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Ask the Swim Doctor: 2002

"Ask the Swim Doctor" is a popular column written by Dr. Paul Hutinger. This column appears regularly in the Florida LMSC quarterly newsletter, which is the recipient of the 1998 USMS Newsletter of the Year Award.

February, 2002: Prostate Health After Age 50

Question: I participate in Masters Swimming for health and fitness, but am worried about prostate problems in my 50+ age group. What ideas do you for prevention?

Answer: Your swim training is an excellent activity to maintain your cardiovascular health. You are observant to notice the prostate problems in the general population. Athletes like yourself, have higher testosterone levels which can promote BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasis).

According to the experts, like Dr. M. Schachter, all men over fifty, should be checked by a doctor for BPH. This is a usual part of a complete physical. He will give a (DRE) rectal exam and a blood test for levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen). Symptoms of prostate problems include the need to urinate frequently at night.

Research demonstrates that some nutrients can reduce the size of the prostate and reduce symptoms. Farnsworth reported this in Urology Research in 1981. Essential fatty acids showed a decrease in symptoms. Amino acids, glycine, alanine and glutamic acid demonstrated 95% of subjects were relieved of symptoms, Dumrau, in J. Gerontol in 1962. Saw palmetto has
shown the best results in double-blind studies by Champlault, Br. J. Clin Pharmacol, 1984. There are supplements that combine the saw palmetto of 160 mg with zinc, pygeum and fatty acids that are available at many health food stores.

May 2002: Hypertension

Question: I have been diagnosed with high blood pressure hypertension).
What problems would I have with training and competing in Masters swimming
and how can I overcome this challenge?

Answer: Aerobic swim Training is one of the the better exercise programs for hypertension. A warm up and cool down is important in your training. Monitor your own blood pressure regularly and figure out your stress areas and strive to reduce them. Talk to your physician if medication is
necessary to help control your levels. The ace inhibitors won't interfere with your performance as much as the beta blockers.

I speak from experience. Halfway through my morning workout on April 1, 2002, my left arm became numb. (At first, I thought it was a pinched nerve from my shoulder surgery.) Shortly afterwards, my entire left side became numb. I immediately recognized the stroke symptoms and got out of the pool. While changing, I told a guard that I was having problems and he should call
911. I had no other symptoms other than my numb left side.

My history showed that while monitoring my blood pressure (BP) several weeks before, I had highs in the 180/95 range. A CAT scan in the emergency room revealed a cerebral hemorrhage, resulting from this high BP. Further tests excluded other problems, like clogged arteries. During my three days in the hospital, I had another CAT scan, an EEG and was carefully monitored. My
neurologist released me with BP medication to ensure keeping my BP under 140/90, with regular monitoring at home. My prognosis is that I will have a full recovery, with no permanent damage. I can not train or compete for 6-8 weeks. After 1 1/2 weeks, my numbness is less than 40%. My body will gradually reabsorb the blood that caused the temporary insult to the sensory
section of my brain.

Many CVA's (cerebral vascular accidents) are caused by a clot that restricts the blood flow, causing local pressures to build up. If your physician believes you are at risk for clotting problems, he will recommend BP medication, plus additional medication for other specific problems.

I was lucky with the minor stroke that I experienced. This is a wake up call to me, and also to some reading this column. The stress in my life resulted from the city restricting our team¹s time at our pool. I am working to conquer this challenge, as my philosophy follows that of the
former Olympic Coach, James "Doc" Counsilman. He felt that it is more important to find ways to ENCOURAGE swimming for health, fitness and competition than to include needless RESTRICTIONS which hinder the motivation and goals of swimmers.

The positive for the Master swimmer is that a trained, healthy life style will help you survive many problems you will face in the future. All the medics that talked to me at the hospital conveyed to me that I was the best trained 77 year old they had seen. This will enable me to return to
competition with a full recovery.

August 2002: How is Masters Coaching Different?

Question: Although I have coached at USA and high school levels, I am a new Masters coach and realize Masters swimmers have different needs. What suggestions do you have for my team, which has many novice swimmers, to encourage them at workouts and to enter competitions?

Answer: I commend your realization about Masters swimmers! There are many subtle ways to accomplish this, always using positive feedback. While learning new strokes and improving techniques, encouragement as simple as, "good streamline on your pushoff" does wonders for a swimmer. Use fins as a stroke and kick enhancer with sets for personal records. As a world record holder, I use a set of 10 x 100 m back @ 2 min, trying to keep my time under the world record. Adjust times to suit your swimmers. A novice swimmer who takes 30 strokes for a 25 yd. free, can learn to stretch out the stroke and cut the number of strokes to 25 or less. Also use this technique for the other strokes to improve efficiency.

Encourage the use of a personal log or planner, such as the one supplied by USMS. At the start of the year, or other appropriate time, have a planning session. Instruct your swimmers how to set personal goals and swim times. This calendar planner is an excellent place to keep track of swim activities, workout schedules and meets, including PERSONAL RECORDS or PR's in workouts and meets. Beginning in 2003, to receive this calendar, you must request it. Contact Tracy Grilli, PO Box 185, Londonderry, NH 03053.

The 2nd level for recognition is TEAM RECORDS, each age group and stroke. With new teams, it is possible for more swimmers to own a record, from meets. Records only motivate if swimmers are aware of them, which is one aspect of good communication. If your team works out at one pool, post them on a bulletin board. Alternatives are to send them to all members or post them on your web site, if you have one. Encourage your swimmers to give credit to team mates for PR's and team records at each meet you attend.

The 3rd level is to achieve a TOP 5 TIME in the FL LMSC in at least one event. These results are published every year for all three courses and postal events.

The 4th level is a FL LMSC RECORD. Some age groups are more difficult to attain, but all should be given recognition. If you have older swimmers, stimulate them to enter an event which has no records. I encouraged our 90 year old to swim the One Hour Postal and he won it, in addition to setting a team and FL record.

The 5th level would be to achieve a USMS TOP TEN TIME. It is difficult to achieve an individual or 200 relay top ten time. Look for meets with the 400 and 800 relays, as sometimes ten teams have not swum that event. Use all the creative ideas you can think of to have fun and achieve the goals and objectives of Masters swimming, which should be an integral part of a good program. The key to a successful team is to provide motivation and recognize their efforts, at whatever level they can achieve. Each year, do a critique and use these ideas to improve and establish your positive program.

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