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Steroid Injections in the COVID-19 Era

Does an intra-articular corticosteroid injection lead to systemic steroid absorption? Yes.

There is ample evidence that intra-articular injections of corticosteroids lead to numerous systemic effects. Most common steroids injectates can result in adrenal suppression for over a month. Accordingly, should a patient contract COVID-19 in the month following the injection, the steroid may continue to have a systemic effect.

The evidence for the use of corticosteroids in COVID-19 illness is limited and mixed. At the time of this publication, many societies in Canada and globally, including WHO, recommend against the routine use of steroids for the treatment of viral pneumonias.

The translation of this recommendation to intra-articular injections remains ambiguous. Whether or not the systemic effect of an intra-articular cortisone injection is sufficient to have an impact on the course of illness is completely unclear. Yet, given the uncertainty, prudence would suggest against their use.

If still unconvinced, another consideration could be the impact on the care your patient would receive should he/she suffer from severe illness. Currently, many novel treatment modalities are limited to clinical trials, and a recent corticosteroid injection may impact eligibility for enrolment.

 

What can you do instead?

Go back to basics! An evidence-based physical therapy program for arthritis is a great place to start, even during a pandemic. While many GLA:D programs are closed, information about their exercises can be found at: https://gladcanada.ca/index.php/what-is-glad-canada-2/. Many insurance providers are also moving to cover virtual visits with physiotherapists, allowing patients to receive customized treatment programs.

Alternative pain management modalities include ice, heat, self-massage, and acetaminophen. Of course, reminding patients that while a pandemic does not make it easier, weight management is the cornerstone of happy joints and a healthy body. A reminder that every kilogram of weight loss results in 4 kg off their knee never hurts!

 

Nitai Gelber, MD, CFPC

PGY-3 Sport and Exercise Medicine, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor, BKIN, MSc, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

BCCDC. “Unproven Therapies for COVID-19.” 30 Mar. 2020, http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Professionals-Site/Documents/Guidelines_Unproven_Therapies_COVID-19.pdf.

Fascia, Daniel, et al. “The Safety of Corticosteroid Injections during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.” AMSIG, 30 Mar. 2020, http://www.amsig.org/recommendations-from-bssr-the-safety-of-corticosteroid-injections-during-the-covid-19-global-pandemic/.

Messier, Stephen P., et al. “Weight Loss Reduces Knee-Joint Loads in Overweight and Obese Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis.” Arthritis & Rheumatism, vol. 52, no. 7, 2005, pp. 2026–2032., doi:10.1002/art.21139.

Russell, Beth, et al. “COVID-19 and Treatment with NSAIDs and Corticosteroids: Should We Be Limiting Their Use in the Clinical Setting?” Ecancermedicalscience, vol. 14, 2020, doi:10.3332/ecancer.2020.1023.

WHO. “Clinical Management of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) When COVID-19 Disease Is Suspected.” 13 Mar. 2020, http://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/clinical-management-of-novel-cov.pdf.

Lower limb stress fractures in sport: Optimizing management and outcome

Stress fractures are common injuries in athletes and account for 10% of all sport injuries.  Ninety percent of stress fractures are located in the lower extremities. The risk factors related to stress fractures consist of the following: a history of past stress fractures, female sex, training regimen, footwear, training surface, and type of sport with repetitive loading (such as running and jumping). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided in all fractures as they may inhibit callus formation and slow down the initial healing process.

In the management of stress fractures, 7 aspects should be considered:

  • Is the fracture low or high risk?
  • What is the optimal imaging modality?
  • Conservative versus surgical treatment?
  • What technique is chosen if surgical?
  • What optimal rehabilitation schedule if conservative treatment?
  • How fast can sport be resumed?
  • What preventive program is available for this type of fracture?

In all stress fractures, radiographs are the first-line modality and may reveal linear sclerosis and periosteal reaction prior to the development of a frank fracture. In most stress fractures, the radiographs are negative although clinical symptoms are present. When a high-risk stress fracture is considered and radiographs are negative, a bone scan, CT scan or MRI is recommended. MRI is highly sensitive with findings ranging from periosteal edema of bone marrow to intracortical signal abnormality.

