DEAR DR. DONOHUE: During football practice, I made a tackle that sent a shooting pain down my arm to my hand. It lasted for less than a minute. I continued to play, and I didn’t notice anything wrong with my shoulder, arm or hand. When I got home, I spoke with my neighbor, who is a physical therapist. He says I had a burner and that I don’t have to worry about it. Is he right? – J.L.

ANSWER:
Burners and football go hand in hand, and every fall there are letters asking about them.

In the lower part of the neck is a network of nerves that serve the arms. When the head is forcibly bent to one side, as it often is in making a tackle, the nerve network is stretched. The result is a painful sensation that runs down the shoulder and arm to the hand. That’s a burner. The pain quickly goes away.

Burners don’t usually cause permanent damage. If you can move your neck and shoulder in all directions without any pain and if you have no arm or hand weakness, you don’t need any further treatment and you don’t have to worry. All is well.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son is a high-school wrestler. Last year we got in a to-do about his starving himself to make weight. He did it often during the season.

I don’t want to fight with him again this year. Will you please tell him the dangers of doing this? – P.M.

ANSWER:
One great danger of doing it is getting himself and his teammates disqualified. High schools have adopted strict rules about “making weight” – losing weight rapidly to wrestle in a particular weight class.

The dangers of it are many. One is dehydration during the match. The other is loss of muscle strength, something no wrestler wants.

Most high schools require their wrestlers to weigh in while well-hydrated before the first match of the season. The wrestler’s body fat is calculated, and it should not be less than 7 percent. Rules do not permit more than a loss of 1.5 percent in any seven-day period during the season.

A player’s hydration can be determined by measuring the specific gravity of urine — something that is quite easily done.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My buddy and I work out together. He says he has read something about taking a rest between repetitions of lifting the weight. I never head of this, and I have never seen anyone do it. He’s doing it all the time. Is this for real? – B.J.

ANSWER:
Standard weightlifting consists of a series of consecutive lifts, called repetitions, done without much of a pause between each repetition. At the end of a certain number of repetitions – the set – a rest break is taken.

However, some weightlifters have found that a short pause between repetitions gives them more energy to perform more repetitions than they usually can and to lift weights heavier than they could. The technique is called interrepetition rest. “Inter” means “between.” The rest is short, about 20 seconds.

Heavy lifting causes muscle contractions, which squeeze arteries and stop blood flow to the muscles. By taking a short pause, the arteries open up and blood flows to the muscles, bringing them nutrients and taking away waste products like lactic acid.

For some reason, weightlifters believe there are unbreakable rules for exercise. There aren’t. It’s fine to experiment with different techniques.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a man in my mid-50s. I enjoy bike-riding and walking. I like to alternate these exercises for 40 minutes each day, seven days a week. Am I overdoing my workouts?

Is there any advantage to this exercise routine? Should I ride my bike more? – P.P.

ANSWER:
You’re not overdoing it if you aren’t totally exhausted at the end of your exercise, if you feel fine at other times and if your resting pulse rate is not increasing.

There’s a lot to be said for your program. The two exercises stress different muscles in different ways, so you’re not getting a one-sided workout.

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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