Damian Fantauzzi

Damian Fantauzzi

Friday, 13 January 2017 16:19

To Supplement, Or Not To Supplement

So, if you eat lots of produce and lean protein, you’re probably all set with vitamins and minerals, right? If you’re hitting the gym on a regular basis, that may not be the case. Certain nutrients are vital for your muscles to work efficiently, and, “moderate to vigorous exercise increases the loss of some minerals, mostly through sweat,” says Kelly L. Prichett R.D. spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Translation: Being active could mean your stores are totally tapped out. How about supplements and or vitamins? Are they good, are they safe, and how much should be taken? Dietary supplements are not required by federal law to be tested for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed, so the amount of scientific evidence available for various supplement ingredients varies widely. Some ingredients in dietary supplements have been carefully evaluated. For example, scientists know that calcium and vitamin D are important for keeping bones strong and reducing bone loss. Other supplements, such as many herbal products, need more study to determine their value. The B complex formulas are safe, I will not endorse any particular brand, but using the well known supplement companies is recommended. As a coach, I have recommended to many of my athletes to consider taking certain vitamins, like C and B complex. It’s important to know that when taking vitamins they should pretty much be ingested with food; that way they become part of the digestive process of the body and therefore, they will be properly absorbed and become more beneficial. Got to take note here, the vitamins mentioned in this paragraph are water soluble and are considered safe to take because your body just eliminates the waste naturally. Carbohydrates have six major functions within the body: Providing energy and regulation of blood glucose, sparing the use of proteins for energy breakdown of fatty acids and preventing ketosis an abnormal increase of ketone bodies in the blood as in diabetes mellitus, which is a deficiency of insulin. Almost all foods have carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential for two distinct functions in your body -- energy and digestion. Most types of carbohydrates, such as starch and sugar, break down into glucose, which is the simplest form of carbohydrate and your body’s primary source of energy. Simple carbohydrates are sugars, and complex carbs are healthy starches as found in vegetables. An athlete’s carbohydrate intake can be judged by whether total daily intake and the timing of consumption in relation to exercise maintain adequate carbohydrate substrate for the muscle and central nervous system or whether carbohydrate fuel sources are limiting for the daily exercise program. Carbohydrate availability is increased by consuming carbohydrate in the hours or days prior to the session, intake during exercise, and refueling during recovery between sessions. This is important for the competition setting or for high-intensity training where optimal performance is desired. Carbohydrate intake during exercise should be scaled according to the characteristics of the event. Products containing special blends of different carbohydrates may maximize absorption of carbohydrate at such high rates. In real life, athletes undertake training sessions with varying carbohydrate availability. Whether implementing additional “train-low” strategies to increase the training adaptation leads to enhanced performance in well-trained individuals is unclear. I found most of this valuable information on a blog by Elizabeth Quinn, called “Very Well,” which is related to sports medicine. There’s a lot of news out there that relates to nutrition, not only for athletes, but for everyone. The combination of vitamins, like B complex, C and D and some forms of antioxidants like fish oils and the blend of complex carbs are all important for athletes to consider to restore the nutrients that they use during activity. I’m a believer in the use of supplements; they have become the new good fuels for all athletes and a must consideration to all active people. Please note, sugars from candy and power drinks, plus sodas, are short lived and can cause your body to fall into a rapid crash of fatigue. Avoid over-using these forms of simple carbs. They have little to no benefit for anyone, especially athletes. In the long term simple carbs turn into unwanted fat and are detrimental to your health. These simple carbs can be addictive, they can be dangerous! Eat right and be active and you’ll enjoy good health.
Friday, 02 December 2016 17:39

