Recently there’s been a spate of unfortunate injuries in the high-stakes world of professional Supercross racing and, in the rush to post updates, some of the moto-journalists are mixing their metaphors, jamming their grammar, and relying on speel-cheek to catch their errors. Fair enough. There’s tough competition to be first with the news and something’s gotta give. Maybe they know, maybe they don’t, but I’ve seen this little faux pas more than once. So here’s the deal.

Dear moto-journalists, this is a bone graph:

Bone Graph

And this is a bone graft:

Bone Grafting

There’s quite a difference. Just in case you’re ever in the ER and someone offers you a bone graph I thought you might want to know.

Concussion graphicAnnouncement at RacerX Online regarding a new cooperative program between Mayo Clinic of Rochester, MN and Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, MN to study motocross injuries – specifically concussion.

For more detail read the entire post at the link above, but here is an excerpt:

In an unprecedented move Spring Creek MX Park, home to the Millville National Pro Motocross race, has teamed up with the Mayo Clinic of Rochester to study motocross injuries – specifically concussions.  In a study done at the Mayo Clinic last year, it was discovered that roughly thirty percent of the injuries in motocross are concussions.  The goals  of the study are to study concussion occurrence and set up protocols for  returning to racing safely. The factor that makes this so ground breaking is the fact that this study team consists of an old but avid motocross racer, orthopedic surgeons that are interested in the sport,  and one of the countries’ leading concussion specialists…

This is great news. For far too long we — riders, racers, managers, promoters, and fans — have simply accepted injuries in the sport and, it seems to me, purposely avoided looking at them too closely due to a misguided  fear of liability.

I just don’t see how that’s a viable approach in this day and age, given all the technology and tools available to us. I’m very excited to see this new effort launched. Let’s hope there are more.

timferry33-year-old Tim Ferry is not the oldest rider ever selected for a Motocross of Nations team (Stephan Everts was 33 when he rode his last event in 2006. He won both his motos although Belgium finished 2nd.) I’m sure he’s not even the oldest to be on a winning team — the average age of riders was a lot older in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. But he may well be the oldest member of a winning team in the modern era.

Just before his trip to England for the 2008 MXoN (which Team USA won, again) the Factory Kawasaki rider and two-time MXoN winner was interviewed by Tim Cryster of RacerX Virtual Trainer. Ferry talks about his training regimen, how things have changed in the sport since he began his professional career in 1991, and what the future holds.

One of the most interesting exchanges in the interview was the following:

Cryster:Let’s talk about how you, as such an old man, are so successful at motocross (laughs). I sometimes think people or journalist like to focus on a guys age because they aren’t smart enough to talk about anything else. 33 is not old in any sport in my opinion. Look at Dara Torres in the Olympics this year. She is 41 and was just as strong now as she was when she was 18. Lance Armstrong, Mike LaRocco, John Dowd…..the list of “older” athletes goes on. What do you think it is about motocross that seems to prevent more guys like yourself to move into their 30’s and still be competitive?

Ferry:Not to take anything away from racers back when, but I think a lot of it has to do with eliminating old influences that have been a part of the sport since the 70’s. Like smarter training and moving away from the idea that you have to train as hard as you can all the time and the notion that you are done by the time you are 25. I think we are weeding out those people and influences and bringing in people who are more educated on fitness. I think we are learning how to train smarter not harder which is what the Carmichael Training System is all about.

Later, Ferry addressed his own future:

I am going to ride until my body won’t let me anymore. I am going to do it as long as I am competitive. I feel that I have my best years racing in front of me. With training the right way and being smart about it I don’t see any reason why I don’t have 5 more years in me. Plus I love to ride. Even after I retire I will get up and ride every day.

I’m a big Tim Ferry fan, partly because of his durability in a sport that doesn’t really value it, and partly because of his continued enthusiasm after so many years of racing. I sincerely hope that Ferry, and others like him in the sport, have a strong voice in the plans being made to move our sport forward.

Motocross has evolved an unhealthy emphasis on youth. Perhaps this is just Americanization, with our inherent focus on youthful everything. But the absurdity of having any professional sport that considers athletes over the hill at 25 is not lost on those of us who have watched it for several decades. It is, in fact, often the very recklessness of youth that leads to such short careers.

