Weightlifting has rare danger attached to it


DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a concerned single mom, raising two teenage boys. Enclosed is an article about superslow weight training. I am writing this letter and sending the article because my son died after a superslow workout. I did not know that superslow workouts could cause an aneurysm, stroke or aortic dissection. I want to warn parents of the hazards of this kind of training. – C.P.

I don’t have the facility with words to express adequately my sorrow on the death of your son. No one who hasn’t suffered such a tragedy can begin to appreciate the heartbreak that must be yours.

Weightlifting has been performed from the earliest days of athletics. It is the best way of building strong muscles and bones. Deaths have occurred during weightlifting, and every effort must be made to avoid these rare tragedies. Deaths have occurred in every sport, however. When they happen, everyone is shocked.

Your son had an aneurysm on a brain artery. Such aneurysms are there from birth and are generally silent until they break. An aneurysm is a weak spot in the artery wall. The weak spot becomes a thin bulge that’s subject to bursting. If it does burst, people are often severely impaired or die. High blood pressure can cause the aneurysm to tear apart. Aortic dissection is a separation of the layers of that large artery. It can cause the aorta to rupture and bleed. This most often happens in older ages or in people with congenital weakness of that artery. Those with the inherited condition called Marfan’s syndrome are examples.

Weightlifting raises blood pressure briefly. During weightlifting, as during any exercise, the heart pumps out more blood. When muscles contract in lifting a heavy weight, the contraction impedes blood flow through arteries serving those muscles. And often there is a reflex constriction of other arteries during this exercise. All of these raise blood pressure, sometimes to the high 300s. High pressure broke your son’s aneurysm.

Traditionally, it is taught to lift a weight in two seconds and lower it in four. In superslow lifting, the weight is lifted in 10 seconds and lowered in five to 10 seconds. This is supposed to be a greater stimulus for muscle growth. How much more it raises blood pressure over traditional lifting is something that needs investigation. I am keeping my eyes open for any information on the topic. (I’ll answer your other questions shortly.)

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a male, 6 feet tall, weighing 210 pounds and in good health. I exercise five days a week. I have two hip implants. The surgeries took place six and five years ago. The reason for the hip replacements was avascular necrosis – no blood flow to the hip bone. I have been told that hip replacements are good for around 15 years. I worry about walking on a treadmill for a mile every day. Does this exercise shorten the life of my artificial hips? – R.A.

Today’s artificial hips last, on average, 20 years.

You have to talk to your orthopedic surgeon. The answer to your question depends largely on the material your artificial joints are made of. Most artificial hips consist of a metallic ball that fits into a polyethylene (plasticlike material) socket. Friction between the metal and polyethylene causes microscopic polyethylene particles to break away, and weakens the adjacent bone. Both shorten the life of the joint. Artificial hips made entirely of metal are more resistant to friction and can take more stress.

How fast are you running? If it’s a gentle trot, I believe the doctor will let you continue. If it’s a fast clip, a man of your weight puts lots of stress on the hip, and the doctor might want to you to back off some.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My two grandchildren, 21 months and 4 1/2 years, swim in a pool daily. They are underwater much of the time. I am concerned about swimmer’s ear. Is it safe to use a solution of one part vinegar and one part alcohol in their ears?

Yes. One drop of the mixture that is emptied out of the ear canal after letting it sit there for about half a minute does prevent swimmer’s ear. The vinegar restores the ear canal’s normal acidity, and the alcohol dries the canal.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com