A New Frontier of Athlete Responsibility

I bet you’ve seen it too. Some teammates lay plans to break a rule, but their captain is afraid to hold them accountable. They often feel like their friend above their actual superior. Throughout the years of my coaching career I had my teams elect their captains. As time passed, I began to realize that it wasn’t always the right decision. It became more of a popularity contest. Eventually my assistant coach and I decided that we would pick the team’s captains. Unfortunately not everyone on the team is trustworthy. There can be some players who have their own personal agenda. When players notice their teammates talking negatively about another teammate, it can begin this domino effect that trickles down the entire roster. Some unhappy players might try to make every moment a daily experience of dread. Asking student athletes about the difficulty of standing up to teammates on wrong choices will often times ignite anxieties. It becomes a means of social survival. In today’s world, peer pressure is at an all time high. It seems that too many student athletes live in the fear of intimidation from others, and would rather go along with the overall team atmosphere as opposed to their own, regardless of how toxic it may be. So what can we do? As I mentioned earlier, coaches must set a good example by selecting the appropriate team captains. I believe that in this era of athletics all team members need to take on leadership roles. Team leadership is a necessary entity, so that all can be clear about the goals of the team’s big picture. We are now in a culture that dictates an obsession about society’s view of us as individuals. This is a scenario that might come from the offspring from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. I feel in that the realm of this subject there is an unhealthy preoccupation with others’ opinions. People spend too much time trying to impress others, when they should really be focusing on themselves. To gain that focus, there needs to be an attitude of dedication, which includes the observation of the team’s rules. It’s beneficial for the coach to clearly lay out team expectations and guidelines at the beginning of the season. One effective technique I have found later in my career, is to set team laws or rules as a group. This includes a conversation about why these rules are being put into place, and why those rules can be effective should each member of the team follow them. In conclusion, with some food for thought, there will be outsiders who speculate the team as a family aspect of athletics. Often times this can cause a divide and can drive a spike into the team’s chemistry. During pre-season, I would preach to my athletes that it’s important to stick together as a group, in order to avoid any negative outside influences that may deter the team away from its goals. In the contemporary world of today, a coach has to prepare his or her team of the possible outside interference and influences that could kill the soul purpose of the team-family.
Friday, 11 November 2016 18:34

Options To Achieve Good Health!

A focused group of a recent study contained more than 55,000 men and women ages 18 to 100. About a quarter of them were runners. Over fifteen years, those who ran just 50 minutes a week or fewer at a moderate pace were less likely to die from either cardiovascular disease compared with those who didn’t run at all. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds that even five to ten minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all. It shows that the minimal healthy “dose” of exercise is smaller than many people might assume. What can improve your mood, boost your ability to fend off infection, and lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer? One answer is regular exercise. It may seem too good to be true, but it’s not. Hundreds of studies conducted over the past 50 years demonstrate that exercise helps you feel better and live longer. This report answers many important questions about physical activity, ranging from how your body changes through exercise to what diseases it helps prevent. It will also help guide you through starting and maintaining an exercise program that suits your abilities and lifestyle. Throughout these studies you’ll find advice on staying motivated, measuring your progress, and being a savvy consumer of fitness equipment, as well as tools and tips designed to help make exercise work for you. But running is not right for everyone, and more importantly, running is not the only way to stay in shape, or even get into shape. In fact, there are many different types of dynamic cardio workouts that give you a stellar calorie burn, while sculpting muscle at the same time. If you are a member of a gym you have many options that can serve as substitutes for pounding the pavement. As I mentioned in my introduction, running is one of the greatest forms of exercise that we can do to improve our health. Not everyone is able to run, for various reasons, but there are other workouts and exercises that can fit the bill as a replacement for running. With no equipment needed, these exercises can be done at home and will increase your heart rate and tone your body. The first option is the stairs. If your home or apartment building has access to stairs, take advantage of them! Stairs are a great way to exercise your heart and lungs, while strengthening your lower body too. Switch it up between running, hopping, and squatting. Just walking up and down the stairs has its benefits. If you’re creative, the options are endless. The next option is Jumping Jacks. Although basic, jumping jacks are a great way to get your cardio fix. They are often a staple in various workouts. Burpees and Mountain Climbers are staples of a Bootcamp and CrossFit workout. Push-ups are also a great way to increase cardio. Adjusting your hands in various positions will have a different effect on certain areas of the upper body. Sets and reps can also vary with all of these options. Another at-home exercise option is Power Yoga. Although yoga can be relaxing, it can also serve as a great cardio workout. It also has strength-training benefits that will increase your flexibility. Dancing can arguably be the most fun at-home workout. Almost too much fun to be considered a workout, dancing is a great way to work up a sweat and burn major calories. To get started, crank up your favorite beat or try searching dance workout playlists on Google. One must not forget biking, and its sister, spinning, which is biking on stationary equipment. There are various facilities around the area that offer biking and spinning classes. There are many different options in a gym with the numerous exercise machines and pieces of equipment available and some have little impact on the joints. Is it worth the money to become a member of a gym? Investing in one’s health is priceless, which is one main reason why people consider joining a gym. These gyms have people who are the experts who can help members with what’s needed, which can be viewed as a symbol of comfort for members knowing that they do not have to go through their fitness journey alone.
Friday, 04 November 2016 16:36

Over Training Causes Injuries, Or Not?

