Police, Testicles, and Brain Damage

Training Tuesday: 12/7/21

News & Research:

Brain Oxygenation in Post-concussion Combat Sport Athletes
Purpose: Investigate the feasibility of a non-invasive method to evaluate the physical and cognitive repercussions of long-lasting post-concussion effects in professional combat sports athletes. To help athletes return to professional combat, there is a need for unbiased objective tools and techniqu…

This is a bit over my head (pun intended), but I think it's interesting that a person's level of training (specifically VO2max and balance prior to brain injury) seem to mitigate mTBI (mild traumatic brain injury) and persistent post-concussive symptoms.  The authors suggest that brain oxygenation may be a mechanism for this and a viable treatment option.  Once again, targeted breathing (either as an independent or conjunctive treatment) has to be a curious consideration, at least in my mind.

As combat, or even contact, sport athletes we get hit in the head a lot.  We also know now that it's not just the "big knockouts" that cause brain damage.  We know that brain damage is cumulative, meaning it adds up over time.  Lots of small bumps to the head have a downstream effect even if there aren't noticeable symptoms in the short term.

On the one hand, this is a really neat perspective on treatment for TBI.  I know there have been studies showing improvements in blood oxygenation with various breathing protocols, but I don't know that there have been studies specifically looking at that as a treatment for these conditions.

On the other hand, this has pretty big implications for preventative measures.  If your sport has a lot of bodily contact (boxing, football, rugby, hockey, etc.) your cardiovascular capacity (VO2max) and (very curiously) your balance may help mitigate those long term / downstream effects of the sub-clinical brain damage you're accruing.

How Fit Are Special Operations Police Officers? A Comparison With Elite Athletes From Olympic Disciplines
The diverse tasks of special operations police (SOP) units place high physical demands on every officer. Being fit for duty requires a wide range of motor abilities which must be trained regularly and in a structured manner. But SOP operators have to plan and manage large proportions of their traini…

"On average, SOP operators were taller, heavier, and stronger than elite athletes. But both the ability to convert this strength into explosive movement and aerobic power was significantly less developed."  One caveat to mention here is that SOPs were compared to all Olympic sports, so the first statement is pretty obvious actually.

You'd expect special operations police be much larger bodies than say climbers, marathoners, or gymnasts.  Correspondingly, they tend to have builds (BMI) similar to swimmers, baseball players, and wrestlers.  What's different, and noteworthy, is their (in)ability to apply their physicality.

"In the future, detailed training evaluations could help further differentiate strengths and weaknesses in the fitness of SOP operators and design purposeful training interventions."  This is exactly what I see with the officers I work with.  I'm very honored that they bring concepts and scenarios to me in a laboratory (training facility) that we work through together to develop practical tactics.

You better believe I'm sharing this article with those officers this week!  Fitness is not enough.  There needs to be specific training regarding how one's physicality is going to be used.  Your VO2max is great in joggers and sneakers, what bout in boots with 20 lbs of gear?  You're a grappling stud?  What about in a car, with the same 20 lbs of gear, and a rifle plate that won't let you bend in the middle?

You'll get no sympathy from me if you show me a bench press log, but not defensive tactics attendance.


The Locker Room:

  • Testicle and Colostrum:  Currently one of the tests I'm running is the effect of colostrum and testicle supplements (from Heart & Soil, 10% off) on soreness, energy, mood, breathing rate, heart rate, and heart rate variability.  Most of the literature I've read on colostrum suggests it's benefits are for immune system function or acute recovery (think multi-day bike rides) rather than chronic day-to-day wellness.  Additionally, I'd love to test my testosterone more regularly for something like this, but saliva tests usually only measure free testosterone and the blood test isn't cheap.

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