Knowledge And Application of Preventing Baseball Injuries

The problem is not a lack of knowledge; the problem is a lack of action and consequences.

One of my long time mentors posted an article about overspecialization in sports and further into throwing injuries. So I view it wise to repost.

We’re at a point in time where just about everyone knows that throwing a baseball year-round is a bad idea. Moreover, we know that it’s best for kids to avoid early sports specialization.

Dr. James Andrews has been outspoken against early specialization and year-round throwing for roughly a decade.

John Smoltz devoted a big chunk of his Hall-of-Fame acceptance speech in Cooperstown to discouraging kids and parents from early specialization and year-round baseball.

JohnSmoltz

John Smoltz

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recently referred to the trend of kids playing only one sport as “an absolute crime.”

USA Baseball launched their Pitch Smart campaign – featuring an advisory board of many MLB team doctors and athletic trainers – to prevent overuse in youth baseball.

All the way back in 2006, a landmark study by Olsen et al. clearly demonstrated strong associations between injuries requiring surgery and pitching “more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game” as well as showcase appearances during adolescence. Overuse is the one factor that predicts injury over and over again in the research.

A 2011 study demonstrated that players in warm weather climates had less shoulder strength and more problematic range-of-motion adaptations than those in cold weather climates.

These are just a few examples, too. Hundreds of professional athletes have spoken out against early sports specialization. College coaches have in some cases refused to recruit one-sport athletes. And, there are more anti-specialization posts and websites freely available on the Internet than one could possibly imagine. Yet, the problem isn’t even close to going away, and injuries still at all-time highs.

Now, I can understand how some players, parents, coaches, and scouts don’t stay on top of  this important information. What I can’t understand is how they’d miss it when the world’s most recognized orthopedic surgeon is speaking out against it. Or how they can miss it when one of the most accomplished pitchers of the last century devotes the biggest media spotlight of his life to bashing early sports specialization. Or how they’d overlook one of the premier coaches in the NFL so vehemently putting down the practice. Or how a governing body like MLB would devote time, money, and resources to a problem that they think will have a significant negative impact on the future of the game beyond just the billions of dollars that are already being wasted on players on the disabled list.

The problem is not a lack of knowledge; the problem is a lack of action and consequences.

When you were a little kid and stole a cookie from the cookie jar – even after your mother told you it was off limits – you got punished for doing so. If you didn’t have consequences, you’d keep stealing cookies. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option with youth baseball. Really, the only consequence is injury, and it’s surprisingly not that great a teacher.

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elbows

A lot of kids and parents continue to make the same mistakes even after an arm surgery and extended layoff. They’ve been brainwashed to think that the only way kids can succeed in baseball is to play year-round to keep up with other kids and get exposure to college coaches and pro scouts. There are too many coaches, showcase companies, and scouting services lining their pockets by lobbying hard to make these false assumptions stick.

If knowledge (“eating too many cookies is bad for you”) isn’t working, and it’s hard to deliver consequences, what’s the next step? You’ve got to make it really hard to get to those cookies – and they better taste like crap if you do manage to do so.

Stepping away from this analogy, the big governing bodies that matter need to step up their game. Here are six quick changes that I personally feel could have a profound impact on reducing injury rates across all levels:

1. Major League Baseball needs to implement a high school scouting “dead period” from October 1 through January 1. It is entirely hypocritical for MLB to push PitchSmart, but turn a blind eye when literally hundreds of scouts are showing up for October-December showcases and tournaments that directly compete with the PitchSmart initiative. Most of the highest-profile players aren’t even attending these events anymore (advisors know it’s an unnecessary injury risk), and there is absolutely nothing a scout would see in November that they can’t see in the spring during the regular season.

2. MLB should also mandate that no pitcher can throw in more than three consecutive games – including “getting hot” (throwing in the bullpen, but not entering the game). Some might criticize me for this, but after extensive interaction with relievers at this level, I firmly believe that bullpen mismanagement is one of the biggest problems in MLB pitching injuries. Fans and the media only see the actual number of appearances, but when you factor in the number of times a pitcher “gets hot” without entering the game, you have relievers who are literally throwing over 120 times in a season.

