Physical activity plays a big role in today's society. Whether you are an amateur or professional athlete – incorporating exercise into your life positively impacts your mental and physical health. Ideally, sport should be fun, pressure-free and not overburden you. But can you measure individual performance and align it with sports?
Medical sports examinations should be carried out regularly by amateur and professional athletes, newcomers and returnees.
Apart from a healthy diet, regular physical activity or exercise is the key to good health. That’s why medical associations like the German Society for Sports Medicine and Prevention (DGSP) recommend making sports an integral part of life. Not only does it help to balance stress levels, but it can also protect you from diseases because it strengthens your immune system. This is also shown in sports medicine studies by the DGSP, which indicate that elite competitive athletes are healthier than "normal" active adults. Next to amateur and professional athletes, newcomers and returnees, sports also have a positive impact on people with depression or type 2 diabetes. In the case of the latter, muscles learn to regulate blood sugar levels.
But how do you choose the right sport for you? Do you meet the physical demands of a specific type of sport to where you can effortlessly embark on a sports journey or get back into it? Where are the limits to athletic performance? According to the DGSP, those who return to sports and newcomers alike should carefully look into any medical concerns and get regular physical checkups.
Prevention and rehabilitation – making sports safer
Sports medical examinations help to exercise physical activities optimally and to dose the training individually.
Every athlete should get regular medical checkups to ensure the optimal amount of physical activity and best performance. These tests can help athletes to come up with the ideal personalized training schedule and adjust physical stress levels accordingly. This also allows them to maintain peak performance.
Initially, the sports physician uses the anamnesis (medical history) to identify the patient’s latent or pre-existing conditions. This reduces health risks and prevents injuries. This is followed by a baseline health checkup and physical performance test, consisting of a full body checkup, a resting and exercise ECG, and a lung function test. The physical exam is divided into internal and orthopedic exams. The former consist of assessments, such as BMI (body mass index) and lipid blood tests. The orthopedic screening analyzes the athlete’s posture and motor skills. One way of doing this is via the Sense Wave Medical system by Sense Product GmbH. The device measures and checks the athlete's balance using sensor-based hover (levitation) technology. "This makes it possible to perform exams and training sessions at varying levels of difficulty, also per the patient’s request," explains Elke Muster, CEO and Managing Director of Sense Product GmbH. After the exam, the sports physician provides counsel regarding the athlete’s stress level and personalized training.
In performance diagnostics, lactate measurement in particular plays a decisive role. Lactate, a metabolic signal produced in the muscles, has an influence on the athlete’s endurance capacity.
The sports performance test provides information about the athlete’s performance. The lactate test is an important tool to measure stress levels and intensive workload situations. Lactate is a metabolite made in muscle cells that impacts performance. The performance test measures joint and muscle function using equipment such as cycle ergometers and treadmills. A drop of blood is drawn from the athlete’s earlobe to measure the concentration of lactate in the blood. The lactate curve indicates the athlete’s endurance capacity.
In addition to the lactate test, physicians also measure the heart rate pertaining to training load and strain. Lactate concentration increases during exercise. Having said that, top athletes have a lower lactate threshold because they break down lactate faster.
A duplex ultrasound that measures cerebral blood flow through arteries and veins is another recommended test for competitive and amateur athletes who participate in competitions or who suffer from cardiovascular diseases. It identifies blood vessel walls and blood flow to assess the risk of stroke. Training analysis, body composition and spiroergometry are also part of the performance diagnostics spectrum. The MetaMax 3B spiroergometry device by CORTEX Biophysik GmbH also facilitates mobile use. "In addition to respiratory-related data, the MetaMax 3B device also measures the heart rate. Via a headset, MetaMax 3B can also feed the test subject specific data during a marathon for example," explains Markus Siepmann, Managing Director of CORTEX Biophysik GmbH. In doing so, the performance test not only identifies health and exercise status but also provides information about the athlete's peak performance level and endurance.
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Those who regularly carry out sports examinations can maintain individual performance and reduce health risks such as the "open window effect".
Sport is good for your health, but it can also make you sick, as evidenced by the so-called "open window effect". It occurs after intensive exertion. In this case, the number of natural killer cells in the blood increases during the workout and rapidly drops post-exercise. The result is a gap or window phase where the body’s immune system is suppressed and weakened. Between 3 to 24 hours after exertion, the athlete is more susceptible and open to infections, hence the name "open window effect". The effect can be avoided if the athletes know their limits and adjust their activities accordingly. Those who embark on regular preventive sports check-ups, such as those offered by Dr. Markus Klingenberg at the Beta Klinik in Bonn, are in a better position to avoid the "open window effect". What’s more, all athletes should take time to regenerate and recover. A diet rich in vitamins, a healthy fluid intake, but also functional gear are added important factors that are not just beneficial for competitive athletes.
Importance and Goals of Sports Exams
We all have different levels of resilience. That’s why it is important to know your limits and to maintain your peak performance level. Those who get regular sports check-ups embark on preventative health care, know how they can effectively use sports at a personal level and give their bodies the best chance to recover. The enormous benefits of physical activity versus medication is also reflected in the German initiative "Rezept für Bewegung" ("The Right Recipe for Exercise"), which is also recommended by doctors. Sports medicine screenings have benefits for all athletes – not only do they tell us about our overall health, but they also have a positive impact on future training sessions.
The article was written by Diana Heiduk and translated from German by Elena O'Meara. MEDICA-tredefair.com