Interest in Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) injuries of the elbow (and the treatment) has increased tremendously over the past decade. The media has helped shed light on this injury and has aided with the diagnosis in younger athletes, particularly with interest in youth baseball continuing to rise. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John underwent the first ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (performed by Dr. Frank Jobe) 40 years ago. The procedure has since been named after him. Since then, hundreds of these procedures have been performed throughout the country, and several studies have been published documenting its efficacy. Recently, there has been a significant rise in the number of Tommy John surgeries. What’s become an even greater concern for orthopedic surgeons is an increasing trend of UCL injuries in younger athletes. Why are more runners developing stress fractures? Symptoms of a stress fracture usually cause dull pain around the site of the fracture. This pain usually worsens while exercising, walking, or standing. Another symptom is swelling in the area. To diagnose a stress fracture, your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. Although sometimes helpful, X-rays are often unable to detect stress fractures. As a result your doctor may use MRIs, nuclear bone scans, or other sophisticated imaging techniques to give you a diagnosis. Tennis is a great sport. However, the sport has a high risk for injury to many parts of the body due to the high speed caused by racquet impact, repetition and use of your spine, legs and your dominant arm. This can make the tennis player susceptible to a variety of shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, ankle, hip and spine injuries. The best-known tennis injury is tennis elbow - but despite its name is relatively uncommon in tennis players! Football by nature is a rough sport. Despite the helmets, pads, braces, and supports, injuries are a common part of the game. Sprains and strains, fractures, Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprain, ACL tear, torn cartilage, and concussions are all part of the menu of football-related injuries. As it has been noted in a previous column of mine, there has been a increase in the number of concussions. A severe blow to the head causes concussions. This injury causes some level of impairment of brain functions and can lead to disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a progressive degenerative condition of the brain resulting from numerous hits to the head. Symptoms of a concussion may include confusion, short-term memory problems, and loss of consciousness. Here’s what you need to know. Overtraining is a very rare and misunderstood phenomenon. Overtraining does not mean training too much. There’s a sports science definition of overtraining. It’s a physiological state caused by an excess accumulation of physical, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress. If you do a workout that stresses the nervous system too much, you’ll suffer from the various results that can lead to injury. You’ll have a lack of focus and energy, apathy, no motivation, and even a headache and that can lead to burnout. Sleep, nutrition and certain supplements can keep you from being overtaxed and prevent burnout. I feel that some of the problematic injuries come from overdoing certain aspects of sports. For example, the Tommy John surgery is an injury that young athletes experience through over-pitching. What makes the possibility of overtraining greater is playing one particular sport year round. What I think will prevent the aspect of overtraining is that youngsters need to experience multiple sports throughout the year. Through my experiences as a coach I have found that kids who play multiple sports have fewer injuries. Do I think that overtraining has created many injuries? I can only say, yes and no, or possibly maybe. Do I see a way of preventing many of these athletic induced injuries? Well, yes. It’s all about proper preparation. Younger athletes need coaches who have knowledge and techniques of the sport. I know of some dads and coaches, who want to drill, drill, drill their child to achieve perfection in a sport. As a coach for over 40 years my advice is: back off! You’re going to eventually hurt your kid both physically, mentally, and emotionally. I know of many stories of Little Leaguers who developed elbow problems due to overuse. I shook my head then and I shake my head now! There is no reason to overwork any athlete. The philosophy in today’s world of sport is simple; a hard day of training should be paralleled with an easier day. I believe that this is the proper way to help a young athlete develop. With the proper techniques and keeping the desire candle lit, the young athlete will crave the game. Some coaches and parents think that training must always be harder than the game; however, they also need to incorporate fun into the sport to keep the athlete engaged. Coaches and parents must find that balance between intense training and recovery days. But most of all, it’s got to be fun!
Friday, 21 October 2016 14:23

“No Pass, No Play”

