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2020-2021 News

National Athletic Training Month

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The month of March is recognized as National Athletic Training month.  This year’s slogan is “Athletic Trainers are Essential to Healthcare”.  North Allegheny is so fortunate to have four full-time certified athletic trainers.  Please take time to recognize and thank Scott Frowen, Abby Szymanski, Tabitha Ryan and Bill Love for their dedication to our student-athletes as well as our entire department.  Thank you.

How to Build Endurance: Four Simple Steps

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When you first start an intense aerobic activity like running, you might find that you’re huffing and puffing. Those first few times, it can feel like a struggle to complete a mile or finish a few laps. If you keep up with your exercise routine, it becomes easier because the human body is designed to adapt.

What Is Cardiovascular Endurance?

To endure something, whether it’s a three-mile run or three-hour traffic jam, means to live through a period of discomfort. Building endurance is a matter of becoming more comfortable.

You build cardiovascular endurance by challenging your heart and lungs to work harder to circulate blood and oxygen. As they become more efficient, you can breathe easier and run, walk, swim, cycle, or dance longer. One mile becomes three miles, five miles — maybe even a marathon!

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Record Your Baseline

To know how well you are building endurance, you need to know where you’re starting. The American Heart Association recommends that you take these two key measurements:

  1. Your pulse rate just before and right after walking one mile. (A normal resting heart rateis between 60 and 100. As you build more endurance, your resting heart rate may get lower.)
  2. How long it takes you to run or walk one mile.

Take these same measurements after six weeks, 12 weeks, and 6 months, to see how far you’ve come.

Set a Goal

Do you have a specific goal, like being able to complete a 5K race? Or are you working toward a general goal of getting in shape?

For a more general goal, you could start with these basic guidelines from the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS advises that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity such as walking at a brisk pace. You still should be able to comfortably maintain a conversation.

However, if you do 150 minutes a week of vigorous activity — that’s five 30-minute sessions — you will see more health benefits, including a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Vigorous activity includes running, swimming laps, or bicycling faster than 10 m.p.h.

Try the Add/Subtract Method

The reason novice runners are able to train for marathons is that they build mileage —and endurance — slowly. Many years ago, a running coach created a popular training program for beginners. It involves two weeks of adding mileage to a weekly long run, followed by a week of decreasing the mileage.

If you don’t challenge your body, it will adapt and you will plateau. But if you challenge it to do too much or go too fast, you run the risk of getting hurt. The add/subtract method is a good way to build endurance systematically and sensibly.

You don’t have to be training for a marathon to follow the add/subtract technique. For example, a beginner using a walk/run combination and exercising five days a week for 30 minutes might follow this routine:

  1. Week 1: Your first time out, start with five minutes of running/25 minutes of fast walking. By the end of the week (equivalent to your “long run”), try 15 minutes of running/15 minutes of fast walking
  2. Week 2: Do 10 minutes of running/20 minutes of fast walking during the week. Try 20 minutes of running/10 minutes of fast walking for your long run
  3. Week 3: Continue with 10/20 during the week, but drop back to 15/15 for your long run
  4. Week 4: Continue with 10/20 or 15/15 during the week. For your long run, try 25/5
  5. Week 5: Continue with 15/15 during the week. Try 30 minutes of straight running for your long run

Once you can comfortably run for 30 minutes (about three miles for most people), it can become a baseline for your weekly runs. Then, you can continue to add distance to a long run, stepping back down every few weeks.

You can also try adding speed. That’s where this next tip comes in.


Try Fartlek Training

This funny-sounding word means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartlek training involves adding short bursts of random speed into a run, ride, or swim.

For example, if you listen to music, you might pick up your pace each time the chorus of a song comes on. Or set your sights on a tree in the distance and do a mini sprint to get there. Fartlek is unstructured and adds some fun and interest to a workout. It’s also a good way to challenge your body and build endurance faster.

To learn more about our running services or to schedule a running assessment, visit UPMCSportsMedicine.com or call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).


About Sports Medicine

Sports bring with them a potential for injury. And if you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. We serve athletes from a wide variety of sports across every demographic: young or old, male or female, pro or amateur. We partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and over 60 high school, college, and regional teams and events. We’re working to build better athletes. We use cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques to help you recover and provide education on how to prevent injuries.

Debunking the Top Concussion Myths

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While concussion is a common sports-related injury, there’s a lot of differing information about the causes, risk factors, and recovery process.

Michael “Micky” Collins, PhD, director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, is a world-renowned concussion expert. Dr. Collins and team treat athletes of all ages and skill levels, from young athletes just starting organized sports, all the way to professionals players right here in Pittsburgh and across the country. Expert treatment is not just limited to athletes, as concussions can also occur in the tasks of everyday life.

Myths and Facts About Concussion

Here are Dr. Collins’s top myths about concussions—and the facts that dispel them.

#1 Myth: A concussion occurs only with a direct blow to the head.

Fact: A concussion is caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body if the force of impact is transmitted to the head.

#2 Myth: A concussion occurs only when an athlete experiences a loss of consciousness.

Fact: Concussions can occur with or without loss of consciousness (LOC) and, in fact, about 90% of concussions do not result in LOC.

#3 Myth: Everyone is at the same risk for concussion.

Fact: Various factors, including age, gender, and medical history put an individual at risk for sustaining a concussion.

#4 Myth: It is safe for a player to return to the same game or practice after experiencing concussion-related symptoms.

Fact: There are many different signs and symptoms of concussion. An athlete who displays any of these concussion symptoms should not return to the current game or practice, even if the symptoms clear quickly.

#5 Myth: All concussions, treatments, and recoveries are alike.

Fact: No two concussions are identical. Our research has identified six different clinical trajectories for concussion.

