Tuesday, April 3, 2007

World Class Athletes

Testing top athletes is nothing new to Dr. Max Testa, a sports medicine physician at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray, who's worked with the likes of Lance Armstrong of cycling fame. Now, Testa explains new TOSH research into a different kind of athleticism. Apa Sherpa and Lhapka Sherpa, demonstrated their high altitude abilities at TOSH before departing and will also be studied as they climb Mount Everest.

"We really want to study them as athletes and see how they perform. ... We just want to see how the best two Sherpas manage their performance and see if something can help others who want to climb. ...

"We want to see how their engine works, how much training they need, what really makes them that good. ... When you test any kind of sport, what you first do is analyze the sport. Every sport has a certain energetic environment. You look at bio-mechanics of the sport. ... Training is to be built on a functional model of the sport. ...

"We can break down each sport ... you train for those qualities. Training is stressing a body function in a gradual way to make it better. We are doing the same thing with the Sherpas. "

"Apa started to carry weights ... since he was 12. He was getting better by repeating the same thing. ... That is good to get to a certain level ... but we move up the level of performance as we start to organize training by targeting different aspects of performance while resting another aspect. ... This 'periodization' developed in the last 30-40 years. It's made a huge difference."

For example, Testa says, 100 meter runners don't just run 100 meters. They also utilize other methods such as weight training, plyometrics, and power training, he says.

"We'll try to do the same thing with the Sherpa. If we can find a way to do it, and if they want to do it."

"We already know lots of things about training people to climb better ... Now what we've got is the best in the world. Maybe we can learn more from Dr. McIntosh (who will act as the 'control' climber, and will also test the Sherpas at least part way up Everest) by looking at the difference between how his body responds to what he's doing. ... The average cyclist sometimes doesn't respond the same way as the Tour de France winner. If you see the extreme you definitely get a better picture. ...

"We all have one heart and two lungs, but the starting point is different. Lance Armstrong was born with what I call an invisible gift ... Some of the qualities are inside muscle fiber or inside the heart or lungs. ... you need to measure that in the lab. ...

"For me it's really a learning experience. I'm really curious to see what they come back. It could trigger more research on them or other Sherpas."


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