I’m sure parents have seen this time and again. Their children seem more interested in their sport than their schoolwork. Sports can have that domino effect on a child. It cannot only serve as motivation to boost their academic standing but also help them develop socially from the daily interactions with their teammates. For those teens that do well in school playing on a sports team can benefit them in regards to their organization. Their sport season forces them to exhibit better time management. They learn how to schedule time to fit in each practice and game while still fitting in time for all of their schoolwork and social life. If they find themselves with too much spare time on their hands they often times slack off because they aren’t sure what they should do with all this newly found spare time. Some sports teams require a minimum grade point average in order for the athlete to be an active participant. If the student finds himself or herself below that grade point average threshold, their sport becomes an extra motivation. If the athlete does not meet the grade point average they will not play. It’s as simple as that. The sport is the incentive. Either the athlete maintains good grades to play a particular sport, or the athlete maintains grades in the hopes of qualifying for a potential college scholarship. When does the “no pass, no play” philosophy become overbearing for students? In my experience as a coach I have seen parents use grade maintenance as a burden on their child’s shoulders. However I do not believe that it is an effective method in molding a successful student athlete. Maintaining good grades can serve as one connection between a coach and their players. The coach can serve as a bridge between their athletes and their teachers. They can serve as that middleman when their athlete does not want to approach a teacher directly. I believe that before a parent should consider disallowing their child to participate in sports due to lackluster grades they should consider the effect that it will have on the team as a whole. If one member of the team is academically ineligible, it puts the entire team in jeopardy. It is essentially punishing athletes who are already eligible. Most schools have rules in place that address the situation and the student athletes not only have to get their grades up to par somehow without any type of embarrassment. “No Pass/No Play” is designed to motivate high school students to pass every class, or temporarily be suspended from school-sponsored extracurricular activities, like sports teams. “No pass” means no sport, no drama, no band, no nothing, for students with failing grades. The idea is self-explanatory. If you don’t have passing grades you aren’t allowed to represent your school as a member of an athletic team. Texas was the first state to enact No Pass/No Play into law, based on recommendations from a 1984 commission on school reform led by Dallas businessman H. Ross Perot. Texas later amended their rule, exempting some high level classes from “no pass”, and cutting the “no play” period to 3 weeks – just in time to get a player back on the field during football season. Eventually the No Pass/No Play spread like wildfire from Texas to the rest of the nation. Sixteen states had No pass/No play rules in place by 2007. Since that time a total of 32 states had some type of conditional eligibility for extracurricular activities. For example, in Maryland, local school boards decide eligibility based on students’ academic progress toward graduation. The idea has various pros and cons. Each student learns in his or her own way whether it’s on a field or in a classroom. I have had student athletes who came to school because they’re on a team. Is this a wrong incentive for these kids? No! It’s a motivation and the stimulation to succeed, to get them to come to school. Teenage athletes are motivated because of their sports. It gives them a chance to not only be amongst their friends, but a chance to succeed in a different arena besides a classroom. This carrot for good grades to play generally has great influence on the student athlete. If the student has the incentive to do well in the classroom, in order to play, I see nothing wrong with that. The reality is that parents, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, and, yes, teammates can all encourage the importance of good academic standing as part of the involvement in sports, and to be part of the team. We all must step forward without being overbearing in our encouragement to get the student athlete motivated to keep good grades. It’s about individual responsibility to one’s self and the allegiance to the team to earn good grades. If not for the individual success of the athlete, their success that will come after hanging up their uniform.
Friday, 14 October 2016 15:46

We Love Our Underdogs!

Now that David Ortiz and the Red Sox have cashed in their chips and the Yankees have put their uniforms in the cedar chest, it’s time to think about what team will be the next World Series champion. How about the National League Chicago Cubs? They have not been World Series Champions since 1908. The Cubs won back-to-back World Series titles in 1907 and 1908. They are the first franchise to win 2 consecutive titles, and play in three World Series in a row. The Cubs have been in 10 of baseball’s WS championships, most recently in 1945. The city of Chicago has been in frenzy over the current status of their team. Of course there is that “other” Chicago baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. In recent memory the White Sox have made more World Series appearances than their state rival. I won’t turn my back on the Cleveland Indians, the potential American League World Series representative. The Indians have also had a World Series championship drought, having been 68 years since their last victory. Recently the Indians eliminated the Red Sox earning an appearance in the American League Pennant Series. The irony is gleeful, because a few short years ago the Red Sox manager was Terry Francona, notably winning the World in 2004 and 2007 with the team. He was let go from the organization in 2011, and now manages the Cleveland Indians. Eliminating Boston from World Series contention must have been an accomplishing feeling for Francona. My daughter lives in Chicago. Her son loves to sing “Take me out to the ball game.” His lyrics are a little different. Thanks to his father, the part that says “Let me root, root, root for the home team,” is now “Let me root, root, root for the Cubbies.” It’s quite heartwarming to see such a young boy develop a love for his favorite baseball team at such an early age. The Cleveland Indians versus the Chicago Cubs could make for an interesting World Series. It would be a nice change from the cycle of predictable teams that have graced the world with their baseball abilities. Ever think about why Americans love the underdog? If nothing else, it helps restore hope in an otherwise grim world. We as fans are responsible for our own sports experience. There’s an intuitive understanding of something big is about to happen; Or that realization that our favorite sports team might not have a successful season. This can be said when fans stay through the end of an entire sporting event, regardless of how good or bad their team might be playing. If there is an Indians-Cubs World Series, there will be great anticipation for how it plays out. We would all be a part of the changing times of MLB history, witnessing the end of the Cubs’ World Series drought. Since the Chicago Cubs had won the world championship in 1908, times have drastically changed. Here’s one statistic to ponder. Since their last World Series Championship, the Cubs have played approximately 15,000 regular-season games. Imagine the disappointment those fans must have felt after each loss and each missed chance at playoff contention. Yet if you turn on a Cubs game you will still see those loyal fans in the stands until that final out. Those fans are choosing to make their sports experience memorable, and stick with their team through all of the season’s ups and downs. If it’s not already apparent, I am an avid Chicago Cubs fan. I am one of those fans that will watch the game until the end regardless of the score. If the Cubs advance to the World Series, it would be more meaningful than in past years. Aside from their championship drought, it will give those diehard Cub hopefuls redemption, rewards for rooting for their team each game of every season. If a well-known team had won the World Series, it wouldn’t be as meaningful. It almost becomes expected. If an underdog such as the Chicago Cubs wins the World Series then it gives those loyal fans a glimmer of hope. A glimmer of hope that comes after 108 years of wishing, watching, and waiting.
Friday, 07 October 2016 15:02

