The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what? In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.
In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).
Here are a few surprising facts from the study:
Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”
So, what is the reality? Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products. Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research. Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation. This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank. So what should consumers do? Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Don’t be a sucker!!! Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else. Be smart and do some research. While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either. Make sure to get info from good sources. If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.
The May issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research has an excellent article called “The Junction Boys Syndrome”. The syndrome title is based on the book and movie called “The Junction Boys”. These both tell the story of the year that “Bear” Bryant took over as head coach at Texas A&M. He took his players off-campus for a brutal pre-season camp. Numerous players were injured and/or quit the team during the camp.
The article by Scott Anderson discusses the fact that modern football “training regimens are too often built on tradition versus based on science and place players at-risk”. He then gives us information and facts about the 21 nontraumatic deaths in NCAA FBS football since 2000. Sixteen of these deaths occurred during strength and conditioning activities.
Is Anderson right? Yes, Are many of these deaths caused by the “tradition” of intense work making tougher and better football players? Unfortunately, yes. Why is this? There are numerous resources available to help people design safe and effective training programs. There are also qualified Strength & Conditioning coaches to design and implement the programs. We even have Certified Athletic Trainers who can help monitor athletes for signs of medical problems during workouts and then care for them if necessary. So why do we still have deaths? I think that there are three main reasons:
Influence of the Football Coaches – The S & C world is full of stories of sport coaches dictating how they want the strength and conditioning program run. While some of this has to do with trust and respect, if the S & C Coach is qualified and competent, let them do their job. If they aren’t qualified and competent, then hire someone who is.
The “I’ll Make You Puke Mentality” – While I understand the get tough mentality, I think that if a S & C Coach uses puking as the goal for the workouts that he designs, it’s sad. With all of the research and knowledge at our disposal, there should be a better goal that they can come up with. Vern Gambetta has discussed his thoughts on work and makes a good point “…puking at the end of a workout is not the measure of a good training.”
Tradition – It is true that in some instances, football training is still in the dark ages. Top this with the fact that there are still numerous veteran coaches who believe in doing things traditionally, and it leads to problems. New research is published all of the time to help show what works and what doesn’t. S & C Coaches should constantly be trying to learn and use this knowledge to make their programs better. As for the football coaches, see #1 above.
Should we still have nontraumatic deaths during football training? No. The last thing that any of us want is for one of our athletes to die due to the training program that we have designed and overseen. Scott Anderson ends his article by saying that it is time for these deaths to stop. I don’t see how anyone could disagree.
P.S. If you want to know how we believe that training should be, click here to find out Sports Upgrade
I’ve written previously about training barefoot and the possible benefits. It seems like the concept is becoming more popular lately. There are more books being published and the concept is getting more coverage in the mainstream media. Recently an article on barefoot training appeared in the Huffington Post. With all of the recent interest, I thought it might be a good idea to mention a few tips before throwing away all of your training shoes.
What shoes to wear for training today? How about going barefoot!
Tips for Barefoot Training
Ease into it – Most of us haven’t spent lots of time barefoot since we were kids. Keep this in mind when you start training barefoot. Our feet have become used to the support and protection of shoes. Since your feet will probably have to go through an adaptation process, don’t try to do everything barefoot right off the bat. It might be a good idea to start going barefoot more around the house,if you don’t already. Then start by doing your warm-up without shoes. If you are doing a proper dynamic warm-up, it should take you 10-15 minutes to complete. This should give your feet a chance to begin to get used to going without shoes. After this, gradually add in more barefoot time.
Choose soft surfaces – Ok, maybe this one is common sense but I still thought that it was worth mentioning. Soft surfaces give you cushioning when your feet land on the ground. They also help to limit the amount of surface damage (small cuts, scrapes, etc) to your feet. While this is a good idea in general, it is especially important when first starting out your barefoot adventures.
Be selective in your activities– Continuing along with the general idea of safety, you should probably choose activities that are fairly safe for your feet, especially at first. This probably isn’t the time to work in some depth jumps, for example. Stick with easier activities and remember that there are still some things that it might be a good idea to wear shoes while doing (e.g., weightlifting).
I’ve been wondering what the new training “fad” will be for 2012. Maybe barefoot training will be it. Ok, maybe not if Nike has anything to say about it haha. Regardless, give barefoot training a try. It will help your feet to gain strength and movement that they haven’t had since you were a kid.
Here’s a video post about heat illness. Since several high school athletes have died already this year due to the heat, I thought that it would be a good time to address it. The video discusses prevention, signs & symptoms, and treatment.