Healthcare practitioners are constantly looking for new ways to improve patient health and quality of life.
We have to look into all aspects that affect energy levels and mood, such as diet and lifestyle, as well as keep up to date with the latest medical research and technology in pain management.
It’s important that we have a variety of options for treatment to provide solutions for all types of health conditions and stay ahead of the game.
As a sports therapist, I have spent many years taking care of top level athletes, and also researching how other coaches approach the problems of improving performance and reducing recovery times.
When I was young, football was the only really professional team sport where players were paid as full-time athletes and traded as commodities for large sums of money.
The year I graduated as a sports therapist was the summer of 1995, and it was the same year Dennis Bergkamp became one of the highest paid footballers of his era.
He joined English football club Arsenal for £7.5mil (RM40.83mil) on a £19,000-a-week (RM103,445) deal that June.
Almost 20 years later, the fee for a top-rated player has increased ten-fold! For example, in Septem-ber 2013, Gareth Bale joined Spanish football club Real Madrid for £77mil (RM419.23mil).
What’s more interesting is that the players’ weekly salary has jumped almost 30 times in value, which means that big clubs are spending huge amounts of money on players’ salaries. For example, Bale just extended his contract at Real Madrid in a £600,000-a-week (RM3.27mil) deal.
Football stars now are not just team players – they are valuable assets that must be taken care of in the best possible way.
In fact, all top athletes are tradable commodities with an establish- ed market value, and it’s in their owners’ interest to keep them in top form and injury-free, which means wrapping them in cotton wool between games and ensuring they are always at the peak of their powers.
Recovery is essential
So, how does one go about designing recovery programmes for their prized assets?
There are actually many options available, from massage and phy- siotherapy to gadgets and techno- logy like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cryotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine treatments like cupping (the treatment American swimmer Michael Phelps went through during the recent Rio Olympics).
High performance athletes like Phelps are perfectionists when it comes to competition, and each individual has his own preferred pre- and post-event therapies to ensure they can compete at their very best.
As I became more interested in recovery therapy, I decided to also check out which of the common sports is the most gruelling on the body.
According to Runner’s World magazine, certain athletes run, on average, an estimated:
• 24.14km per tournament in tennis
• 12.87km per game in football
• 4km per game in basketball
• 8km per game in rugby
I also worked out that British tennis player Andy Murray ran almost 29km over 12 days on his way to becoming this year’s Wimbledon champion, which is very impressive when you consider that most of those miles are done at a sprint while twisting, turning and stopping abruptly.
Reading this research just made me more hungry for knowledge, but I needed to go higher up the food chain to the pinnacle of endurance sports.
I wanted to know what the world’s top endurance athletes used to recover post-event, especially the ones with events that last day after day with limited opportunities for rest and recovery.
I needed to know how the cyclists on the Tour de France approached muscle fatigue and recovery.
The Tour de France is the pinnacle of endurance racing. The competitors of this yearly event race approximately 3,500km over three weeks across the French Alps.
To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of running three marathons for 22 consecutive days uphill!
On some days, the combined hills have a climb of 30,000 feet or 9.65km straight up as the cyclists battle winds of up to 100km per hour in an atmosphere where the energy-giving oxygen levels are rapidly depleting.
What I found was shocking in its simplicity!
Dr Jeff Spencer was the physician supervising the eight-time winning US Postal Service Pro cycling team that included Lance Armstrong.
Although their wins have been disputed and mired in controversy, the recovery statistics were so conclusive that now every team at the event uses a technique called Grounding or Earthing!
According to Dr Spencer: “My observations and feedback enable me to say, without any reservation, that Earthing is an indispensable healing and recovery tool, something even beyond significant, for any treatment or recovery regimen as it relates to injury, surgery, and maximum athletic performance. I tell my people to sleep grounded at night and ground themselves during the day as much as they can.
“From many years of experience treating the injuries of athletes, I find that Earthing offers healing benefits above and beyond the results typically seen with icing.
“Regardless of the extent of the injury, pain reduction is significant with Earthing compared to ice; frequently, 40% or 50% less. I have never experienced that kind of healing with icing.
“I tell my clients and patients that Earthing serves as a background, a foundation, for stabilising and enhancing the physiology so that the body’s internal mechanisms work together to create a high level of repair and healing, whether from surgery, exhaustion, or from daily life in general.
“Earthing promotes better sleep and all the things associated with faster recovery from day-to-day activity. People have more energy, less pain, better function, and require less sleep. All these are indications that the body is repairing itself and functioning more efficiently.”
This is such a huge claim, and so I looked up the facts on Earthing to see if there was any clinical research to support these claims from the founder Clint Ober.
What Is Earthing?
Earthing, also known as Grounding, is based on the revolutionary discovery that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy is a foundation for vibrant health.
Earthing simply means to physically connect to the Earth in the form of bare skin contact by being outside, for example walking barefoot on the beach or on grass.
The human heart, brain and nervous system are electrical subsystems operating within our bio- electrical bodies. The Earth’s surface has a negative charge, and when we connect to it, the Earth restores the electrical stability of our body, which allows our bodies to better self-regulate and heal.
Research indicates that regular Earthing, among other things, restores and stabilises a natural state in the electrical functioning of the body. It is effective in reducing inflammation, pain and stress, im- proves sleep, boosts energy levels, and aids in recovery and healing.
No wonder I always head to the beach when I’m stressed! In fact, most of us have been subconsciously enjoying the benefits of Earthing for years and sitting on a beach has always been the relaxation holiday of choice.
The more I read about Earthing, the more fascinated I became.
Going back to the football era of 1995: I remember that even though players used to drink alcohol and were renowned party animals, the weekly team sheets were always the same. It was rare to see injuries and the squad rotations that are so common nowadays were unheard of in the 1990s.
Bergkamp averaged 38.5 games per season during his 11 years at Arsenal. Bale is averaging 20 games per season since his move to Real Madrid.
Yes, professional sports has become more competitive in the last 20 years and the training levels have intensified, but the injury rates have skyrocketed beyond reasonable proportion.
The average length of a football career is measured in years, but in 1995, it was closer to 15 years, so there must be other factors that have influenced injury recovery and the ageing process.
According to biophysicist Dr James Oschman, one of the most influential factors is our exposure to electronic equipment. Mobile phones and tablets, laptops and WiFi all interfere with our body’s electrical energy and our ability to regenerate effectively while we sleep.
It’s the reason we suffer more aches and pains than our parents used to, and also why insomnia and sleep-related disorders have increased three-fold in the last 20 years.
If you haven’t tried Earthing and wake up morning after morning feeling like you haven’t slept at all, then get yourself outdoors, take off your shoes and connect with the Earth’s surface.
If you work in a busy office or sleep in a high-rise apartment surrounded by WiFi, then invest in a Grounding mat or sleep on an Earthing bed sheet! If it’s what the Tour De France cyclists use for recovery, then it is definitely worth a try.
Liam Harkness is a qualified sports therapist with certificates in Active Isolated Stretching and Strength-ening (AIS), visceral manipulation and holistic lifestyle coaching. His two current goals are to help Malaysian athletes beat Singapore and help combat the rise of non- communicable diseases in the country. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.