Lessons From the Ryder Cup

The rowdy crowds drew more attention than usual this past week, ultimately prompting the PGA of America to address the situation by issuing a public plea for respect. There are certain accepted behaviors in all social situations that you need to learn. Some sports require silence during specific times during the game or match. Respect this by honoring the rules and signals from the officials. Golf tournaments and tennis matches require concentration, and a sudden sharp sound can ruin a good play. Have you ever been to a game where people yelled obscenities at the players or referees? Have you ever seen parents belittle other people’s children for making a bad play? Letting negative emotions and outbursts steal everyone else’s enjoyment can get these people kicked out of the game ... or worse, cause a fight in the bleachers. Good sportsmanship doesn’t end at the edge of the field or court. It continues into the bleachers filled with spectators who are most likely cheering for a favorite team or player. Whether you’re there to watch a professional team or your child’s Little League game following proper etiquette will make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone there. This year’s Ryder Cup PGA challenge between the USA and the European professional golfers was practically an embarrassment of disrespect by the fans for the Europeans. It was deplorable. Every time there was a missed putt, or misfired shot by our overseas rivals, certain groups of fans cheered, and in many cases screamed with delight. Many of us know in the world of golf that jeering the opponent is considered inappropriate behavior. The cringe-worthy occurrences were too many and too often. The game of golf represents an expected underlying requirement of respect for your opponent. I coached tennis for over 20 years, and tennis is also a sport that demands proper etiquette. I have witnessed situations where some parents and athletes demonstrated disrespect for the opposition. If someone hits the ball into the net, there is no cheering, you just don’t do that. When the ball has just been hit out of bounds, the opposing fans shouldn’t express their glee. The occasion of when a match ended on an errant shot is a time when the opposing fans could cheer for the winner. The public plays a pivotal role in a successful crowd management plan. Educate the patrons on the type of “behavior” that is expected and the consequences of not adhering to venue policy. Educating the fans will allow them to understand the key role they play and how their actions can impact their own safety and those of the participants. My good friend Richard Johns has founded and developed a program called “Act With Respect Always” and his mantra is just that. He has a great message that’s basically about bullying. Is there a difference between bulling and an unruly crowd? Realistically, there’s a fine line, but the answer is, NO! Professional athletes are not immune as victims of disrespect. I think throughout the history of professional athletics, dating way back to the early years of baseball, athletes were sworn at, bottles were thrown at them, and some were treated as low lifes because of their race; there was much more. There’s a certain camouflage by being in a crowd, people do things in a group they most likely wouldn’t do as an individual. Like throwing objects at the participants, or saying/yelling obscenities and then hiding through the blending in to the shadows of the group. One of the fuses that fosters disrespect at a professional sporting event is the consumption of alcohol, mainly it’s overconsumption. Is the solution for the prevention of the rowdy crowd behavior the prohibition of the sale of beer, and the like? That might be the answer. I see a concerning growth of disorderly, rambunctious, and rude practices in the world of athletics, but more than not, in our society, just look at the ugly political scene of the coming elections. This is worrisome, and you see more of it when there is a large gathering of people who have a common support and cause for a favorite team. As I said previously, there is the camouflage of the crowd that makes people act out of character and become unruly, and therefore nothing is sacred, anything or anyone can be a target. My feeling is that there needs to be more education on behavior and respect for others when attending a sporting event, whether it’s coming from the kitchen table of home or in the classroom of school. There needs to be an understanding that all of the participants who represent a team, on all levels, are people and hurtful actions and statements have no place in a spectator’s role. The primary reason a fan goes to a game is to support their favorite team and players, not to disrespect the opponents. What I feel evolves from this, and maybe one of the biggest issues, is that the adults’ display of sportsmanship should be a role model for future generations of fans. Are these unruly adult fans failing young people with their display of disrespect of others? Do I need to answer that?
Friday, 23 September 2016 14:31