Conservative management ranging from non-weightbearing with a cast or Aircast with crutches to limited weightbearing crutch-assisted without pain is usually the optimal treatment when possible, even in high risk fractures.

High risk stress fractures;

A stress fracture is considered high risk because it is located either on the tension side of the bone or in an area of limited vascularity. Therefore, they are at increased risk of fracture propagation, displacement, non-union or delayed union. High risk stress fractures should be referred to orthopedic surgery with immediate cessation of activity as they might need surgical treatment. Those include distal anterior tibial diaphysis, fifth metatarsal base, medial malleolus, lateral femoral neck, tarsal navicular and great toe sesamoid. These fractures require specialized imaging to define and quantify the injury. The location of injury and response to initial conservative treatment will determine whether surgical management is needed.

High risk sport related stress fractures include the following:

 Anterior tibial diaphysis:

In 85% of cases, the radiographs are negative although clinical symptoms are present which should accelerate the request for a bone scan, CT or MRI. Treatment protocols consist of conservative management for 3 to 6 months with crutch-assisted weightbearing until resolution of pain in lower grade injuries and of casting in higher grades of injuries. In case of failure of conservative treatment, then a surgical intervention is recommended. The return times to sports for such injury is usually 7 months for both conservative and surgical management. However, the return to sports rates differed with 71% for conservative management and 96% for surgical management.

An exception is made when a complete fracture line is seen with both cortices involved. In this case, the stress fracture should be managed as an acute fracture. If the fracture is undisplaced, conservative management is recommended. If the fracture is displaced, a surgical intervention with an intra-medullary nail is required. The return times for these injuries then increases to 11.5 months for conservative management and 7 months for surgical management. The return rates remain similar with 67% for conservative and 100% for surgical management. For conservative management, recommended rehabilitation techniques consist of activity cessation, with avoidance of heavy loading of the tibia, limited weightbearing with crutches for 3 to 6 months. For surgical management, rehabilitation involves a progressive weight-bearing program supervised by a physiotherapist starting the first week following surgery with return to full loading activities between 6 and 8 weeks after surgery.

Fifth metatarsal base:

These stress fractures present on radiographs as a sclerotic or radiolucent line at the proximal aspect of the fifth metatarsal. These changes can be absent on radiographs in up to 69% of patients for this type of fracture. Again, MRI is the second line imaging. CT can be used to assess if there is fracture union after conservative treatment. Treatment of these fractures depends on the radiologic “Torg” classification. Conservative treatment is now often favored except in high level athletes and in high repetitive loading sports (running, jumping) where surgery is considered first line. If there is delayed union (Torg 2) or non-union (Torg 3), surgery is also recommended.

Medial malleolus:

Radiographs can be negative in 55% of cases. For undisplaced fractures, they can be treated conservatively in low level athletes although a good evaluation has to be done as these fractures tend to contribute to long term ankle instability. These injuries must be followed by strengthening, range of motion and proprioception training with a physiotherapist to prevent ankle instability.

Lateral (tension side) femoral neck:

Theses stress fractures occur most commonly in marathon and long distance runners. They are not seen on radiographs in up to 80% of cases. This stress fracture is treated with urgent surgical fixation to prevent fracture displacement and associated risk of avascular necrosis (AVN) of the femoral head. A minimum of 2 years clinical and radiographic follow-up should be done to ensure that delayed post-treatment AVN does not occur.

Navicular:

These stress fractures present most commonly in sprint runners. In high level athletes, surgical management may result in faster return to sport time but some randomized control studies are still needed to confirm this.

Sesamoids (great toe):

These stress fractures occur most commonly in sports such as dancing, gymnastics and sprinting; all involving forced dorsiflexion of the great toe. Medial sesamoid fracture is more common than lateral sesamoid as load occurs on the medial aspect of the toe with gait. Conservative treatment is the first line approach. However, if the patient remains symptomatic after 3 to 6 months, surgery should be considered because of a high rate of delayed union, non-union and fragmentation.

Low risk stress fractures:

Low risk fractures are treated with rest and exercise limitation because of the low risk of fracture propagation, non-union or delayed union. These include posteromedial tibial diaphysis, metatarsal shafts, distal fibula, medial femoral neck, femoral shaft and calcaneus.

