DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I play volleyball from sunrise to sunset. I am quite good, but my jump leaves much to be desired. What exercises can I do to improve it? If I could jump higher, I would be a true star. – M.K.

ANSWER: This is a question that is usually asked at the beginning of every basketball season. I can give you the same exercises I have recommended in the past for basketball players.

Plyometric exercises are the kinds of exercise that put power in a jump. One good plyometric exercise is jumping off a platform or a sturdy box. Maybe you can make your own. Make it 12 inches high. The exercise consists in jumping off the box, landing on the feet with knees bent, and, immediately upon landing, jumping up as high as you can. This can be hard on the knees, so if they start to hurt, ditch this exercise. You do 10 jumps in a row. In a week or so, you can add another set of 10 jumps, resting at least a minute between sets. No one should do more than 40 total jumps.

When you’ve gotten the hang of it, increase the height of the platform by 4 inches. Every week or two, continue to add 4 more inches to the height of the platform until you hit 3 feet 8 inches.

You should use a soft pad as your landing surface, or a similar surface that gives a bit when you contact it.

Don’t forget to strengthen leg muscles with weight exercises. Squats are good for the thighs, and rising on the toes is good for calf muscles.

A simpler plyometric exercise, one you can do without any equipment, is to jump as high as you can and draw your knees to your chest on the up part of the jump. You land on slightly bent knees. Three sets of 10 jumps is the ultimate goal for this exercise.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am in a big argument with my brother. He says baseball is a good conditioning sport. He’s a baseball player; I’m not. I say that’s bunk. There’s hardly any running in baseball and many of the pro baseball players don’t look like they are in shape to me. Settle this for us, will you? – E.G.

ANSWER: Baseball doesn’t have the constant motion that sports like basketball and hockey have, but it does require much sprinting. Sprinting is demanding physical exertion that burns lots of calories, and it qualifies as exercise that keeps a person “in shape.”

Aerobic exercise, the kind of prolonged use of large muscles as in distance running, isn’t part of the baseball game. Baseball players, however, do run long distances in their conditioning programs.

Furthermore, most teams have a strength-training coach so baseball players get a well-rounded exercise program.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have noticed that my daughter’s hair has a green tinge to it. We have our own swimming pool, and she is in it for hours every day. Could this be due to the chlorine in the pool water? – P.K.

ANSWER: The green color more often comes from copper in pool water, not from chlorine. Copper pipes, if you have them, can dribble small amounts of copper into the water, and that’s enough to affect the color of some people’s hair. Or it could be coming from materials used to suppress the growth of algae. They often have copper in them.

The color doesn’t stay. She should shampoo after swimming.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 13-year-old son is bugging me to get him a set of barbells and dumbbells. Would using them stunt his growth, and can he get hurt? – K.J.

ANSWER: Lifting weights doesn’t stunt growth. He won’t get hurt if someone teaches him proper lifting technique and if he doesn’t get into competition with his friends to see who can lift the most weight.

Even prepubertal children benefit from lifting weights. Muscles don’t grow large unless there is the surge of testosterone, which comes with puberty, but muscles do get stronger, at any age, from this kind of exercise.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a terrible itch in my ear canal. I have to scratch it with a paper clip that I have straightened out. That gives me some relief. What will give me permanent relief? – J.M.

ANSWER: You’re going to get permanent relief only if you find out the cause of the itch. There are many causes.

A common one is eczema of the ear canal. Cortisone-containing eardrops can often control it. Allergies are another cause, and antihistamines can take away allergy itching. Infections – fungal infections in particular – are another source of ear-canal itching. Those infections require antifungal eardrops.

I’d like to assure you that an over-the-counter medicine is all you need for a cure. I can’t give you such assurance. You and I don’t know the cause. A quick visit to your doctor can provide you with the answer to the itch and the proper medicine to treat it.

In the meantime, get rid of the paper clip. You’re going to mess up your ear canal and set yourself up for an infection.

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


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