THE BLOG
08/20/2012 11:05 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

How to Recover Like an Olympian -- And Finally Understand Men at the Same Time

After finishing up a rousing weekend with of group of my childhood buddies at our annual reunion near the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe, I have come to realize the essence of what drives the male species. For you ladies who are wondering what men want to talk about and where their attention lies when you aren't in their proximity, I think I have answers. Perhaps you have come to believe that, men being men after all, when they congregate they must be consumed with all things women? Well, not really. I would say females come in somewhere just below talking about digestive problems.

No, when the fellas come together, they are all-consumed with one thing: competition. When adult men get together, they feel the most connected and bonded when they are engaged in competitive games of any shape and color. In other words, dudes are happiest when we can go back in time and act like... boys. For us, competition equates to joy, exuberance, and good times.

A typical day for us at our annual get-together can look like this: a steep four-hour hike, an intense soccer game on the beach followed by a bocce ball tournament, and then concluding with an evening poker game. And when there is down time, we watch super-competitive sporting events on television like the Olympics or World Cup. The good news is that the fun is not limited to just a few days. No, the preliminary emails where we get to rib each other about who will win what start to circulate months in advanced, and they seem to help build the excitement.

So, besides debunking everything you think you learned from reading say, Fifty Shades of Grey, what else can be learned from this experience? Speaking as a gent well into his 40s with a chronically bad knee who tries to stay fit but whose body now has a difficult time keeping up with what I wish it could still do, I can say that I also put a lot of thought into how I was going to recover from all of this physically demanding revelry. As I started to dread the inevitable aches and pains that were coming my way, it got me wondering about what some of the more seasoned Olympians like Michael Phelps and Kerri Walsh do between events to stay fresh.

It turns out that besides the more traditional techniques like icing, massage, and eating cleansing, anti-inflammatory foods, there are some unconventional practices out there including mustard baths, steamrolling the body with stainless steel rods, hyperbaric chambers, and this new concoction, the "cryotherapy chamber," as reported by Yahoo Sports. This last device encases the athlete's body and reportedly cools down to a temperature below 200 degrees Fahrenheit! Exposing the skin surface to this extreme cold triggers the brain to constrict the blood vessels going to the skin and redirects its circulation so as to maintain the body's core temperature from this cold assault. In theory, this helps draw the toxins out of the muscles so they can be eliminated quickly by the body. After a few minutes, the athlete exits the chamber, and fresh oxygenated blood gets rapidly sent back to the muscles, thereby rejuvenating them back to near peak capacity.

What interests me is thinking about exploring how some of these clever tricks used by elite athletes can be harnessed to improve the lives of everyday people. For example, can cold chambers be used to decrease the severity of soft-tissue injuries that occur at the workplace and help people get back to work quicker? Can such treatments prevent scarring and degeneration of injured tissues and serve as a tool to diminish the opportunity for chronic pain to set in? What other techniques can Olympians and their trainers share that can help doctors improve the lives of our patients? There may be a lot of suffering that can be prevented tomorrow based on the lessons we learn today from some of the sporting world's greatest performers. Not to mention, I need a leg up on the guys for next summer's Tahoe trip.

For more by Peter Abaci, M.D., click here.

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