#6 Myth: You must rest in a dark room to recover from a concussion.

Fact: While rest is an important part of concussion recovery, it is not the only treatment for concussion, nor is it necessary to rest in a dark room. Evidence-based active treatments for concussion, such as vestibular therapy, vision therapy, and exertion therapy, as well as some medications, are crucial to recovery.

#7 Myth: Having one concussion places you at increased risk for future concussions.

Fact: Recovery from one concussion should not put an athlete at risk for another, although there are some inherent conditions—migraines for example—that can put you at a higher risk. Proper clinical management is the best form of prevention of future concussions.

#8 Myth: Concussions definitively cause long-term brain damage and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Fact: Potential long-term effects from concussion come primarily from poorly managed injuries. Scientific studies linking concussion and long-term effects are still in progress and have yielded no definitive conclusions.

#9 Myth: Helmets and mouthguards can prevent concussions.

Fact: While helmets can protect against skull fracture and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), there is very little evidence that any particular type of helmet reduces the incidence or severity of concussion more than another. The same goes for mouthguards.

To find out more about the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program or to make an appointment with one of our experts, visit our website or call 412-432-3681.

Technology Fit For Every Athlete

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Research and technology are at the heart of all we do.

Our use of new research, coupled with technology we use each day, continues to evolve as we expand our services and expertise.

Technology plays a huge role in helping us enhance our sports medicine treatments and training, such as:


Click here for some of the high-tech tools we use to help people daily.

How to Plan Meals That Help Boost Athletic Performance

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Athletes invest a lot of time in training and practice to gain a competitive edge. But it’s not just time spent in the gym that’s important — sports nutrition is also a key element in boosting an athlete’s performance.

Here’s how proper food and meal selection can enhance your hard work:

Start With the Right Fuel

No matter what kinds of daily meals and snacks you choose, they’re only as good as the ingredients — so be sure to start with whole foods. They’ll provide an entire package of complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to fuel your body.

Focus on foods like:

  1. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  2. Whole grains and starches, such as oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and beans
  3. Lean proteins like chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, and tofu
  4. Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados

Avoid using processed, packaged foods, which are often high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Processed foods also create inflammation in your body. That increases your risk of injury and impacts performance and recovery.

Aim for Balance and Variety With Each Meal

Too often, athletes focus on one nutrient: protein. But, balance and variety are equally important. Your body is like an engine — it needs the right mix of protein, carbs, and fat to run well.

To build and repair muscle and boost endurance, make sure you eat a variety of foods each day. Meals and snacks should include a mix of healthy carbs from fruits, vegetables, starches, or grains. Also, aim for 20 to 40 grams of protein each time you eat. That’s the amount you need to stimulate muscle growth and repair.

The grams of protein per pound of body weight needed each day varies by the sport an athlete plays, the level of competition, body composition, and the athlete’s specific goals. Athletes need to consume a balance of lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats at each meal for optimal performance. While eating enough protein is necessary to build muscle mass, eating more than you need doesn’t mean you’ll gain more muscle. And skipping carbs can cost you muscle.

Some balanced meal combinations include:

  1. Oats with fruit, Greek yogurt, and chia seeds
  2. A cheese and vegetable omelet with fresh fruit
  3. Mashed avocado and sliced tomato on whole-wheat toast
  4. A power bowl with roasted chicken, brown rice, chopped vegetables, and sunflower seeds
  5. Grilled salmon with roasted vegetables and a sweet potato

Don’t forget to add snacks in between meals. Training burns lots of calories, so including balanced snacks helps maintain your energy levels and weight.

Focus on healthy snacks like:

  1. Dried fruit and mixed nuts
  2. A peanut butter and banana sandwich
  3. A turkey wrap with hummus and shredded carrots

Choose the Right Foods Before and After a Workout

What you eat before and after a workout or event also affects your performance. Make sure you don’t eat anything heavy or too high in fat or fiber immediately before intense activity. It will slow digestion and divert energy from muscles to your stomach.

Before a big workout, choose a light meal or snack that’s high in easy-to-digest carbs plus some protein. A bowl of cereal with fruit and milk — or pretzels with hummus and vegetables — will do the job. Those carbs are essential because they provide glucose to fuel muscles.

After your workout, go for protein but also include easy-to-digest carbs. Eating protein after a workout stimulates muscle synthesis, while the carbs replace glycogen, the stored form of glucose in your liver. Chocolate milk or a protein shake are great options. If you plan to eat dinner shortly after working out, that counts as your recovery snack.

Don’t forget about fluids. Nothing ruins a workout or event like dehydration. A good rule of thumb: If your urine is dark yellow in color, you’re not drinking enough.

Steer Clear of Empty Calories

Finally, remember that you are what you eat. Foods with empty calories contribute to weight gain, belly fat, and muscle loss. It’s OK to treat yourself once in a while. But most of the time, steer clear of junk food and foods that provide calories without any significant nutrition.

Limit foods and beverages like:

  1. Chips
  2. Cookies, cakes, or other sweet desserts
  3. Fried food and fast food
  4. Sugary soft drinks
  5. Alcohol

If you need help with meal planning or want to make sure you’re eating enough of the right foods, contact Jeff Lucchino, MS, RDN, CSSD, at 724-720-3081 or SportsNutrition@upmc.edu. He can advise you on the best foods and supplements to help improve your athletic performance. Visit UPMC Sports Nutrition to learn more.


About Sports Medicine

Sports bring with them a potential for injury. And if you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. We serve athletes from a wide variety of sports across every demographic: young or old, male or female, pro or amateur. We partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and over 60 high school, college, and regional teams and events. We’re working to build better athletes. We use cutting-edge rehabilitation techniques to help you recover and provide education on how to prevent injuries.