Letters to the editor

Courrier des lecteurs

Expert clarifies

To the editor:

I enjoyed the article on visual defects (Champion, August 1981). The presentation of the topic indicating its complexity and its scope was very good and should be clearly understood by the majority of readers.

I am interested in the aspects of the visual conditioning mentioned in the article. The author states, “For instance, peripheral vision, a key component of athletic success, can be improved by up to 30 per cent by sport-specific training drills.” I believe it important to explain that when you speak about improving peripheral vision, you are not meaning that you are enlarging the person’s visual field as this is anatomically defined, nor are you likely to improve the visual acuity of his peripheral field for a similar reason. I presume that you mean (and I would hope it to be stressed) that you would increase the individual’s awareness of objects in his peripheral field. I believe that the use of the phrase “peripheral vision” is a little misleading, unintentional though this may be.

The two examples given of exercises to “improve the peripheral vision” will serve to improve awareness during the time that they are exercised and, providing there is other reinforcement, may help to reduce the tendency to visual inattention seen in some athletes today. I would hope, also, that you would recommend consultation with an opthalmologist since visual field defects are sometimes features of ocular disease which would be most properly identified, diagnosed and treated by the opthalmologist. The author is also aware, I am sure, that some neurological disorders may also present in this fashion.

I would agree with the conclusions with regard to individual athletes not being aware of their visual impairment but I am not sure I would agree that the number of athlete’s not reaching their potential because of visual problems is high. I would also question the meaning of the term “vision therapy program”.

I suggest to the author that Dr. Michael Easterbrooke of Toronto be contacted with regard to the protective eye wear which is available in Canada for many of the racquet sports. He has some interesting figures with regard to the incidence of eye injuries and the unfortunate results of being involved with racquet sports without suitable eye protection.

Donald Parker, M.B., CH.B., D.O., F.R.C.S. (C), Calgary.

An earlier beginning

To the editor:

Canadian participation in the World Student Games did not begin in Moscow in 1973, as was stated in Champion (May 1981), Universiade the big event in ‘81, but in Budapest in 1965, when Bill Crothers (800 m, gold medal), Abby Hoffman (800 m, bronze medal), and Harry Jerome (100 m, bronze medal), were among the Canadian student athletes who competed in track and field, swimming and fencing.

It was only Canadian Inter-collegiate Athletic Union participation which began in 1973. From 1965 to 1968, the Canadian franchise in FISU was held by the Canadian Union of Students (CSU) and participation was directed and largely organized by the athletes ourselves. Abby Hoffman was Chef de Mission of the 1967 team in Tokyo, for example, where she also won the silver medal in 800 m.

The main reason for CUS membership in FISU was that the CIAU initially refused to join. After CUS took the initiative and demonstrated that Canadian student athletes could compete with success, the CIAU jumped up and demanded the franchise for itself. But the CUS representatives — primarily Hoffman and myself — were not prepared to relinquish control until the CIAU undertook to democratize its decision-making by allowing athletes the right to elect representatives at all levels of university sport. The CIAU refused to do this, and that’s where the matter stood until CUS folded for other reasons in 1968.

Although sport was a minor concern to CUS, its demise cost intercollegiate sport one of its few progressive voices. The need for more student participation in CIAU decisions remains as great as ever.

Bruce Kidd, Toronto

The continuing saga…

To the editor:

The letter of Dr. Josef Cywinski in Champion (May 1981) has shown me the problem of application of valid scientific findings to athletics.

Dr. Cywinski claimed that muscles deep within the body are stimulated by surface electrical stimulation. Experimental evidence from Dr. M.E. Houston of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo does not support this claim (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 13: 85, 1981). As justification for his position, Dr. Cywinski cited cardiac defibrillation as an example of stimulation of a muscle deep within the body. The typical current delivered for electrical stimulation of skeletal muscle is 10 milliamps (from approximately 50 volts through a resistance of about 5,000 ohms) (Eriksson et al. International Journal of Sports Medicine 2: 18-21,1981).

In contrast, electrical defibrillation of the heart is normally performed with a rapid discharge of 200-400 watt-seconds of energy. This means that the typical peak current is on the order of 20-60 amps (Balagot and Bandelin, American Heart Journal 77: 489-497, 1969). The current for Dr. Cywinski’s example is on the order of 5,000 times greater than that used in electrical muscle stimulation! I certainly would not want to be on the receiving end of this blast.

The intent of my original letter to Champion (August 1980) was to draw attention to what I consider to be a questionable ergogenic aid. If Dr. Cywinski and Charles Francis have other opinions on this, that is their right. However, I have worked hard to develop a reputation as a scientist. For them to criticise me on scientific grounds is unjustified. A good sports scientist wants to help athletes. He does not, however, want to make claims on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

Richard L. Hughson, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo.