Chronic And Acute Stress Impede Physical Performance In Sports And Exercise

The following description is an example of the kind of situation that can be successfully managed if the appropriate methods are used. Dara Torres (aged 42 in 2008), the American Olympian swimmer and mother of a 2-year-old daughter, is a historic figure in modern competitive sports. She missed the gold medal by 0.01 seconds, 24.07 to 24.06, in the 50-meter freestyle in the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing, losing to Germany's Britta Steffen—who was born 8 months before Torres won her first Olympic medal at Los Angeles in 1984. Australia's Cate Campbell, 16, took the bronze.

CNN reported on August 30, 2008, that Torres had had three surgical procedures on one shoulder since November 2007, and according to this report, Torres admitted that she was competing in the games with shoulder pain.

The historic achievement of Dara Torres is more than can be measured just by her medals. If she had been competing with less shoulder pain, however, she may not have lost that 0.01 second. If her musculoskeletal system had been carrying less acute and chronic stress from precompetition training, she would have been able to swim even faster. From the perspective of sport and exercise physiology, Torres could still expect to perform beyond her current physical limit if the acute and chronic stress in her musculoskeletal system could be reduced to the lowest level. Using the de-stressing effects of ISDN and other proper procedures, Torres and other athletes could continue to surpass their physical barriers and achieve new records.

Michael Phelps, at the age of 22, won eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympic Games. Enormous acute stress accumulated in his musculoskeletal system during those few days in Beijing, and this was in addition to the stress of his precompetition training. But his young body and the excellent condition of his musculoskeletal structure and of his cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic systems were well able to meet the challenge. If this acute musculoskeletal stress could be effectively reduced right after each competition to quickly restore his body to its optimal physical condition, it is very likely that Phelps could improve his performance even more.

Since the 1920s, records show that the performance of runners has improved by about 10%. The triple jump record has increased by 30%, the long jump by 41%, and the high jump by 35%. The current records in pole vault are 80% higher than in

1896, but this increase is attributable chiefly to the introduction of the fiberglass pole. A significant factor in the setting of new performance records is the application of scientific methods in training, including nutrition and an understanding of the physics of forces involved in the motion of the human body. Chinese and Cuban athletes, for example, have shown great improvement since the 1980s for this reason.

Competition today is more intense than ever, and as records are being broken by ever-narrower margins, many people believe that athletes are nearing the absolute limits of human performance. Some try to meet this challenge by using artificial performance-enhancing substances. Steroids are used for at least two reasons: to build up muscle mass and to reduce muscle pain and inflammation. This behavior is now spreading to include other drugs that are specific to the demands of a particular sport, such as drugs that help to eliminate trembling in archery and shooting and drugs that promote rapid water loss so that weightlifters can reduce weight. Doping has become a serious concern of governments and sports officials, and today any exceptional performance is followed by testing for performance-enhancing drugs. Medal winners are tested and retested, their DNA is examined, and their blood may even be frozen for years to come.

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