In the majority of low risk stress fractures, a bone scan or radiographs are sufficient and the x-ray can be repeated instead of ordering a CT scan or MRI. In the case of medial femoral neck, femoral shaft or calcaneus fracture suspicion, an MRI should be requested because of the possibility of surgical management or to exclude other diagnoses.

Medial femoral neck:

If a fracture line is more than 50% of the femoral neck width or is displaced, a surgery is required to stabilize the fracture.

Femoral shaft:

Displaced fractures, delayed union and non-union require surgical consultation.

Calcaneus:

MRI can help to eliminate differential diagnoses such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis and retrocalcaneal bursitis. These stress fractures are also difficult to detect on radiographs and may require surgical intervention if there is subtle displacement.

Metatarsal shafts fractures:

Among metatarsals, the second is the most common affected, followed by the third and fourth metatarsals. These fractures are usually treated conservatively with activity limitation for 6 to 8 weeks with an Aircast boot, short leg cast or fore-foot offloading shoe. Progressive return to exercise as pain allows can then be started.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that negative plain radiographic findings should not be considered alone but in conjunction with clinical findings. In the case of negative imaging with positive clinical findings, if there is a suspicion of high-risk stress fracture, additional imaging (bone scan, CT, or MRI) must be requested and conservative treatment implemented immediately for optimal treatment. If a low risk stress fracture is suspected, additional bone scan and serial plain radiographs are sufficient with conservative treatment, except in the case of femoral fractures suspicion.

In all stress fractures, independent of whether management is conservative or surgical, full level sport should not be started until there is clear evidence of clinical and radiological union and pain free ambulation.

Marie-Ève Roy, MD, CCFP
Sports and Exercise Medicine Fellow, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor, BKin, MSC, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

 

References:

Robertson GA, Wood AM. Lower limb stress fractures in sport: Optimising their management and outcome. World J Orthop. 2017 Mar 18;8(3):242-255.

Saunier J, Chapurlat R. Stress fracture in athletes. Joint Bone Spine. 2018

May;85(3):307-310.

Matcuk GR Jr, Mahanty SR, Skalski MR, Patel DB, White EA, Gottsegen CJ. Stress fractures: pathophysiology, clinical presentation, imaging features, and treatment options. Emerg Radiol. 2016 Aug;23(4):365-75

 

Choose Wisely – The Knee Ultrasound

Quick & Simple: Knee ultrasounds rarely have any use in the diagnosis of acute knee injuries.

Acute knee injuries are a common presentation in the family practice office. Depending on the suspected injury, the most common imaging modalities ordered are X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI. While the exact total cost of imaging is not widely accessible, the cost of each scan includes the technician’s time, radiologist’s report, and machine use. Thankfully, many acute knee injuries can often be diagnosed clinically without need for further imaging.

Knee ultrasounds can most reliably identify injuries to the external tendons and ligaments of the knee due to the limitation of the ultrasound waves from penetrating bones and thereby assessing deeper structures. This fact may appear confusing, as the radiology reports may comment on the meniscus and even the ACL but with very limited accuracy.

This is where an understanding of the literature becomes important. While some studies may report surprisingly high specificities and sensitivities for evaluation of deep knee structures, they often do not reflect true values for imaging done in the community. From our perspective as clinicians, ultrasound offers a partial and often unreliable evaluation of deep knee structures.

In conclusion:

  • Knee ultrasounds are most reliable for evaluations of quadriceps and patellar tendons, MCL, LCL, and bursitis.
  • While reliable, these diagnoses should be made clinically and immediate imaging is often not indicated.
  • While tempting, at this point, ultrasound does not offer reliable assessments of the meniscus and ACL and should not be ordered routinely for these suspected injuries.
  • Given our LHIN resources, knee ultrasounds should rarely be ordered given the cost and minimal impact on prognosis or treatment.

As always, if in doubt, consider contacting your local sport medicine physician for advice regarding which imaging modality is most appropriate.

 

Nitai Gelber, MD, CFPC
PGY-3 Sports and Exercise Medicine, University of Ottawa

Advisor Dr. Taryn Taylor BKin, MSc, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

 

References

“AIUM Practice Guideline for the Performance of a Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Examination.” Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, vol. 31, no. 9, 2012, pp. 1473–1488., doi:10.7863/jum.2012.31.9.1473.

