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“Paleo” Movement has not caught on with Sports Medicine..And probably never will #RESM560V

With Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony shredding pounds and looking better than ever this summer, the NBA World (including myself) are asking how? The answer is the “Paleo” Diet. CBS NBA Insider Ken Berger investigated to find out what exactly this diet was.

The Paleolithic diet — Paleo, for short — involves eating like our caveman ancestors did: lean meats, wild-caught fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar or processed foods.

Simple in concept, but it could not make more sense. Cut out the bad stuff and put in the good stuff. Sugar, sodium, and processed foods have become so prevalent in our diet that we forget sometimes the necessary fuel that our bodies require. Human beings have been around for 2.5 million years so why have we complicated the process now? Lebron, Melo’ and many other elite athletes have recognized that and are now seeing amazing results by going back to our roots. Here is the concept of what these athletes are doing in short;

Provide your body with what it requires and allow it to process how it should.

These elite athletes have answered the call of providing their bodies with what it requires, but certain critics have called for a reexamination of how athletes allow their body to process specifically when dealing with injuries, swelling, and the healing process.

The title image for this story is personal images of injuries that I sustained while playing college basketball. A quick medical history of my injuries include; 3 ACL Reconstruction surgeries on my left knee, 4 Ankle Sprains of Grade 2 or higher, and a torn labrum in my right shoulder. Yes, it is safe to say that I am injury prone. It also makes me all too familiar with the process of healing from an injury.

I have become somewhat intrigued with the various processes of approaching sports injuries and how they can be healed. So when I came across an article by Art Carey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that examined famous fitness trainer guru Gary Reinl and his philosophy of not using ice to heal an injury, my mind was completely blown.

With every injury that I have ever sustained, the first thought that I have is to get ice on the injured area. Same with my parents. Same with my coaches. Same with my trainers. Everyone knows the first step in the healing process of injuries is ice. Reinl says NO. He completely debunks this theory and calls for the stoppage of ice for injuries. Reinl believes that;

Not only is inflammation not bad, it’s good. It’s the way the body heals. Swelling means the body is bringing healing fluids to the injured area. As Reinl puts it: “The blood vessels surrounding the injury dilate and increase perfusion.” Icing, by contrast, causes blood vessels to constrict.
Freezing injured cells kills them, leading to further damage and inflammation. Though ice may temporarily delay swelling, it resumes when the injured area warms up again. It is presumptuous folly to try to reduce swelling, Reinl contends, because the body will dispatch as much fluid to the injured site as it deems necessary.

(This is video of Reinl explaining his theory with Kelly Starret of, a website dedicated to addressing various sports medicine topics.)

The age-old acronym RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) was created by well known physician Gabe Mirkin in his 1978 best selling book The Sports Medicine Book. Due in large part to Reinl, Mirkin would later backtrack on his RICE acronym by saying, “Coaches have used my RICE guideline for decades but now it appears both ice and complete rest may delay healing, instead of helping.”

Now I am no doctor, but after reading Reinl’s view on not using ice for injuries I cannot help but to think in the way I did about the Paleo Diet. Not using ice for injuries makes sense. Why should we complicate our bodies healing process that has evolved over 2.5 million years? Eastern medicine rarely uses ice for injuries due much in part to the availability of it, but they also do not use ice because they trust the advanced healing mechanism of the human body.

The answer to why the Paleo Movement will never reach sports medicine is because the mindset of individuals within the sports industry on injuries. When a player suffers an injury, especially on team sports, not only does it affect the player, it affects a number of different individuals. It affects the team, the coach, the fans, and even the owner. If the player was an integral part of the team, maybe it diminishes the teams’ chances of winning games, which in turn puts the coach on the hot seat, which then determines fans’ outlook of the team, which then affects revenue for the owner.

Sports injuries truly are a domino effect when it comes to all the people that are affected, especially in professional sports. The one thing that all parties want when it comes to sports injuries is a quick, pain free, cost efficient way back to physical activity. Ice reduces swelling, numbs the pain and is extremely cheap. What is there not to like about ice? Gary Reinl would say everything.

While I hope I am not being naive when it comes to believing some of the benefits of the anti-icing campaign, I do think Reinl and others have a valid point, just like the Paleo Diet does. That does not mean I encourage the stoppage of ice for injuries. I just believe a reexamination of this topic might be worth something. I would hate for the sports medicine community to simply do things just because that is how they have always done them.

Here is the disclaimer to this article though. This is all coming from a guy who has had three ACL reconstructions on his left leg and might not even have one anymore due to so many injuries. That could make my opinion completely invalid. I also know that I have used ice religiously through all my injuries, but I still continue to get hurt. It may have no correlation at all, but my point may be more valid than what I think.

Video provided by MobilityWod

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