Friday, March 21, 2008


Two presentations were made last night at one of our regular association meetings related to Hypothermia. Information and knowledge on a range of topics like these always provides for a good discussion and ultimately allow us to better make decisions on the water. I was particularly intrigued by the concept of Cold Shock.

Prior debates on the risks inherent in paddling pale in comparison to the overall risk as described by the experts. As one presenter (an expert in cold water survival) reminded us - once you start paddling in water 60F or lower, you enter the danger zone.

Part of the discussion centred on training and acclimitization to cold water. Apparently you can do it.

A few highlights:
1. recognition of a problem > yourself or others in your group, be on the look out for the UMBLES - stumbles, mumbles, fumbles; these are manifestations of a problem with muscle or nerve function.
2. body temperature less than 35 degrees celsius, start action look to going to a hospital.
3. rewarming - handle gently at all times; discussion in the group made us rethink how well we are prepared as a group for initiating treatment if needed. the group should have at least one of everything needed - sleeping bag,tarp...
4. after drop - once assisted and helped, it is not over
5. not dead until warm and dead

check out:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Common exercises and machines to avoid

Individuals often come to the clinic and describe what they see and are instructed to use as exercise training techniques. Occasionally the design of some machines can be quite stressful, particularly to the spine.

There are a number that I would classify as higher risk. Which means basically that the exercises might be more irritating than beneficial. Exercise training of any sort, can no doubt aggravate - muscle stress, overuse, tendon inflammation. Beyond this, some types of training should be avoided or techniques modified. For most of us, the focus should be on endurance not generating high forces by moving large amounts of weight. This is particularly true regarding the lumbar spine. Ensuring there is a balance between abdominal work and extensor muscle work is critical.

Many active participants in a variety of sports do quite a few sports activities and never have any problems but, the movements are potentially stressful nevertheless. One should not make the assumption that because you always did a certain exercise and never had a problem, that the exercise was or is stiil safe. It could be you were just lucky.

Here are a few exercises to be careful doing and you may consider avoiding them all together:

Lat pull - if you are going to use the bar and machine pull the bar to your chest. Avoid bringing the bar behind your neck.

If the bar is pulled behind the neck, which is still common, the cervical spine can be excessively forced into flexion.

Good alternative

Others to keep in mind:

Military press - for some reason this is a very common part of circuits given to a wide range of participants in a number of gyms. The difficulty is that the average person places a substantial amount of compression through the lumbar spine. If your goal is to help reduce your back pain by becoming more active and fit - avoid this one. If you like to use free weights, use them individually and raise arm into forward flexion but keep the back well aligned.

Toe touches - the sun salutation uses a variation of this called the forward bend, but if you think you may have disc irritation or this is a completely new movement/exercise - pass over this part of the sequence. If you are attached to this movement, at least bend your knees and hips to reduce some of the stress. As a general rule be extra cautious in the morning, since this is the time the discs are fully rexpanded, after lying all night and the pressure of standing has been removed. This would seem contradictory to the yoga concept of doing the sun salutation early in the morning. Keep in mind the traditional yoga practitioners were Indians who, up until recently were not plagued with disc problems like us in the west. If you wish to do the sun salutation with the sun - get up an hour early and let the disc pressures normalize at least partially. Substitute with a few tai chi moves - forward step or side lunge.

Abdominals - While on your back practicing mini crunches or lying on the ball don't place the hands behind the neck; if you are weak in the abdominals you will inadvertently place a lot of force on the cervical spine soft tissues including the disc joint complex. Consider keeping the neck supported, in line with the chest. Aim to bring upper chest, head and neck all off the floor at the same time. Only enough to put a small bit of space between shoulder blade and floor. Another alternative, keep the neck supported and tighten the abdominals by moving the hips/knees, like a bicycle.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sport and risk

This week we had an interesting discussion within our kayaking association. It centred on the possibility we might be unwittingly promoting risk taking behaviour by publishing photos that depicted kayakers close to icebergs. I think some of my shots and others, may have led to a review and subsequent club disclaimers. There were some who felt the association should not publish any photos of kayakers who appear to be near icebergs.
This recent debate caused me to reflect on my own photo taking - was the risk too great?
I didn't think so at the time. And I don't think so now.
An interview I heard some time ago suggested risk taking sports served a positive sociocultural good. Examples included horseback riding, motorcycle riding, scuba diving, and judo. The expert didn't mention seakayaking per se but I expect he would include it in the list, since sea kayaking is something everyone can learn.
While you can have degrees of risk - when a sport is inherently risky to start with, picking out a particular aspect of sport that might be more risky is a bit like splitting hairs.
In sea kayaking - once you leave the beach everything after that is a risk.

In this still from Will Gadd's Aweberg contribution at the Banff Film Festival he pushes the boundaries in order to make his film. Compared to his other climbs in the rockies and elsewhere, I would expect the technical skill to actually climb the iceberg is probably quite low, but the adventure interest is quite high. He was wearing a lifejacket.

In other sports - coaches and administrators make great efforts to manage the risk by educating all the participants, conducting courses and establishing some limits. In judo, competitors can be eliminated from a tournament - not just penalized, by carrying out a high risk move that can harm either an opponent or themselves. Yet, armlocks, chokes and all other throws within the international curriculum are acceptable.

What could be more risky than a hockey player not wearing an eye visor and then sliding in front of a slapshot?

Or in lacrosse, standing in front of a high powered shot from a running foreward.

If an organization provides education, training, safety seminars and skill development, they have done everything they can and need to do. People know they need thermal protection to paddle in the north atlantic but on those blistering hot days we know folks will and do wear only a sun/paddle shirt. That becomes their choice. People make choices all the time: not wearing a helmet in surf conditions, paddling on exposed coasts, paddling alone, paddling near whales and numerous other
common scenarios all of which involve more risk than the already risky sport of kayaking on the ocean.

It all seems relative to personal choice and your internal psyche - for a glimpse into what I think is a truly risky adventure sport - check out the film 20 seconds of Joy. This is an intrigueing glimpse of a norwegian female Base jumper and her sport experiences, including how and when her base jumping career came to a sudden halt changing her whole life.

Monday, March 3, 2008

East Coast Trail

If you can't kayak - hiking or cross country skiing are great second options. When the sun is blazing you tend to forget about the cold temperatures and the bitter wind coming off the atlantic. The recent addition to the East Coast Trail running out of Quidi Vidi is a great hike and quickly accessible. But we needed a little extra caution at this time of year. There were many hidden icy patches under cover of soft blowing snow and we found some sections of the trail are not as easy to find and a misplaced step, may be a land you in what in the spring or summer is bog.