Alves, Timothy I., et al. “US of the Knee: Scanning Techniques, Pitfalls, and Pathologic Conditions.” RadioGraphics, vol. 36, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1759–1775., doi:10.1148/rg.2016160019.

Cova, Maria, and Emilio Quaia. “Faculty of 1000 Evaluation for Clinical Indications for Musculoskeletal Ultrasound: A Delphi-Based Consensus Paper of the European Society of Musculoskeletal Radiology.” F1000 – Post-Publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature, 2012, doi:10.3410/f.715297848.790852873.

Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

Trochanteric bursitis has mistakenly been the diagnosis of choice in the past years to describe any pain over the greater trochanter. Surgical, histological and imaging studies have shown that most patients who receive a diagnosis of bursitis actually have “greater trochanteric pain syndrome” (GTPS) attributable to medius and/or minimus gluteal tendinopathy or tears, thickened ilio-tibial bands (ITBs) or external coxa saltans (i.e. snapping hip) with little to no evidence of actual bursitis. Two or more of these diagnoses are often seen concomitantly. In a recent study from the American Journal of Roentgenology, in 877 sonograms of patients presenting with greater trochanteric pain, 50% had gluteal tendinosis, 28,5% had thickening of the ITB, 0,5% had a gluteal tear and 20% had trochanteric bursitis.

A proposed cause of GTPS is repetitive friction between the greater trochanter and ITB associated with overuse, trauma, and altered gait patterns. GTPS affects patients between 40 and 60 years old, and predominantly females. Likely risk factors include elevated body mass index (BMI), overuse, and abnormal hip biomechanics.

On history, patients commonly present with lateral hip pain, localized to greater trochanter, which is worse with weight-bearing activities, lying on the affected side at night, side-bending and prolonged sitting. Hip and back pain commonly coexist. Pain can worsen with time and be exacerbated by falls, sporting overuse such as long-distance running or unaccustomed exercise. The ability to “put on shoes” can help distinguish between osteoarthritis (unable) and GTPS (no pain or difficulty).

On physical examination, the clinician should look for a standing posture with slightly flexed hip and ipsilateral knee or listing to the contralateral side on sitting. Examination of the gait should be done to identify an antalgic or Trendelenburg gait. Direct palpation of the greater trochanter has a positive predictive value of 83% (for positive MRI findings). Provocative tests that aim to increase the tensile load on the gluteus tendons used for diagnosis are FABER, FADER (flexion, adduction & external rotation) and passive adduction. Other tests that aid diagnosis and rule out other pathologies are the dial test (for capsular laxity), Ober test, log rolling, the impingement test, the internal snapping of the iliopsoas tendon and the straight leg raise. A combination of these tests should be used to increase diagnostic accuracy.

The differential diagnosis includes hip osteoarthritis, femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), lumbar spine referred pain and pelvic pathology.

GTPS is a clinical diagnosis however in recalcitrant cases or those with unclear history or clinical findings, imaging can be used to exclude other pathologies and confirm the diagnosis. Hip X-ray is useful as first-line investigation to exclude osteoarthritis of the hip, femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and fractures. Ultrasound or MRI of the hip is the second-line imaging of choice as it has a high positive predictive value for diagnosis of GTPS.

Conservative treatment results in 90% improvement for patients with GTPS. The main goals are to manage load and reduce compressive forces across greater trochanter, strengthen gluteal muscles and treat comorbidities. This includes weight loss, NSAID, physiotherapy, load modification and biomechanics optimization. Referral to a Sport Medicine physician might be necessary for cases that do not respond to conservative treatment. Adjunct treatments include modalities such as shock wave therapy and the positive results usually persist for 12 months post-treatment. Corticosteroid injections can be helpful in some refractory cases. Interestingly, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections showed clinically and statistically significant improvement in recalcitrant patients in a patient reported-outcomes study. However, more studies are needed to ascertain the impact of this treatment.

Surgical interventions are extremely rare and only for advanced refractory cases, failing optimal conservative treatments. Surgery can include minimally invasive endoscopic bursectomy, ITB and fascia lata release or lengthening, trochanteric reduction osteotomy or gluteal tendon repair. Often surgery incorporates a combination of these interventions. The functional outcomes of surgery are usually favourable.