Remembering Coach

It’s one thing to learn that other people recognize the favorable things you do, it’s another thing entirely, to learn that you’re having a positive effect on others without realizing it. This is the perfect description of the late Anthony Bellai, beloved coach and teacher from Saratoga Springs High School, who passed away last Saturday. What kind of person was Coach Bellai? Here’s an analogy. Have you ever gotten into lifting weights, or simply watched people do it? It’s amazing how the slightest bit of assistance from a spotter – with force equal to the weight of just a finger touching the bar – can help someone lift far more weight than he, or she could on their own. It’s the same concept here – just that small expression of confidence can push people to achieve more – and then to be thankful for the help. Bellai was that kind of guy! Most of us have self-doubts; it’s a normal feeling. Every time I write a column I wonder how people will react. When others simply say they believe in you, it becomes easier to believe in yourself. Coach Bellai did that for his athletes and students through his persona with a smile and an occasional joke. I can honestly say that I have never heard a negative word used in reference to Anthony Bellai; everyone just loved him! Coach Bellai was a resident of Rotterdam and a graduate of the now defunct Mount Pleasant High School. There’s an irony here, in that former PE teacher and coach Brenda Adams, who passed away about three years ago, was very close to Coach Bellai, and also a Mount Pleasant grad around the same time. Both were so connected to the Saratoga High School community, and believe me when I say they were loved by their students. Anthony Bellai’s history as a local high school wrestler was exemplary, he was a New York State champion in 1981, a two-time NJCAA Champion when he attended Delhi Junior College and accepted a full athletic scholarship to Oklahoma University, which is one of the nation’s top NCAA wrestling programs. Coming to Saratoga during the late 1990’s, he assisted Robert Stulmaker in wrestling, with the intention of taking over the wrestling program when Stulmaker moved on to become director of athletics. For 10 years he was the wrestling head coach for the Blue Streaks, retiring from wrestling to get involved with his children’s athletic endeavors. His selfless demeanor became the tool of his popularity as a coach and PE teacher at Saratoga. My personal connection with Anthony was based on friendship through similarities of coaching. When we talked, it was sports-related, both sharing and comparing coaching situations dealing with the athletes. Many times there would be a joke or two and a good laugh between us as we touched common experiences. He was such a great guy to talk with sharing personal insights that often turned into suggestions or advice we could both share. Coach Bellai was a good sounding board for me, as I was for him. The respect we had for each other gave us a strong connection and wonderful friendship. The sadness that haunts me is of his family enduring the void of a missing husband and dad. There is no substitute or replacement for what he meant to his wife and children, through his love, advice and sense of humor. Physically he is gone forever, but his memories will be deep for the Bellai’s. He will be remembered by his friends and colleagues as an easy-going man who valued and loved his family so much. Brandon Polcare, who is also one of my former students and a wrestler from the class of 2001, is one of several athletes struggling with the loss. “He was the most influential person outside of my parents in my entire life,” said Polcare. “He helped me grow from a boy to a man inside and outside of the wrestling room, and always led by example. He taught us a lot of valuable lessons, but the most important was: if you work hard, anything is achievable.” Another of Coach Bellai’s class of 2001 wrestlers, Rob Wilson, added, “Coach was a role model to all of us and impacted a lot of lives. He taught us about the power of strength and perseverance, but I think most importantly, he taught us to treat each other with respect.” Accepting his loss will not be easy for those who taught and coached with him. The emptiness that has been left for us who knew him is indescribable, and even harder to believe! In my mind’s eye, I see Anthony being met by his longtime friend and colleague, Brenda Adams, at the “Pearly Gates.” My condolences to his family, wife, children, and all those close to him. He will be missed!
Friday, 16 September 2016 15:01