3. The NCAA needs to implement innings limits on freshman and sophomore pitchers. Keep freshman pitchers to 120 innings and sophomore pitchers to 140 (combining the college season and summer ball). Additionally, any pitcher who throws more than 120 innings during the spring/summer should have a mandatory 60-day period of no throwing prior to starting fall ball.

4. The NCAA should also implement a conservative pitch count limit for college starters. I think 130 is a good place to start, and while I still think it’s unnecessarily high, it reins in those coaches who’ll leave a guy in for 150+ pitches. Sadly, this happens far too often in college baseball these days, and there are zero repercussions (although I do commend ESPN’s Keith Law for always calling these coaches out on Twitter).

5. State athletic associations in warm weather climates need to structure high school seasons to allow for athletes to compete in multiple sports. As an example, in Massachusetts, the high school baseball season begins on the third Monday in March, while the first basketball practice is November 30. If a high school basketball player wants to play baseball, he might only have a 1-2 week overlap during that month – and it only happens if his team goes deep into the playoffs.

Conversely, the high school baseball season here in Florida begins on January 18, while the last regular season basketball game doesn’t occur until January 30. The state championship games take place February 23-27 – which is roughly halfway through the baseball season! There is absolutely no reason for a high school baseball season (in which teams play about 30 games) needs to start prior to March 1.

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That extra six weeks would make a huge difference in getting more baseball players to also participate in winter sports and help to get a baseball out of young hands a bit longer. And, you’d see a lot more players well prepared on day 1 of baseball tryouts because they’d have more off-season preparation under their belts. It would simply force teams to play three games per week instead of two; this is exactly what’s done in Northern states (and they’ll sometimes play four, if weather interferes).

6. Similar to point #4, state athletic associations should also have regulations on permissible pitch counts for high school arms. I think 115 pitches is a good number.

Closing Thoughts

I should note that I actually think Little League Baseball does a solid job of disseminating information and including specific regulations within the game and between games. The changes – at least in my eyes – should rest with high school athletic associations, the NCAA, and Major League Baseball. Impact will come from the top down.

As you can see, with only two exceptions, I’m much more about managing the competitive year than I am about micromanaging pitch counts. And, the two pitch count recommendations I put out are remarkably conservative and just reaffirm common sense (which, unfortunately, isn’t so common anymore). Pitch counts alone haven’t proven to be tremendously effective, but do have a place when implemented alongside guidelines for managing the overall baseball calendar.

There is absolutely no reason for skeletally immature middle and high school baseball players to have longer competitive seasons than professional players.

Why You Need A Coach

As an athlete myself,  I know and value the role coaches can support our lives. And now as a coach myself over the last 10 years I have a positive bias towards that.

 

Here are four reasons I feel each and every one of us should have coaches in our lives.

 

#1 – For Their Expertise

The most obvious reason to seek out a coach is to find someone who is an expert in his or her field.

Even with the suspect of internet information overload nowadays, no one knows everything. And that’s the worse place to seek information along with youtube videos.

 

As a coach, I expect myself to be an expert in the world of coaching.

But on the other hand, I’m also a business owner, which leads to an entirely different set of skills I need to develop.

 

However, I outsource a lot of the business side of things because my skill is in coaching…not business.

The same could be said for your training.

So here’s something to consider: If you found someone who was a better coach than you are right now, and hired them to write your programming, how much could you fast-track your skills as a coach?

It’s definitely something to think about.

 

#2 – To Increase Accountability

You are instantly more accountable.

I’ve coached athletes for over 15 years now, and I’ve written more programs than I care to remember.

But when I write my own program? It’s like the laws of biomechaincs and physiology change.

Just because I know what a certain exercise or modality is supposed to do, I can rationalize a reason for myself not to do it.

It’s crazy.

It’s a well known fact, but the bulk of your success when it comes to training (and life) is simply showing up and putting in the work.

A coach, then, is essentially a way to “buy” accountability. If you write a program for yourself, or simply take one off the Internet, there’s no accountability built in.

But if you take some of your hard earned cash and actually hire the services of a coach, you’re immediately more likely to stay true to the program and put in the work.

 

#3 – To Provide Objectivity

Let’s be real here – it’s very easy to lose objectivity when it comes to your own training.