 

Marie-Ève Roy, MD, CCFP
Sports and Exercise Medicine Fellow, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor, BKin, MSC, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

References :

 

  1. Speers CJBhogal GS, Greater trochanteric pain syndrome: a review of diagnosis and management in general practice, Br J Gen Pract.2017 Oct;67(663):479-480

 

  1. Reid D., The management of greater trochanteric pain syndrome: A systematic literature review, Journal of Orthopaedics 13 (2016) 15-26

 

  1. Redmond JM, Chen AW, Domb BG, Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2016;24:231-240

 

  1. Walker-Santiago RWojnowski NMLall ACMaldonado DRRabe SMDomb BG. Platelet-Rich Plasma Versus Surgery for the Managaement of Recalcitrant Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome : A systematic Review. 2019 Dec 24.

Baker’s Cysts

The highlights:

  • A Baker’s cyst is a common swelling in the medial posterior fossa.
  • Commonly, it is secondary to an extension of the synovial space posteriorly, and accordingly will worsen with activities that will worsen a knee effusion
  • Given its prevalence and ease of diagnosis, imaging is rarely indicated
  • Treatment mainstay is addressing the primary knee pathology (ex: osteoarthritis treatment)

Popliteal synovial cysts are a common sighting in the primary care setting. Commonly known as Baker’s cysts, they refer to a swelling in the medial popliteal fossa.

While many patients are often distressed by their appearance, these swellings are benign. Simplistically, Baker’s cysts can be explained to the patient as an extension of their knee effusion. As the joint swelling worsens, a posterior extension into the popliteal cyst acts as a reservoir for the effusion.

The diagnosis of a Baker’s cyst is typically done clinically. It is typified by a medial popliteal cystic mass that increases in prominence with the knee in full extension and reduces with partial knee flexion.

The differential diagnosis for Baker’s cysts includes DVT, tumours (including sarcomas and lymphoma), and popliteal artery aneurysm. These diagnoses should be suspected if the location is atypical (ex: lateral popliteal fossa), the mass is firm or pulsatile, or if there is surrounding erythema, warmth, or tenderness.

Imaging, including X-rays and ultrasound, is only necessary if the diagnosis is uncertain or if another condition is suspected.

The treatment of Baker’s cysts typically relies on the treatment of the underlying joint disorder. For osteoarthritis, this involves activity modification, physiotherapy, and bracing when appropriate. When symptomatic, an intraarticular glucocorticoid injection may be indicated with or without prior drainage. As the cyst typically communicates with the joint, there is no need to target the cyst directly. Should this approach fail, an ultrasound-guided direct aspiration and injection of the cyst may be attempted.

Patients should be reminded that the Baker’s cyst is likely to recur as their primary joint disorder worsens and the effusion reforms. Accordingly, invasive interventions should be reserved for symptomatic cysts (i.e. pain and stiffness).

Should you or your patient continue to have questions or concerns, a referral to your local sports medicine specialist may be appropriate. A referral to orthopedic surgery may be appropriate following failed interventions for consideration of a cyst resection or joint replacement.

 

Nitai Gelber, MD, CFPC
PGY-3 Sports and Exercise Medicine, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor, BKin, MSC, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

 

References

Acebes JC, Sánchez-Pernaute O, Díaz-Oca A, Herrero-Beaumont G. Ultrasonographic assessment of Baker’s cysts after intra-articular corticosteroid injection in knee osteoarthritis. J Clin Ultrasound 2006; 34:113.

Bandinelli F, Fedi R, Generini S, et al. Longitudinal ultrasound and clinical follow-up of Baker’s cysts injection with steroids in knee osteoarthritis. Clin Rheumatol 2012; 31:727.

Chen Y, Lee PY, Ku MC, et al. Extra-articular endoscopic excision of symptomatic popliteal cyst with failed initial conservative treatment: A novel technique. Orthop Traumatol Surg Res 2019; 105:125.

Fritschy D, Fasel J, Imbert JC, et al. The popliteal cyst. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 2006; 14:623.

