The implant is still in development, but it’s already allowed some athletes to improve their performance. In 2014, a French cyclist named Sylvain Bidart set the one-hour cycling speed record for his age group when he rode at an average speed of 33.8 miles per hour, wearing a chipped helmet. He credits the chip with helping him train better and recover more quickly from injuries.
With the chip, athletes can share their data with other users through the company’s app, called ValedoMotion. This allows them to compete against each other remotely and see how their results stack up against others’. “It will be like golf,” says Sabine Reinhart, CEO of Valendo Recovery Innovations. “You’ll have a handicap.”
The chip is still in its experimental phase. Many doctors are skeptical that it can help improve athletic performance and recovery as well as Valendo claims it can. But if you’re looking for an edge over your competition, this might be worth a try!
About 10 to 15 years ago, technologies that disrupted the status quo of the sports world started appearing. Whether it was using GPS to track athlete movements or even just adding a camera to the goal line, these technologies made impacts that are still felt today. In this article, I’m going to focus on one of these disruptive technologies — namely, the use of muscle implants to help improve athletic performance and recovery.
A brief history of muscle implants
The idea of using implants for medical purposes isn’t new. Muscle implants have been around for years, and there are many different types available. Some are designed for medical purposes like helping with cardiac arrest or chronic pain; others are cosmetic devices used in bodybuilding or even just to improve the look of your muscles. But very recently, some people have been looking at how they can use these devices to help athletes recover from injuries faster and gain an edge over their competition.
A tiny implant may help injured athletes recover and could eventually improve athletic performance. The device, called the Ostenil Tendon Implant, is a tiny collagen-based capsule that’s injected into an ailing tendon or ligament to provide immediate pain relief and promote healing.
“The implant provides a matrix that attracts the body’s own cells to promote healing,” explained Dr. Steven Raikin, an orthopedic surgeon with Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. “We are very excited about this type of therapy.”
Raikin, who is also a clinical instructor at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said the device has been used extensively in Europe for more than 10 years but only recently made its way to the United States.
“What we’re doing now is trying to collect data on its efficacy,” he said. “So far it seems to be pretty promising.”
The thing that makes it a disruptive technology is that you don’t have to believe. You just have to try it.
The device itself is so simple and noninvasive, you wonder why no one thought of it before. A small magnetic coil with an adhesive backing is placed on the skin over a motor nerve. The coil sends a gentle electrical signal to the nerve, which in turn sends a signal to the brain, which then directs the body to produce more energy at the cellular level.
For those who are interested and able, it’s possible to go even deeper into how the science works. But for most of us, it’s enough to say that it does work, at least for some people some of the time—and often when it matters most. I saw this firsthand at my CrossFit gym in Florida, where my fellow athletes reported using Halo Sport for improved performance and recovery, especially when training for or competing in Olympic-style weightlifting meets and endurance events like half marathons and triathlons. They also talked excitedly about “neuroplasticity” and “neuropriming” as if they had just discovered a secret weapon that no one else knew about.
One of the most-searched terms on Google during the Olympics was “electroceuticals.” This is a new class of implantable devices that can directly modulate electrical activity in the body’s organs. While some electrode-based therapies are already commercially available, such as pacemakers and cochlear implants, many scientists believe we are still just scratching the surface of what is possible.
This week on Hidden Brain, we explore what’s known about electroceuticals for treating disease. But first, we consider a different question: What if these devices aren’t just used to treat disease, but also to improve performance? What if they were used by athletes to win gold medals in the Olympics?
This might sound like science fiction, but an ethical debate has been brewing in recent years about whether these technologies should be allowed in professional sports. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) doesn’t prohibit them now — and some experts think it shouldn’t in the future either.
The Athletic Composition Test (ACT) measures the body’s lean body mass, bone mineral density, total body water, and body fat percentage. This test provides a comprehensive look at an athlete’s body composition to help make recommendations for improving athletic performance and recovery.
The ACT also determines the athlete’s “ideal weight” based on optimal hydration levels, muscle mass, and frame size. The results are used to set reasonable training and nutrition goals to help achieve an athlete’s best possible performance.
I woke up in a hospital bed, my head and arm were bandaged, I had no memory of the crash.
It was a year ago.
I can’t forget it. I used to dream about it almost every night.
My life has changed so much since then. I used to be a professional cyclist, now I am on these pills, trying to sleep, trying to cope. I race in my dreams. The races are real!
I can feel the sensations of the ride as if it was happening all over again, but now I am the only rider on the road. The crowd is watching me from the side of the road. They are cheering for me with their hands stretched out towards me, but they are not real people; they are made of wood and paper.
In my dreams there is always this one guy standing at the finish line with his arms crossed and his face turned away from me like he doesn’t want to watch me finish or something. He looks familiar but I can’t place him right now.”