Again, I can use myself as an example: I’ve trained myself so long, and can get so stuck in my own head, that it limits my ability to program effectively for myself.

Here are some questions we should ask whenever we design a program:

What are this athletes goals?
What are their needs, both with regards to movement quality and capacity?
What do they need in the short term? What do they need in the long term?
Chances are if you’ve been training yourself for any extended period of time, your answers to these questions are not nearly as clear as they should be.

Or even worse, you’re stuck in the same rut, doing the same things month after month, year after year.

This is another great time to hire a professional. A quality coach can give you objective feedback on where you’re starting at, and what you need to do to get going in the right direction.

 

#4 – To Lighten the Load

With all the daily stuff to do inside and outside the gym…lives with family, job, kids activities, whatever … the answer is Easy – get a coach to lighten the load.

When life deals you a chaotic schedule it’s hard to manage time and your training roadmap hiring a coach to take some of that burden and stress off you would be a solid decision.

 

Summary

I think if you’re serious about achieving goals in your life, you should heavily consider hiring a coach to help you get there.

 

Tempurature Applications For Recovery

The age old usage of ice and heat for injury recovery has been a sound start in that process. The less than old usage of tempurature application for recovery from workouts such as ice and heat may not be so sound for recovery.

 

The thought is (mind you this is pending science based and evidence based truth..) that using long heat sessions and ice bath sessions will help recovery and performance.

 

WHOA! HOLD YOUR HORSES…

 

These temp applications used in injury recovery reduces inflammation. Ever stopped to wonder why we have this inflammation process in the first place?

It IS a part of the healing process. Trying to remove inflammation 100% prematurely lowers healing time if recovering from injuries. But here is the thing…what about recovery in the healthy form?

 

The Answer:

Doing so actually drops performance levels a bit. It will alter your adaptation response to the very training you did to improve performance for whatever it is you are doing.

 

Think about that for a minute. You worked really hard, busted your butt with your weight training, your tennis skill set work, your hitting or throwing program, anything just to limit some of the performance adaptations.

 

I know, most can ill afford these days to minimize results… Well we don’t need to help ourselves take a step back ever. There’s enoough out there that can affect those outcomes.

 

What are some better options with revovery?

 

We have passive recovery – sleep, non active time, naps – 15-20 mins is good, time to destress and relax and eliminate junk from your mind and bloodstrem maybe…

 

We have active recovery – play a different game than the one your are participating in most of the time, Light training days (technique work), deload weeks 50% of your loads and active rest – taking a walk, hike (not Mt. Evans) frisbee…

 

FRISBEE??

 

We have nutrition – protein is always a good bet. Sometimes it’s over consumed so a good range is .08-1 gram per pound of bodyweight, taking in a surplus of calories for a bit of time cn help you get refreshed, but not the opposite like not eating enough, hydration is big too.

 

Be careful not to tap in to NSAIDS (tylenol, ibproferin, etc.) as a part of your regimen. It too has a adaptation response that is not on the proising side of your recovery and health and soon if taken too often you will be tapped out completely.

 

This topic can be touched on much more but these are some primary ways to help recover from workouts meaning exercise not the injured reserve. Different topic different day.

 

Give some of these things a thought and try them out !

Dodging The Holiday Weight HO HO

It’s been a week since Thanksgiving in America and many people still feel like they haven’t recovered from all of that food and fun.

If you’re one of those people who over-stuffed themselves, statistics say you will gain 5 pounds between now and Christmas. That’s just the way it is.

And according to the New England Journal of Medicine, you won’t ever lose the extra pounds. Depressing.

Yet, eating good food is an enjoyment in life. It’s a punishment if one is allowed to only look and not eat delicious, tasty food. But you know me: I like to eat more and burn more.

Want to know my 6-step secret to dodge becoming one of those people who never loses the extra pounds:

 

Relax – It’s a normal phenomenon that human beings store up energy to prepare for the long, cold winter. So don’t be hard on yourself.

 

Take a walk – No need for strenuous exercise. But a daily walk around the block is always pleasant and goes a long way to shed pounds.

 

Just Cook more – Cooking from scratch is the only way you can control what goes into your body. Spending time in the kitchen can be enjoyable if you are organized and make it fun. Put some music on, grab a glass of red wine, and bring the kids or your significant other in.