Han JH, Bae JH, Nha KW, et al. Arthroscopic Treatment of Popliteal Cysts with and without Cystectomy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Knee Surg Relat Res 2019; 31:103.

Handy JR. Popliteal cysts in adults: a review. Semin Arthritis Rheum 2001; 31:108.

Marra MD, Crema MD, Chung M, et al. MRI features of cystic lesions around the knee. Knee 2008; 15:423.

Torreggiani WC, Al-Ismail K, Munk PL, et al. The imaging spectrum of Baker’s (Popliteal) cysts. Clin Radiol 2002; 57:681.

“Tennis Elbow” Treatment Approaches

Treating Lateral Epicondylitis with corticosteroid injections or non-electrotherapeutical physiotherapy: a systematic review

Morten Olaussen, Oeystein Holmedal, Morten Lindbaek, Soeren Brage, Hiroko Solvang

Lateral Epicondylitis is otherwise known as “Tennis Elbow” is an overuse injury of the extensor tendons that join the forearm muscles to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. This overuse injury is thought to affect the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) specifically. This injury is seen in patients with either excessive repetitive flexion with subsequent extension of their wrist such as in tennis players, improper form and/or improper equipment or even with a daily profession that requires manual labour with their hands.

Lateral Epicondylitis is generally thought to be a self-limiting injury but can take a long time to resolve. Common treatments used by family physicians and doctors who deal with sports injuries include rest, NSAIDS, physical therapy, deep friction massage, braces, acupuncture, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, cortisone injections, surgery as well as more recently platelet-rich plasma injections.

This article looked at the benefits of two of these treatment modalities: lateral elbow cortisone injection and non-electrotherapeutic physiotherapy. The authors did a systematic review, which included 11 randomized controlled trials, representing 1161 patients of both sexes and all ages. All of these studies looked at least at one treatment group and one control group which included receiving anything from no treatment, to common treatments such as counselling, rest, or NSAIDS. Some of the measures used to evaluate the efficacy of the treatments were pain, grip strength and overall improvement effect at 4, 12, 26 and 52 weeks of follow-up.

Overall, the results showed that corticosteroid injection provided patients with a short-term reduction in pain versus control groups. However, more notably corticosteroid injections resulted in an increase in pain, reduction in grip strength and negative effect on the overall improvement at the intermediate stage of follow-up. Manipulation and exercise in comparison to control showed improvement at short-term follow-up, but no significant difference at intermediate or long-term follow-up.

In all, this study reveals that corticosteroid injections may have a significant negative effect on the intermediate follow-up likely outweighs any of the short-term benefits. Manipulation and exercise and exercise and stretching have a short-term effect, with some evidence of longer-term effect.

Dr. Mickey Moroz M.D.C.M. CCFP

Sport and Exercise Medicine Fellow, University of Ottawa

 

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor BKin, MSc, MD, CCFP (CAC SEM), Dip Sport & Exercise Med

The Danger’s of Being a Weekend Warrior Hockey Player

Cardiovascular effects of strenuous exercise in adult recreational hockey: the Hockey Heart Study

Sanita Atwal, Jack Porter and Paul MacDonald

CMAJ February 05, 2002 166 (3) 303-307;

There is a well-known trend for adult hockey players of all skills to join recreational hockey leagues as they become too old to play in competitive leagues as they did in their youth. In Canada, there are more than 500 000 men who play in these leagues. The reality of these men’s leagues is that most of the players treat their one or two games a week as their only physical activity for the week. On top of this, they often only get about 2 minutes of light warm up as they get on the ice before the game.

This study recruited 113 male recreational league hockey players to see if this “weekend warrior” behavior had any negative cardiovascular effects on these types of players. In other words, to look at if doing high-intensity activity playing hockey once or twice a week without proper warm-up would cause a dangerous strain on these men’s cardiovascular systems. To do so, they looked at the baseline cardiac risk factors of the 113 volunteers (Table 1 below). As well, each one of the players underwent Holter electrocardiographic monitoring before, during and after at least one hockey game to assess the player’s heart rates, any occurrence of arrhythmias, ST-segment changes and for correlation with symptoms and other predictors of fitness.

