Friday, June 6, 2014

LeBron James, The Heat & The Temperature-My thoughts on Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals

As Channel 10’s Will Manso said last night, the NBA should be embarrassed. To have the best of the best playing in an arena where the temperature was at least 90 degrees (and humid) was absolutely-ridiculously-insane and honestly put the player’s health at risk.

The players from both teams should be applauded for not throwing in the towel early on and refusing to play. They all deserve a great deal of respect and admiration. Being a known “cramper” LeBron displayed obvious signs of heat exhaustion. The close up shots of him showed a puffiness in his face around his eyes, he was flush, profusely sweating and of course, the muscle cramping. Although I think everyone had the profuse sweating thing happening, players, fans and anyone else in the AT&T sauna last night.

Commentators, player and coaches alike stated the heat had nothing to do with the Miami Heat’s loss. I’m gonna tell you, it absolutely did. With The Heat & LeBron’s M.O. of turning up the Heat in the last few minutes, LeBron being a cramper, the gas tank was just empty.

 Now, don’t get me wrong, all of the guys, the Spurs and our Heat played in the same hot and humid environment. The Spurs played outstanding basketball and kicked our butts in the last 5 minutes and we lost. But to someone that cramps, the hot humid environment brings fatigue into play much earlier. How do I know? First, I’m a cramper. After cramping in several triathlons and being in extreme pain s I ran my 10k, I began doing some research on cramping and most of the superficial stuff I read blamed it on electrolyte imbalance. People take various types of sports drinks to help and to some degree it can be a factor. I tired the electrolyte drinks and still cramps. So, I knew there was something else involved.

Sifting through all that “common knowledge” of electrolyte imbalance are studies by Schwellnus,, done on Ironman triathlon finishers that reported higher intensity training leads to premature muscle fatigue. Another study by Laursen PB, reported rapid loss of Na+ (sodium) concentration in the blood along with increased core body temperature that lead to hyperthermic fatigue. However while this may be a factor in some cases, this is disputed by another study by Schwellnus titled: Serum electrolytes in Ironman triathletes with exercise-associated muscle cramping that disputes the association of electrolyte loss, stating in their conclusions: Acute EAMC in Ironman triathletes is not associated with a greater percent body mass loss or clinically significant differences in serum electrolyte concentrations. The increased EMG activity of cramping muscles may reflect increased neuromuscular activity.

So, neuromuscular fatigue is the likely common denominator here. This means, it all comes down to the athletes level of conditioning. Working out in a “normal” environment gets you ready for competition in that environment. With some athletes vulnerable to exercise associated muscle cramping, turn up the temperature and now this “X” factor can really make a difference.

The bottom line is that in order to perform in an extreme environment, you need to train in that extreme environment. What’s happening is neuromuscular fatigue brought on by the extreme environment and dehydration. How do we as triathletes prevent this? It’s called “Heat Training”. Part of your training must be in the same environment that you expect to be racing in. In Triathlon, the “X” factor is always the weather. We don’t know if we’re gonna be swimming in calm seas or a chop of 3-5 foot seas. We don’t know if there’s gonna be a head wind, a cross wind, a tail wind (love the tail wind by the way…I’ll take that anytime!) when running or biking and we don’t’ know if it’s gonna be a torrential downpour or the sun is going to be baking us at 95 degrees as we run on a hot roadway, all of which happened in the 2013 Escape to Miami (sans the 3-5 ft seas). So, “Heat training” is a part of the triathletes training regimen for a reason. Expect the unexpected and be prepared for the extreme.

Perhaps Heat training is in order for someone like LeBron in order to take him to the next level? There’s really not much more King James can do to improve his basketball skills, but playing in a hot-humid environment certainly brought out his Achilles’ heel. Just as the Nautica and Escape to Miami triathlons brought out mine.

So, yes, with the history of being a “cramper”, heat training is a must so you can train to overcome the early muscle fatigue factor. Learning how to properly hydrate in an extreme hot-humid environment , knowing electrolyte replacement may be needed earlier rather than later AND training for the X-factor must all be considered when you know you have the Achilles’ heel of Exercise Associated Muscle Cramping. I have my ideas on how LeBron can overcome this. But I’ll save that for a private conversation with coach Spoelstra. Was the extreme temperature a factor in game 1, absolutely. Was it embarrassing for the NBA? Absolutely. But, all the players suffered the same environment, so I’d have to say it was absolutely fair. Game one goes to the Spurs and deservingly so. Let’s hope for some air-conditioning in game two.

Although we like it HOT here in Miami, we do love our AC. Trust me, we’ll be the first ones to get into our swim suits when it’s hot. But let’s save that for the beach.

Oh, and to all those that say a great champion can turn it off and ignore it. Please go look up some case studies on people who’ve suffered heat stroke. This isn’t one of those things you can just “walk it off”. Heat stroke is deadly. LeBron returned to the game knowing full well his legs would seize up. But that’s the heart of a champion.

Now, it’s time for some extreme training.

‘nuff said. On to game 2.

Dr. T

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Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.

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