Category Archives: Sports

Video Game Doping

Performing-enhancing drugs have seen a lot of recent media attention because of the Mitchell Report. But while most people are busy criticizing the use of such substances, others are trying achieve broader acceptance for them. A German company is selling a product called FPSBrain, where FPS stands for First-Person Shooter. From their website:

FpsBrain was developed doing extensive research to cater to the growing demand for performance improvement in electronic sports. It accelerates neural processes and heightens perception and capacity of reaction and concentration – because not just a first-rate computer or a team well set up are the key to winning a competition, but also the physical and mental condition of each player.

These pills won’t make your muscles huge, rather the ingredients resemble the contents of most energy drinks:

1. L-glutamine 100,00 mg
2. L-tyrosine 100,00 mg
3. Betaine 50,00 mg
4. Vitamin C 75,00 mg
5. Vitamin E 10,00 mg
6. Niacin amide 18,00 mg
7. Selenium 30,00 µg
8. Calcium pantothenate 6,00 mg
9. Vitamin B6 2,00 mg
10. Vitamin B2 1,60 mg
11. Vitamin B1 1,40 mg
12. Vitamin B12 1,00 µg
13. Folic acid 200,00 µg
14. Biotin 150,00 µg
15. Caffeine 5,00 mg
16. Soy lecithin 250,00 mg

FPSBrain may not contain any novel ingredients, but at the very least it represents a marketing breakthrough. Bringing doping to video games seems to legitimize them as an actual sport while also promising players an elusive edge. Are you concerned that these people are just snake oil salesmen?  Don’t worry, the website assures customers “All our staff use FpsBrain at least four times a week to enhance their mental performance and their work efficieny [sic].”  So the whole company is hopped up on caffeine pills…and that’s supposed to make me trust them more?


Gone Skiing

Whistler Blackcomb, here I come…

Please excuse the interruption while I have the most fun of my young life. Normal posting schedule should resume after New Year’s.

Kevin Everett Benefits From Hypothermia Treatment

Kevin Everett, a tight end for the Buffalo Bills, was seriously injured a week ago. Immediately after hitting an opponent in a routine tackle, Everett fell to the ground motionless because of spinal cord damage. But while doctors were first pessimistic about his chances for recovery, he has since regained motion in some of his limbs and may be able to walk again. How did Everett escape complete paralysis?

Everett’s doctors employed a novel technique. On the way to the hospital, they started to cool his body by injecting him with two liters of ice-cold saline. After performing corrective surgery, doctors continued to cool his body by implanting a catheter into his femoral artery. This time, cold saline was recycled through intravenous balloons instead of entering his bloodstream. The technique cooled his body temperature from 98°F to 92°F.  The New York Times has a nice diagram along with their writeup.

At the very least, moderate hypothermia treatment does not hurt most patients with neurological injuries. At most, it may constitute a medical breakthrough. But how does it work?

The short answer is that nobody knows for sure. That said, there are plenty of hypotheses: cooling may reduce inflammation, slow down metabolism, regulate excitatory neurotransmitter signaling, stabilize the blood brain barrier and reduce dangerous free radical concentrations.

Everett’s treatment is part of a larger campaign to reduce football injuries by bringing state-of-the-art medicine to the field.  For instance, some teams are buying portable CT scanners to assess injuries immediately. 

Nature Makes the Case for Doping

Barry Bonds has come to symbolize America’s struggle with performance enhancing drugs. Now he has made it onto the pages of Nature. Normally the journal is a pillar of objectivity, but the latest issue contains a rather provocative editorial. The authors ask:

“If spectators are seeking to reset their body mass index through pharmacology, or taking pills that enhance their memory, is it really reasonable that athletes should make do with bodies that have not seen such benefits?”

The authors seem to envision a world in which athletes become more like Formula 1 cars, with a team of doctors serving as the pit crew. They argue that it’s better to be honest than encourage dangerous back-alley doping, where athletes must use additional drugs just to hide the effects of the first.

Unfortunately, the editorial portrays the increasing popularity of performance enhancing drugs as an inevitable trend that must be accepted. Though the line between therapy medicine and enhancement medicine is blurry, that shouldn’t stop us from aiming for the first instead of the second.

Although the authors imply that athletes are disenfranchised by current doping regulations, athletes would be even more disenfranchised if those regulations did not exist. For instance, they might be forced to take performance enhancers in order to keep up with the pack.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article for the New Yorker on doping. One athlete reports, “The training motto at the pool was, ‘You eat the pills, or you die.’ It was forbidden to refuse.”