When looking at the maximum heart rate the players reached in this study while playing, the mean maximum heart rate was 184 beats/min. General recommendations for healthy and safe physical activity in Canada recommends that the maximum heart rate that should be targeted during exercise to be between 65% to 85% of the age-predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax = heart rate of 220 – age in years). Studies have shown that anything of higher intensity causing the heart rate to go above this range can potentially to lead to an increase in frequency of cardiac events and sudden death. In this study, all of the players had a maximum attained heart rate higher than this suggested range of 65%-85% (Graph 1 below). Furthermore, the mean period for which these player’s heart rates exceeded 85% of the age-predicted maximum heart rate was 30 minutes. For 70.1 % of the player’s heart rates recovery was poor post-exercise. Non-sustained ventricular tachycardia was seen 2 Holter monitoring sessions, atrial fibrillation was seen in one subject and ST-segment depression in data from 15 sessions. However, of these patients with irregular heart rhythms, none had irregular follow-up cardiac stress work-ups.

This study suggests that the recreational hockey player faces an exercise intensity that can be dangerous to their health as seen in all the cases of this study. Even though each of the participants had higher than recommended maximum heart rates and some even had abnormal Holter findings there were no adverse events and no abnormal follow-up cardiac studies. Canadian exercise recommendations suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Studies have shown that engaging in 4 or more per week resulted in a reduced relative risk of myocardial infarction. Ideally, recreational ice hockey players as well as any high-intensity sports participant should be aware of these risks and should be advised by their primary care health providers to train their cardiovascular system gradually and regularly to be able to do this high-intensity exercise.  It is often noted that when we get older playing high-intensity sports is a privilege and not a right; to continue to have the privilege of playing hockey, these “weekend warriors” should be encouraged to integrate regular cardiovascular exercise into their weekly routine. When we are young and in competitive leagues, we practice on a regular basis to prepare for our games. As adult athletes, we must take the same approach of preparation for our games but with the focus on exercise tolerance as oppose to on performance as is the case when we are younger.

Evaluating the Heart Wise Exercise program: a model for safe community exercise programming

Jennifer L. Reed, Jennifer M. Harris, Liz Midence, Elizabeth B. Yee, Sherry L. Grace.

BMC Public Health, Volume16, February 2016.

Promoting physical activity in the primary care setting remains a significant challenge. The Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity recommend that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Despite the overwhelming evidence that regular aerobic exercise is one of the most beneficial things one can do for their health, many barriers stand in the way for patients who may seek to make positive behavioural change.

Increasingly, our patients are living with many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Often times, patients with these ailments do not understand how physical activity can be a regular part of their lives, and will often cite their poor overall health as a reason not to be active.

The Heart Wise Exercise Program was started at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute as a way to combat this issue. The program seeks to work with community physical activity providers to designate facilities, programs, and classes where participants can exercise regularly to prevent or limit the negative effects of living with a chronic health condition. Heart Wise Exercise was launched in 2007 in partnership with several local organizations and support from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion.

A program or class that displays the Heart Wise Exercise logo satisfies 6 criteria. In 2015, Reed et al. utilized a piloted checklist and audited 45 Heart Wise Exercise programs for the 6 criteria, in addition to administering a survey to a convenience sample of 147 participants:

  • Encourages regular, daily aerobic exercise – 71% of exercise leaders encouraged daily aerobic exercise. Participants reported engaging in an average of 149 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
  • Encourages and incorporates warm up, cool down, and self-monitoring with all exercise sections – 100% of programs incorporated a warm-up and cool down, and 84% encouraged self-monitoring in class.
  • Allows participants to exercise at a safe level and offers options to modify intensity – 98% of programs offered different options for participants exercise at appropriate intensity levels.
  • Includes participants with chronic health conditions – participants reported living with a variety of chronic health conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Offers health screening for all participants – 93% of instructors offered health screening for patients.
  • Has a documented emergency plan that is known to all exercise leaders, including the requirement of current CPR certification, phone access to local paramedic services and presence of a defibrillator – 100% of the exercise sites had automated external defibrillators, and 90% of instructors were aware of the documented emergency plan.
  • Furthermore, participants reported being, on average, “somewhat happy” to “very happy” with their Heart Wise Exercise locations, program dates and times, leaders’ knowledge of disease and exercise, cost, and the social aspect of being part of a group.