Why Helmets Don’t Prevent Concussions

A couple of years ago I wrote an article about an incurable condition that can develop from the result of numerous concussions. The condition is CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in some athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma from numerous hits to the head. There has been more awareness and clinical research with new findings, and there is more medical relief now because of this awareness. So, what is a concussion? Probably not what you think it is. The cutting edge of research says standard sports helmets don’t prevent it. The brain is a dynamic system, where the brain can lag behind the skull during an impact. Papers describing the material properties of the brain using various techniques show that the brain is extremely soft. Helmets protect the possibility of a fractured skull, but in actuality, have little to no protection in the prevention of a concussion. What happens to the brain on impact is that it lags behind the skull and then catches up and moves back and forth and sort of swings from side to side (oscillates). Experts think this is true. There’s very little room in the cranial cavity, only a few millimeters, and it’s filled entirely with cerebral spinal fluid, which acts as a protective layer. And so the brain as a whole probably moves very little inside the skull. How can concussion be prevented, and is that even possible? Most experts think that it’s not. The reason we’re able to prevent a skull fracture with helmets is because it’s pretty simple. We know how it works. A concussion is much more of a mystery. Most experts think and agree that concussion is not likely to be something that’s happening on the outer surface of the brain, but rather it’s something that’s much deeper towards the center of the brain. Dave Camarillo, former collegiate football player for Stanford University said: “The word concussion evokes a fear these days more so than it ever has, and I know this personally. I played 10 years of football, was struck in the head thousands of times. And I have to tell you, though, what was much worse than that was a pair of bike accidents I had where I suffered concussions, and I’m still dealing with the effects of the most recent one today as I stand in front of you. Your brain is one of the softest substances in your body, and you can think of it kind of like Jell-O. So as your head is moving back and forth, your brain is twisting and turning and contorting, and the tissue is getting stretched. And so most experts, I think, would agree that concussion is not likely to be something that’s happening on this outer surface of the brain, but rather it’s something that’s much deeper towards the center of the brain.” Dave Camarillo is a bioengineer, a professor at Stanford University, who is one of the leaders investigating the cause and effects of concussions on the brain. Most of the information I have comes from his group’s investigation into the protection of the brain and related trauma. The study moves on and he and his group have made many conclusions about protecting the head. The following is a summary of these investigations. Helmets designed to prevent fracture are not up to the task of preventing concussions. The good news, Camarillo says, is that it still takes a defined amount of time for the force of impact to disrupt this central wiring of your brain. “If we can slow the head down just enough so that the brain does not lag behind the skull but instead it moves in synchrony with the skull, then we might be able to prevent this mechanism of a concussion.” The natural solution is a better helmet. Camarillo’s group is collaborating with the Swedish company Hövding, maker of an innovative bicycle helmet, on a new type of headgear. Rather than a rigid plastic shell, the Hövding bike helmet functions like an airbag worn around the neck, using the same type of sensors as Camarillo’s mouth guards to detect when a fall is likely and trigger an explosive inflation around the head, a mouth guard developed by his group that has sensors implanted in the device that can be read to determine the effects of impact to the head. Despite promising data suggesting this type of helmet can greatly reduce the risk of concussion in some scenarios, Camarillo warns that we’re not likely to see one for sale in the U.S. anytime soon. “It’s a pretty exciting development, but in order for us to actually realize the benefits of technology that can prevent concussion, it needs to meet regulations,” said Camarillo. The testing can take up to five years for approval by the regulators. Both bike helmets, which must be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and football helmets, which are regulated by an industry group, are tested for their ability to prevent skull fractures, not concussions. “That’s an important thing to do,” Camarillo says. “It can save your life, but it’s not sufficient.” So, while Camarillo’s group is working to understand the internal mechanisms of head injuries, they’re also focused on optimizing the standard tests and techniques to account for actions that lead to concussions as well as traumatic skull fractures. “We hope that the government can use this type of information to encourage innovation by letting consumers know how protected are you with a given helmet.” In a TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) session Camarillo was asked: Would he feel comfortable letting his child play football or ride a bicycle? Camarillo said, “And this might be just a result of my own traumatic experience. I’m much more nervous about my daughter, Rose, riding a bicycle. So she’s a year and a half old, and she’s already, well, wants to anyway, race down the streets of San Francisco. This is the bottom of one of these streets. And so my personal goal is to -- and I believe this is possible -- is to further develop these technologies, and in fact, we’re working on something in my lab in particular that really makes optimal use of the given space of a helmet. And I am confident that we will be able to, before she’s ready to ride a two-wheeler, have something available that can in fact really reduce the risk of concussion and comply with regulatory bodies.” I feel it’s a good thing that these issues are being addressed, now, more often than not. I think, with football, there are more rules for the safety of the athlete than ever before. I really don’t think preventing a child from playing sports, or riding a bike, is any sort of solution. One of the concerns is the detection of a concussion, I feel there needs to be a more focus on the instructional aspect in the teaching of what the symptoms might be, and the prevention of returning to the game, or practice. Caution is always a safer philosophy and judgment used by the coach and or parent; it’s imperative in being attentive to the possible dangers that can be the result of a concussion. The long-term effects of brain trauma, no matter what age, or what level they are, is more important than winning a game. To parents and youth, coaches know the consequences of head trauma and are aware of the symptoms; there can be life-long feelings of mental and physical pain.
Friday, 09 September 2016 14:57