 

Eat more fiber – This includes, lentils and beans, leafy green vegetables, whole-grain ingredients, seeds and nuts…

 

No-fatten stews, soups, and casseroles – I don’t think I can say that enough.

 

I’m here for you – Seriously, ask me anything. I’m here to help. I’ll answer one-on-one questions on Facebook every single day. So don’t hesitate.

Client Katie R

 

Profile: Katie R.

Status: current client at Niks Performance

Photo: Before and After

Feeling: Awesome

 

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This is Katie. As you can see she has made some changes for herself! This is not uncommon at NP but everyone has their own situation going on for maybe many reasons. But the bottom line for her she had to make a choice. What did Katie want for herself? What was her WHY?

Everyone may have a similar reason and answer or a completely different one. But the bottom line Katie made changes and her results tell you so.

Great Job Katie you look fabulous!

5 Most Important Pillars For Fat Loss

No one really thinks about fat loss. They think weight loss and truly there is a difference. However, in your fat loss quest I urge a bit of a mindset change on how you will proceed in your workouts to lose fat without thinking burning fat. You’ll quickly see what I mean…

Pillar #1 – Focus On Burning Carbohydrate, Not Fat, During Your Fat-Loss Workouts.

Sounds backwards, right? But not when you look at how I structure my workouts. NP focuses on resistance training and interval training. Both of these use carbohydrate as the main source of energy. So it’s obvious the workout is designed to burn carbohydrates during the training session.

I have no interest in you trying to train in your “target heart rate zone” for fat burning (aka – the fat burning zone). The whole idea of a fat-burning zone is an over-simplified idea of how the body works during exercise.

Leave the inefficient fat burning zone to the mis-educated trainers in the commercial gyms (that not surprisingly, also want to sell you a heart rate monitor so you can stay in your “fat burning heart rate zone”).

If you want to get the most results in the least amount of time, focus on burning carbohydrates, not fat.

Why do my fat loss workouts focus on burning carbohydrate rather than fat? In order to burn more calories after the workout, that’s why. When you exercise with intervals and heavy resistance training, your body uses more calories in the hours after exercise than it would if you did traditional cardio and lifted lighter weights.

 

Pillar  #2 – Use A Range Of Repetitions In Your Strength Training Workouts.

In order to train more muscle fibers and burn more carbohydrates, I have clients use a range of repetitions within the same workout. My workouts now use 6, 8, and 12 reps per set in order to work the muscle the most effectively.

This will burn more carbohydrates and promote as much muscle growth as possible when you are keeping the calories low.

 

Pillar #3 – Use The Stationary Cycle For Interval Training.

I choose the stationary bike for intervals whenever possible because cycling against a resistance can help maintain muscle mass.

Cycling against a resistance also allows you to perform a large amount of mechanical work, and that is a key determinant in my training.

But please note: I don’t use low-intensity, fast pedaling ‘spinning’ intervals as I’m convinced that the hard, resistance based intervals are more effective for fat loss. My clients only cycle against a strong resistance in their intervals.

I really like the bike, but there are many other ways to do intervals. Use what works for you, but if you are at a plateau, try the bike.

 

Pillar #4 – Increase Meal Frequency

Okay, so this isn’t really a secret to anyone that has read about fat loss. But a 2005 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating 6 times per day was associated with eating fewer calories per day, lowering cholesterol levels, and lowering post-meal insulin levels.

Combine an increased meal frequency with an increased protein and fiber intake, and you’ll see your body composition improve rapidly.

 

Pillar #5 – My Elevation Training Workouts

My Elevation Training Fat Loss workouts are fast becoming the most effective way to burn fat, build muscle, and get lean. The flow between strength training-interval training workouts are efficient and effective – getting you in and out of the gym in under an hour.

Here are some tips that you can use for an advanced training phase

– use these tips for 2 weeks then return to your normal training schedule:

a) Add 10 seconds to each interval but maintain the intensity

b) Add in some bodyweight circuits (10-20 minutes per day) done in the morning or evening (if you do your regular workout in the AM, do your bodyweight circuits after dinner; otherwise, do the bw circuits first thing in the AM, and then do your regular workout at lunch or later in the afternoon or evening)

If you are advanced, you can use squats, pushups, and bodyweight rows for your circuit.