In all, Heart Wise Exercise Programs are safe and appropriate for your patients with various chronic health conditions. Current participants are highly satisfied with their programs. For more information, please visit:

https://heartwise.ottawaheart.ca

 

Sean Mindra MD, CCFP

PGY3 – Sport and Exercise Medicine, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor BKin, MSc, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

A Review of Running Shoes

We are often asked to comment on which shoes may be most suitable for a patient. While that answer is up for debate, an important step to answering that question is understanding what is available out there. Here we will briefly outline some of the characteristics of different categories of running shoes that you may encounter.

1.) Minimalistic shoes – attempt to approximate barefoot running

General Characteristics:

  • Reduced/minimal cushioning
  • thin soles, no heel lift (traditional shoes have 10-14mm heel lift)
  • no arch support
  • wide metatarsal area/toe box
  • very flexible, generally very light

Example brands:

  • Vibram Five Fingers.
  • vivobarefoot
  • Merrell Barefoot
  • New Balance Minimus
  • Nike Free

2.) Maximalist shoes – attempt to maximize cushioning and protection of foot

General Characteristics

  • Thick cushioning
  • Rigid sole
  • Slightly reduced heel lift compared to regular shoes
  • Wide base
  • Lightweight for its size

Example brands:

  • Hoka One One
  • Merrell All Out Peak
  • Mizuno Wave Sky
  • Skechers GOrun Ultra R
  • New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Boracay

3.) Zero-drop shoes – footwear where the heel is at the same height as the ball of the foot

General Characteristics

  • Often overlaps with minimalistic shoes
  • Variable structure, but the emphasis is that there is zero heel lift

Example Brands

  • Altra Torin 3.0
  • Merrell Vapor Glove 2
  • Nike Flex Fury 2
  • Vibram FiveFingers Bikila

There are many studies out there looking into the pros and cons of each type of shoewear and whether they are effective in reducing running injuries. The jury is still out but hopefully, this will cast some light on what your patients may be talking about!

 

Jim Niu MD, CCFP

Sport and Exercise Medicine Fellow, University of Ottawa

Advisor Dr. Taryn Taylor BKin, MSc, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport Med

The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

Jerrold Petrofsky, Lee Berk, Gurinder Bains, Iman Akef Khowailed, Haneul Lee, Michael Laymon

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, Volume 27, No. 4, July 2017

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a relatively common phenomenon experienced by people who are new to exercise, or essentially anyone who exceeds their normal workout intensity. DOMS can range from mild irritation to severe pain that can form a significant barrier inhibiting performance, or exercise participation altogether. Furthermore, previous research has shown that DOMS is greater in intensity and duration in older individuals and individuals with diabetes, which is a particularly important patient population within family medicine. This cross-sectional repeated measure design study was performed to assess the impact on DOMS of heat applied for 8 hours immediately or 24 hours after exercise.

60 subjects aged 20-40 who were physically inactive for 6 weeks and had BMI’s less than 40 were divided randomly into 3 groups (control, ThermaCare heat wraps applied immediately after exercise, and ThermaCare heat wraps applied 24 hours after exercise). To provoke DOMS, the subjects completed squats in 3, 5-minute bouts with 3 minutes of rest in-between each bout.  Visual analog pain scales, blood myoglobin, muscle strength, range of motion, and stiffness of the quads were the main outcome measures of the study.

The results revealed a significant reduction in soreness in the group that had the heap wraps applied immediately after exercise (P<0.01). This was corroborated by blood myoglobin, algometer and muscle stiffness data. In addition, there was some benefit to applying the heat 24 hours after exercise when compared to control.

In summary, low-level continuous heat wraps left for 8 hours after heavy exercise can reduce the effects of DOMS (assessed by both subjective and objective measures). Although cold therapy is commonly used after heavy exercise to reduce soreness, heat seems to have the added benefit of increasing flexibility of tissue and tissue blood flow. The authors note that for the purposes of reducing joint swelling, it is still probably better to use cold therapy.

 

Sean Mindra MD, CCFP

PGY3 – Sport and Exercise Medicine, University of Ottawa

Advisor: Dr. Taryn Taylor BKin, MSc, MD, CCFP (SEM), Dip Sport & Exercise Medicine