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The Pulse: February 2003

Pulse
posted: 01/29/2003

Brace Yourself?
Think your knee brace is acting as ACL insurance? Sorry. Researchers from the University of Vermont examined nine injured athletes to measure how much their tibias slipped in relation to their femurs when they moved-something that a healthy ACL usually prevents-and found that the five most common braces let the joint move enough to allow for a possible injury. The upshot? A brace will help protect you from an external blow (say, an out-of-control lummox), but they can't save your ACL in a crash.

Yo-Yo Comps
Forget the peaceful pace and solitude of touring-let's make backcountry skiing an endurance race. The Euros have been doing it for a decade. Now, randonnée rallies have come stateside: When the gun goes off, competitors sprint (ski boots on) LeMans-style to their gear, skin up a few thousand vert, descend, skin up again, and repeat. This year, Crested Butte, CO, is joining the circuit (Feb. 16), along with Alpental, WA (Feb. 23); Stevens Pass, WA (Mar. 9); and Jackson Hole, WY (Mar. 22). For info, check out life-link.com.

Women: Weaker in the Knees
According to recent research in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, there's another reason why women are at greater risk than men for knee injury. In addition to having softer ligaments, thanks to higher levels of estrogen, and a steeper angle from hip to knee that makes the joint more vulnerable, the muscles around women's knee joints just aren't as strong as men's. Every time those muscles contract, the joint stiffens, the bones stop shifting, and the ligaments are protected. When women in the study contracted their knee muscles, however, the joint only tightened by a factor of two, compared with a factor of three for the men in the study.

Bong Hits for IQ Points
Is that dreadlocked liftie a perma-crisp burnout or a burgeoning genius? Maybe both. Canadian researchers have found that smoking between one and five marijuana joints a week can actually make you smarter. The study-which has been tracking the same kids since 1978-compared the test results of 70 nine- to 12-year-olds taken eight years ago (pre pot) and their current IQs. Those who smoked regularly showed an average increase of 5.8 points; those who didn't smoke at all picked up just 2.6 points.

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