If you are a beginner, you could use lying hip extensions, modified pushups, and bent over reverse flys (no weight).

c) Add an extra set to each exercise in the first superset you do
in each workout.

Again, use these three tips for an advanced fat loss period of two weeks, then return to a normal training schedule.

But always stick to the best fat loss nutrition plan possible.

If you have any other questions, just let me know. Email me or on Facebook I’ll answer your questions!

 

 

Deadlifting Styles

Many lifters have a hard time dead lifting. Ok so what now…. there are 3 different types of dead lifting that a lifter can “choose” from. I purposefully emphasized choose for a reason. Dead lifting strength, pain intolerances, comfortability and frankly if you should or not lies in assessing the best we can on pelvic alignment.

The Key Determinant – Hip Structure

Whether you’re stronger in the conventional deadlift or the sumo deadlift (hip flexion with hip abduction sometimes depends, on your hip structure. And beginners most likely if they are cleared to deadlift should start with the trap bar deadlift. To keep things simple there are several variables to recognize. Pelvises come in all shapes and sizes, socket location… i.e farther forward or farther back on a pelvis, are they shallow or deep, and the angulation of the femur.

Those five distinct variables will determine both the range of motion your hips can go through, and the amount of muscular tension you can develop in different hip positions.

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Image 1 shows what a “normal” angle of inclination looks like. Image 2 shows a coxa vara hip, and image 3 shows a coxa valga hips.

Number 2 will almost certainly need to deadlift conventional (especially if they have deep hip sockets), and they’ll probably squat with a pretty narrow stance as well. With too much hip abduction, the top of their femur will be encroaching upon the pelvis itself.

Number 3 probably has no issues doing split work, and they may be better off pulling sumo.

 

Notorious differences particularly between the conventional and sumo deadlift?

When looking at the demands there are only two major differences.

  1. Conventional deadlifts are harder on your spinal erectors off the floor.

2. Sumo deadlifts are harder on your quads.

How do you know whether you’re meant to pull conventional or sumo?

Try them out and see…if sumo is indeed a good option for you I still would cycle them in and out of your training program. Neither variation is inherently easier or harder than the other, and hip extension demands are virtually identical; however, one or the other will likely be noticeably stronger for you in the long run, based largely on your personal hip structure, which determines the range of motion your hips can go through comfortably, and the tension on the muscles around your hip at varying degrees of flexion, abduction, and external rotation. The big key here is not to squat the sumo that so many try to do. You need to hip hinge the sumo just as you do the conventional. The last thing with the sumo…foot stance can largely depend on leg length so longer legged individuals will stance themselves a bit wider than shorter legged individuals. As you grab the bar hip hinge abduct the femur and externally rotate the legs.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Standards In The Fitness Industry (Cross Fit Included)

I’ve been in the strength and conditioning field for many years now. I have mentored with some outstanding people. It has paved the way for me to better at what I do for my own programming and especially for my athletes and general fitness folks.

 

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One size fits all programs don’t really work in the long run…

What I have seen over the years with incoming trainers, proclaimed trainers and crossfire gyms of all sizes is this…WOD. While I will say some people hate to plan or don’t know how to plan for workouts, and some people who want to work out don’t want ‘repeats’ because it’s boring. You won’t be bored with WODs but you won’t necessarily get the results you’re seeking either. Randomness can only work for so long. Then what? Where do you go? You don’t even know where you’ve been LOL..(I am laughing but with frustration too). All people, all gyms, all cross fitters who want your money will say the catch all phrase  ‘RESULTS DRIVEN’. ” We are a results driven gym. Best in town”. While you should expect that, know this… WODs and Results Driven do not equal each other.

CrossFit-Tuluka-gana-terreno-en-Buenos-Aires

Unfortunately, what I see most and hear even more than that is how people get hurt in the these particular WOD cases. While WOD often means Cross Fit it also is and has been apparent in every gym I’ve ever been to such as 24 hour fitness, Bally’s, 1 gym private owners, etc… WOD just sounds better the than just throwing a bunch of exercises together to smash you. Every gym has “trainers” like these. 90% of them are this and worse because they have no idea about you and your should and should nots. If you walk in a gym pain free (though doesn’t mean you don’t have issues, you just can’t feel them at that point in time) you definitely should not be walking out in pain…with ice packs on the low back or in the shoulder region. And though the misnomer is because it kicked your a$$ it was a great workout. Listen it doesn’t mean it was good for you. Seek better. Expect better. Period.