Yet it’s not just the riders who are affected by this — it’s the audience as a whole. There’s great emphasis today on finding ways to grow the audience for motocross. I fear we’re trying to “mainstream” a niche sport while overlooking the fact that the core audience also moves away as they age. Not too many 40-year-olds get enthusiastic about watching a bunch of fuzzy-chinned teenagers. It just doesn’t work.

Considered changes to the rules and structure of the sport will help this but it will mostly require, as Ferry says, changes in the attitudes of the principals. Here’s to hoping that as newer folks take over roles in positions of power that they make the right choices for the riders, the fans, and the long-term health of the sport.

Australian newspaper The Age reports in “Broken leg bones healed in stem cell first” that a trial for new stem cell therapy has produced some remarkable results in healing the most serious kinds of fractures. The trial included nine patients with severe leg fractures, many unable to walk and spending up to 41 months waiting for bones to heal.

The therapy involves taking bone marrow stem cells from the patients pelvis and culturing them in a test tube. The stem cells are then applied to fracture sites, where they spur rapid growth of new bone. The average result in the trial was a four-month recovery time. The therapy is expected to halve healing time for less severe breaks.

The therapy is owned by regenerative medicine company Mesoblast. Earlier trials were performed in the UK and the therapy is expected to be generally available in 3-5 years.

This 2007 article from Medical News Today, Impact Sports Increase Bone Strength In Senior Athletes, reports on a study conducted on 298 athletes at the 2005 Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh. Findings were reported at the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The study used a health-history questionnaire and ultrasound Bone Mass Density scans to measure the athlete’s bone density and correct for statistical factors. The findings indicate that participation in impact sports such as running and basketball – as opposed to low-impact sports like cycling and swimming – are a significant factor in maintaining good bone health. Athletes ranged in age from 50 to 93.

This finding supports other studies which show that lifting heavy weights, as in Olympic-style lifting, increase bone density. Bone tissue is not static – it is living tissue that is constantly growing and resorbing into the body, even as we age.

All of this points to the need to include activities and work-out routines that apply the proper kind of stress to our bones in order to remain healthy, particularly if you engage in a sport like motocross that occasionally tosses you to the ground in an uncomplimentary fashion. So for all of you VMX enthusiasts out there, find time to hit the weight room or the basketball court on a regular basis and reduce the chances or wearing a cast for six weeks next time you take a soil sample.

097977770403mzzzzzzzMy Chicago-based friend (and high-powered consultant to captains of industry) Jim McGee recently reviewed the book Brain Rules by John Medina. It’s worth reading Jim’s review here. You wouldn’t normally see a post like this on a motorcycle blog, but one of my main interests is the fitness and health of the aging athlete (and athlete wannabes). Brain health – the ability to focus and concentrate, absorb new information, retain what we’ve learned, etc. – is critical to staying active and healthy over the long term. Too much of what we’ve accepted as natural consequences of aging are little more than a misunderstanding of how the brain works.

Medina is a molecular biologist and delves into how the biology of the brain affects our ability to function, and how many of the things we believe to be true about brain function really aren’t. Jim highlights 12 rules Medina uses to organize the story in his book:

  1. Exercise boosts brain power
  2. The human brain evolved, too
  3. Every brain is wired differently
  4. We don’t pay attention to boring things
  5. Repeat to remember
  6. Remember to repeat
  7. Sleep well, think well
  8. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way
  9. Stimulate more of the senses
  10. Vision trumps all other senses
  11. Male and female brains are different
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers

Based on Jim’s review I’m going to order this book on my next purchase from Amazon. If you, like me, are interested in maintaining a level of health that will keep you on the bike and on the track for years to come it pays to understand the lessons modern science and research can teach us about our bodies. Caring for the brain, and doing the right things to support it, are an important step in achieving that goal.

lemond_spinnerI just picked up a Lemond Revmaster spinner bike for my exercise program. I got it from a fire sale – literally. They guy I bought it from had his house catch fire and the bike was damaged in the fire. It’s pretty smoked up and some of the plastic is melted, but it seemed mechanically sound. Looks like it needs about $150 in parts and a thorough scrubbing and it should be good as new, though maybe not quite as pretty. At just about half the cost of a new one.

