Fit Bits: October 2001


Wristy Business
Last season, Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, Calif., admitted more than 500 patients to its ER for wrist injuries-27 on Dec. 27 alone. In response, ER nurses introduced a Wrist Fracture Hall of Fame-a place where patients (mostly snowboarders) with wrist injuries sign their names, leave messages and occasionally hang their pictures.

"It entertains people, gets their minds off their injuries and gives them a sense of brotherhood," explains ER nurse Colleen Wilford, who originated the idea. "We had one fellow sign the wall with a pen in his mouth. He'd broken both wrists. It read: 'Wrist guards were in my pack.'"

To avoid becoming a wrist-injury statistic, you must know the right way to fall: Make a fist and tuck the elbows to protect fingers and arms. Falling on an open hand boosts risk of injury.
-Robert Frohlich

Into Thin Air
A controversy is swirling inside and outside a house near Utah's Olympic Village. Norwegian nordic athletes are living in a "nitrogen house" the country's Olympic Committee set up to simulate high-altitude conditions. Research has shown that to boost endurance levels it's best to live at high altitude and train at low.

Nitrogen-house residents train on the Olympic cross-country course, which is at about 5,600 feet. Then they return to the house, which simulates an elevation or "virtual altitude" of about 9,000 feet by raising the nitrogen and oxygen levels inside. The athletes' bodies are fooled into thinking they are at that altitude and produce more red blood cells, ultimately boosting muscle performance.

Critics of the house argue that while there are no rules banning the artificial environment, the house could be considered unethical because it creates an unfair advantage to those who can afford it over those who can't. Proponents see it not as a form of doping, but rather a lifestyle created to enhance performance. "We use actual altitude training as a means of changing blood chemistry," says Miles Minson, national development coordinator for the U.S. cross-country team. "But until the IOC deems them unethical, people outside the U.S. will continue to use nitrogen houses to accomplish the same thing."
-Deborah Marks