Anyone for Tennis?
A look at sports injury prevention and recovery,
and the dangers of ice baths
By Warwick Poon
It has been a month of tennis in this country, and now that it is over, here are some of my thoughts from my Chinese medicine point of view. Many years ago I started my business by seeing patients with tennis elbow. As I was a keen tennis player, these were the type of people that I mixed with. I have outlined the best ways to treat sports injuries in my book, ‘Understanding Your Life: A Patients Guide to Chinese Medicine’, so I will not go over that again. Both Federer and Raffa could use some pointers this week, but I have no doubt that they are getting the best advice that money can buy.
What I would like to do is to have a rant about the quick and easy methods for dealing with pains, both during and after sport. The Chinese medicine view is that every cell in the body requires blood and Qi, to move into and out of that cell. If blood is not flowing, the cells change colour, (bruising) and will eventually die (gangrene). If Qi does no flow, there will be pain, and the Qi will not lead the blood, so the blood will eventually stop also. When you are feeling a pain anywhere, this means, by definition, that the Qi is not flowing properly. Rubbing the spot, or area, is a marvellous way of relieving this. It is also what we do naturally, regardless of the site of the pain. You can call this self-massage. If the area is large, and due to excessive training, or doing unaccustomed work, then having a third party massage you is also useful. The massage must be well done, and the blood pushed towards the body etc., but this is the area of expertise that belongs to the masseur. Done well, massage is a valuable tool for those professional sports people who put themselves to the test on a regular basis. This has been the case for many years now, in both the Orient and the West. An even better way to move blood is to apply cupping. This is so good, that it is now becoming popular with sports people all around the world.
What I find incredible to believe is the growing popularity of “ice baths”. OMG, what a massive step backwards. Well if ice baths were so bad you say, then there would be lots of sports people having trouble.
Let’s look at what might happen to someone who regularly took ice baths. Firstly, and most obviously, the evidence is that arthritis is a possible outcome. Those people who work in cold storage for instance, have a much higher incidence of arthritis than normal professions. You would not of course expect it in young super-fit sports-people. The ex-number one female tennis player from Denmark, was out recently due to a mysterious bout of non-specific arthritis. And how many players that are not in the top ten, are also suffering?
Then of course, many other issues can come from ice baths. One that stands out is chronic fatigue. Apart from V Williams, do we know of any other victims in the prime of health? How about ear infections, like A. Molik? How many tennis, football and cricket careers have been cut short by this fashion of ice baths?
If you have been silly enough to expose yourself to ice for some reason, especially after an injury, then what is the best remedy? Cupping! Yes, cupping will move the blood that the ice has stagnated, and locked inside the flesh. After a cupping session, you can see the stagnant blood on the surface under the skin, and you can also see how quickly it dissipates, rather than hangs around inside the muscles.
A previous discussion was about the Boomerang cream, which used to be called HuPan. I once saw an interview where John McEnrow was quoted as saying that he is more likely to use arnica cream than ice for his tennis injuries. Arnica being a large proportion of the Boomerang cream, it is used by many people for many things.