Running? You Need a Quality Shoe!

Take your running, treadmill workouts, and track runs to the next level with running shoes cut for your foot, whether wide, regular, or slim. Shop from the top brands in active shoes and footwear for women and men. There is more to this technology that has become the norm for people wanting to work out. Running has an effect on the whole body, so it’s important to get a quality shoe. In today’s world of jogging, fashion has also found its place in the runner world. Shoe colors and logos leave us with plenty to choose from. It used to be that white and black were the only choices of active footwear. For example, I’m semi-embarrassed to say, that I have 8 to 10 pair of crossover, or running shoes. I just love the way they feel. It’s not just for exercise, I wear whichever shoes I’d like to put on daily because they’re so comfortable. Summer is my favorite time due to the fact the shoes don’t have to be subject to ice and snow. Here’s something to consider, a good shoe is going to help you physically, whether walking or running. Everyone is different, some people have high arches, or no arches, but we all pronate when we walk, or run. Those with flat feet, low arches, or overly flexible arches tend to over-pronate. Pronation is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls to distribute the force of impact of the ground as you walk and run. Believe it or not, it’s a natural movement of the foot. The foot normally flattens when it hits the ground and rolls to the inside. If your foot flattens too much, rolls too much or not enough, problems can develop from toes to spine. Overpronation • Definition: Excessive inward roll of the foot after landing. The foot continues to roll when it should be pushing off. This twists the foot, shin and knee and can cause pain in all those areas. • Diagnosis: You will see excessive wear on the inner side of your running shoes. Your shoes will tilt inward if you place them on a flat surface. Knock knees or flat feet contribute to over-pronation. More: Are You an Overpronator? • Remedies: Wear shoes with straight or semi-curved lasts. Motion-control or stability shoes with firm, multi-density midsoles and external control features that limit pronation are best. Over-the-counter orthotics or arch supports can help, too. Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness to the muscles, so do a little extra stretching. • Top Picks for Motion Control Shoes Supination (Under-pronation) • Definition: Insufficient inward roll of the foot after landing. This places extra stress on the foot and can result in iliotibial band syndrome of the knee, Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. • Diagnosis: Your shoes will show excessive wear on the entire outside edge, with the side of the shoe becoming overstretched. Your shoes will tilt outward when placed on a flat surface. High arches and tight Achilles tendons contribute to supination. Remedies: Wear shoes with curved lasts to allow pronation. Lightweight trainers allow more foot motion. Check for flexibility on the inner side of the shoe. Supinators should do extra stretching for the calves, hamstrings, quads and iliotibial band. I found this info through Google in an informative article by Wendy Bumgardner, who has written many articles relating to walking and running, Wendy is also a marathon coach. I have had my share of foot related problems, I’m flat footed and one has to be aware of the consequences that come with the condition. There’s a major concern for those who might be over weight, as difficulties can occur from the lack of the proper support for your feet, relating not only to the feet but the negative affects to the hips, knees and back. If you are one who would like to get yourself in better shape, start with walking, a good running shoe really can make the difference even when walking. There are other solutions in addition to a good shoe, and that’s getting prescribed orthotics for yourself, or a pair of quality arch support, something to research. Obviously arch supports are more affordable, but some people with extensive foot problems might need an expert to line them up correctly with orthopedic inserts. It’s a necessity to your physical health - wear good shoes, especially if you intend to start a personal running program. In the short of it all, to run/jog, or walk for physical activity, it’s imperative to purchase a top running shoe. You can hurt so many area of your physical well being with cheap shoes. As a coach, I’m convinced that it’s worth the financial investment.
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