce power.
To understand this, we need to take a step back. Fascia is shaped by the strain that is applied to it. Your movement patterns dictate it's elasticity and resiliency, and how it behaves. If we accept this as true, what effect does foam rolling alone have on how elastic and resilient your fascia is? We know that to see the effects of strength and power training we need to train in a way that is related and functional to our sport or activity. The same goes for training your fascia's movement patterns.
Figure 1: Training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications. R. Schleip, D.G. Muller 2002.
Which brings me to the next thing we see often, static stretching. A classic form of stretching that takes a relaxed muscle and its associated fascia and passively lengthens it. Or does it? We are able to measure a change in length of the muscles fibres however, in the tendons we see a very minimal amount of length gains. Studies also show, that in conjunction with this very minimal effect on the tendon, the fascia remains passive. When we observe active stretching, the muscle acts differently and contracts isometrically, whereas through the oscillatory (or yo-yo like) movement we see the fascia changing length by both shortening and lengthening, almost as if it is producing the movement. It has been shown that fascia reacts similarly to a catapult or an elastic band. As it is lengthened it stores energy that when released has a spring-like action propelling explosive movement forward.
Figure 2: Training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications. R. Schleip, D.G. Muller 2002.
So to recap, fascia is changed by the movement patterns it undergoes but it also can stretch and recoil making jumping and bounding possible. How could static stretching and foam rolling make even the slightest impression on this particular tissue?
Keep in mind the model for elastic movements we just observed. In this movement pattern there is a moment between maximal stretch (stored energy is building) and movement production (when the stored energy is released and movement occurs). At this moment the fascia is being stretched at the same time that the muscle is activated in a lengthened position. Studies have shown that this type of stretching principle will yield the highest improvements in fascial length.
Don't through away your foam roller yet, it does have some benefit to your fascia, but not how you'd imagine. It's important to know that approximately two thirds of the volume of fascia is made up of water. Fascia behaves in a way that imitates sponges that when it is stretched or compressed is pushes a significant amount of water out of the affected areas. Following the outward flow of water from the fascia during compression, an inward flux brings along new fluid that can hydrate and refresh the tissue. This is important because the fluid that is being pushed out of the fascia can contain waste products and free radicals that can cause problems to the surrounding tissues. The compression to the sponge-like fascia can lead to a more healthy water constitution, which we know forms a large volume of our fascia. This compression is achieved by stretching and foam rolling together.
But what does that mean in terms of the flexibility of our fascia? It means that our flexibility is determined by many factors, and to improve our flexibility we can't look to only one technique. Like most things in our lives, we have to use a multifaceted approach. Although foam rolling and active stretching are parts of the puzzle to release our fascia, there are many more ways to keep the other parts of our musculoskeletal system flexible and performing optimally. But starting with a little insight is half of the battle.
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