Thanks to 35 years of wear and tear on a knee with no meniscus cartilage I just can’t do treadmills, stair climbers, or elliptical machines. Oh, I can do them once, or maybe even twice, but then I’m more or less disabled for 10 days while my knee recovers. That’s not a sustainable exercise plan. But cycling I can do. I’ve been doing a recumbent bike at the local gym, but I don’t like them as much. They just don’t seem to take as much overall effort as a regular bike. And I don’t like standard exercise bikes. They’re kind of crappy. So I wanted a “real” bike, one that felt like actually riding. I like the Concept II rowing machines, too. The trouble is that top-notch exercise equipment is really expensive, so I’ve been cruising Craig’s List to find good deals.

What’s interesting is the guy I bought the bike from was a black man named Justin Stewart, with three kids. Both he and all the kids race MX. He was showing me pictures of the kids with James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael. His kids even did a Honda commercial a few years ago – part of the “I just want to ride” series. Pretty cool. He was a nice guy and we helped each other out. I like that kind of deal.

Reported on the Cousin Weedy Y! forum (and not independently confirmed,) moto-icon and super journalist Rick Sieman (aka Super Hunky) is undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. Almost everyone knows who Rick is from his years at the helm of Dirt Bike magazine. If you are among the tiny minority that don’t know Rick, he’s was probably the first real journalist to cover dirt biking and is credited with coining the term moto-journalist. Let’s all wish Rick a full and speedy recovery.

As an aside, be sure to get your annual prostate exam. If you’re VMX age you are old enough to need it. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not that bad and takes, literally, 5-10 seconds. Get “the finger” every year, whether you think you need it or not. Also, get your PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. This test is cheap ($30-$40) and is usually done as part of a routine physical exam for men. You may also want to consider having both a total PSA and free PSA blood test. The free PSA test is $70-$80.

PSA is a protein produced only by the prostate, but it is measured in two ways – total and free. Total is the normal test. But some PSA is always bound to other cells in the blood and only a limited amount is circulating free. The ratio of this “free” PSA to total may actually matter more than the total according to this video on WebMD. Prostate cancer is a pernicious scourge on men. It is said that sooner or later we all get it. Let’s raise the odds in our favor with regular checkups and blood tests.

fsm22_coremontageI broke my lower back (T11, T12, L1) about 10 years ago in an auto accident. Thanks to a mis-diagnosis by the rent-a-doc at the local two-bit trauma center and my own stubborness and stupidity, I did not get proper medical treatment for more than six (6) months and was left with a permanently damaged lower spine that put me completely out of action for over three years. Given the incorrect healing and residual problems, I never did do the level of rehab and strengthening that such an injury requires and over the years the resulting muscle weakness has started causing other problems. Now that I’m nearing 50 I know it’s “now or never” if I want to get things back in some semblance of working order.

Weak core muscles (belly, back, and chest) aren’t unusual for guys my age. We don’t do much, as a rule, that strengthens the core. If you’re going to start strength training, you need to be sure your core is strong first, as it is essential to correctly perform strength training exercises, to lift a maximum amount of weight and to reduce your risk of injuries. If you’re going to be racing VMX on a regular basis, it’s even more important, because you’re going to fall off sooner or later and a strong core is your first defense against injury.

As part of my renewed commitment to address some of the other physical issues I face with getting older, I know I need to do some serious work on strengthening my core muscles.

Today I came across this nice set of core exercises from the Mayo Clinic. It’s simple, requires no equipment, and it works. Many of these are the exact exercises that my physical therapist showed me when I finally got treatment (some six months after the accident.) They are also exercises that were part of a yoga class I took a few years ago to try and improve flexibility. So I know they work.

There’s also a good set of alternative core exercises here in this article. Some of these do require a Swiss Ball, an inexpensive piece of home exercise equipment. As with all exercises, use caution and good judgment. Switch up the exercises to keep your muscles active. And check with a competent physician if you have any physical issues or signs of distress. This simple set of exercises won’t be all you need, but it’s a good place to start.