 

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One last comment I feel is necessary to put forward…the cross fit methodology applies to one sport…Cross fit. Its use should not be applied for any other sport to improve performance in that sport.  Cross fit for baseball? No. Cross Fit for volleyball, basketball, football, NO. Just cross fit.  Think carry over. Needs. It’s not happening. It is easy to think it will help but nope.

Remember words are words. Proclamations can be made, but time will tell the truth.

Throwing Prep Program

One of the most common mistakes I see in young and amateur players is improper throwing programs that may be hurting them more than helping them. Improper warm up is one likely element. Throwing is aggressive..it’s dynamic and the body should be prepared appropriately before you throw as hard as you can.

By not using a progressive method of warming up the arm before they start throwing hard, it diminishes arm care and you don’t prepare your body for the demands of throwing.  Trust me, big leaugers are not throwing as hard as they can on the 5th throw of the day.

In order to reduce the risk of injury first and then improve performance one must know the difference between putting in work and preparation.

 

pitcher

Your throwing prep program really requires two things:

1) Prepare your body

2) Prepare for throwing.

Coming up I will be posting a pair of articles on these two preparation needs.

In-Season Programs

Nike Performance is offering in-season strength and conditioning and arm care programs this spring. Maximize your performance, recover better between games, and reduce your chance for injury. If you are serious about baseball, contact us now for more information, including info on our current special pricing for in-season arm care programs.

Aging Athletes Keeping Muscle

Being A Life-Long Athlete Keeps Your Mind And Body Strong.

 

I think we all know that as we get older our mental and physical abilities start to decline. But the study of sciences have shown this.

Between the age of 40 and 50, the sedentary can lose more than 8 percent of our muscle mass. And the percentage of atrophy can increase to 15 after 75 years of age and years after.

These are stunning results to some though the reality that most don’t know is the target of these test studies are on sedentary adults , as Andrew Wroblewski and his colleagues point out in their recent study published in The Physician and Sports Medicine Journal.

 

grandmas

 

The question that should be asked is what about those life long athletes… Masters athletes? Limited research has been looked into how the muscles of masters athletes, whose life involves daily exercise,  decline, or don’t, as they get older. Wroblewski et. al. took muscle and body composition measurements of 40 high-level recreational athletes.

The subjects, 20 men and 20 women, ranged in age from 40 to 81 years and practiced their sport, primarily running, biking and/or swimming, four to five times per week.

 

Aging Alone Does Not Affect Muscle Mass Or Strength.

 

By measuring lean muscle mass, body fat composition and mid-thigh muscle area, along with taking MRI scans of the athletes’ quadriceps, the researchers observed that these masters competitors preserved muscle mass even as they aged.

The results showed that mid-thigh muscle mass and lean mass did not increase with age. But it didn’t decrease either. And, the older athletes seemed to maintain their muscle mass even though their body fat increased, relative to the younger competitors in the study.

These observations suggest that body fat was accumulating in places other than within the muscles, which is better for maintaining muscle strength. Tests on the subjects’ quads strength also showed that it did not decline with age either.

 

TRUTH: USE IT or LOSE IT

 

In other words, this new study flat out contradicts all of the previous research suggesting that all of us will lose muscle mass and strength simply by growing older.

Instead, the authors argue, the muscles atrophy because they aren’t being used. They also suggest that if more individuals stress their muscles as they age, it may reduce the physical decline, falls and loss of independence that frustrate and inhibit many senior citizens.

The authors also note that it’s these aspects of aging that tend to increase health care costs, so if each individual continues to develop their muscles as they age, the exercise could channel those unspent billions back into the economy.

 

MRI scans of the quad of a 40-year-old triathlete, a 70-year-old triathlete and a 74-year-old sedentary man. Credit: Wroblewski et. al.

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Citation: Wroblewski, A., et. al. Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Volume: 39, No.3. DOI: 10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933