Since the Olympic winter games are taking place as we speak in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, I thought it would be a great time to discuss a topic that does crop up every so often in my physiotherapy practice in Toronto.
While watching the Olympic games, we can see incredible feats of athletic prowess and extraordinary examples of the constantly evolving boundaries of human performance.
With the constant chant for “Citius, Altius, Fortius” reverberating in their minds, athletic limits are being tested and achievement records are being broken.
So this begs the question: Is performance really healthy?
Just perusing the biographies of almost any of the elite athletes that have qualified to represent their countries at the highest level of competition, one can see an almost infinite variety of minor to serious injuries that these extremely conditioned individuals have overcome to reach their personal achievements.
Multiple knee surgeries, broken bones, concussions, separated shoulders, sprains and strains.
The list is essentially endless.
Now going back to the question regarding performance and health, here’s my take in one word.
And here are a few more of my words…
Performance is very seldom healthy.
Before I get pilloried on the internet, let me qualify that preceding statement.
In the pursuit of extremes, in the pursuit of redefining the boundaries of human athletic performance, in the pursuit of winning medals at the highest levels of competition, athletes must be in peak physical and mental condition and must undertake rigorous training programs.
But in order to do what has not been done before, risks have to be taken.
This is where limits are pushed, where boundaries are stretched.
This is where that razor thin line between risk and reward is often crossed.
This is where, as was witnessed just a few short days ago, a young Georgian luger by the name of Nodar Kumaritashvili, lost his life in a horrific crash while he was pursuing his dream of winning an Olympic medal for his country.
I’ve always believed that the human body is capable of incredible feats.
And that as time passes, as science and technology advance, we’ll be able to perform at even higher levels.
But for most people, are these levels of performance required?
Do most people need to test the limits of their bodies?
When these athletes train to extremes, they constantly put their bodies at risk.
Risk of injury, risk of over-training.
At what point does the average human being decide that the risk is not worth the reward?
Or, when does one decide that they are okay with being just average?
Yours in movement.