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.

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.