Sports med myths demolished


The Sportsmedicine Book by Gabe Mirkin, M.D., and Marshall Hoffman. Little, Brown and Co. (Canada) Ltd., 225 pp., $16.50 cloth, $8.95 paperback.

It’s described as a “how-to” book on sports medicine (or sportsmedicine, as the authors insist). One reading won’t qualify you for a degree in orthopaedic surgery or nutrition, but The Sportsmedicine Book is a useful, well organized, and readable reference work.

Author Mirkin is, himself, a competitive runner (as well as a coach, professor, physician, and broadcaster) and his approach to sports medicine leans towards the problems of runners and particularly laymen. There is, however, enough information of a general nature here to be of value to anyone involved in sport of any kind.

There are sections on training guidelines; muscles — including comments on such controversial topics as carbohydrate packing, blood doping, and salt pills; nutrition; common injuries — everything from tendonitis to jock itch; injury avoidance, hot weather training; sex and athletic performance (and athletics and sexual performance).

The book is particularly effective at demolishing sport medicine myths, even those that one would think had been demolished for good years ago. Mirkin tells, for instance, of a former coach of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League who wouldn’t let his players consume liquids during a hot weather scrimmage, presumably to toughen them up. Five players landed in hospital.

Ignorance about simple physiological processes is unfortunately still far too common at all levels of sport. Mirkin points also to the individual cases of a number of top amateur athletes, among them world record holders, who performed poorly, or even failed to make national teams, because of overtraining.

If the book has a major shortcoming, it’s in the quality of interviews conducted with athletes from various sports. The interviewees are occasionally ill-chosen (Derek Sanderson is repeatedly quoted on hockey) and their comments, which are set off in the margins of the text, are often less than profound (“When I start to get back in shape each summer, my muscles ache all the time. But as I get into condition, my muscles stop hurting.” Larry Brown, former All-Pro back for the Washington Redskins.

The book is sparsely, but effectively, illustrated. There are three appendices, including listings of American and Canadian members of the Sportsmedicine Section of the American Orthopaedic Society and the American Academy of Podiatrie Sport Medicine. — DMcD

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