The secret’s out. It’s been revealed that the US snowboarding team’s success at the Turin Olympics is down to a performance enhancing device.
The Baltimore Sun has the scoop.
Probably no surprise that the device in question was an Apple iPod music player.
Nineteen-year-old Hannah Teter told reporters she was listen to a track from her boyfriend’s band when when she won gold last week in the women’s halfpipe.
Researchers have only begun to investigate the effects of music on sports.
Before he went to medical school, Dr. Mark Tramo, director of Harvard’s Institute for Music and Brain Science, was a professional rock musician. He experienced an early demonstration of the music-sports connection during his prep-school track days. His gold medal victory in the 100-yard dash, he believes, was fueled by the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” “It was playing over and over in my head,” he says.
Psychologist Petr Janata is preparing studies in his Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, that may confirm what Dr. Tramo’s experience suggests. Mr. Janata explains: “Your body is performing these rhythmic actions and you’ve got the rhythmic structure in the music, and those two sets of rhythmic patterns are, in some way, combining or feeding off one another.”
Dr. Tramo sees the body feeding off the rhythm as if it were feeding off a drug. “You don’t need to go out and buy ecstasy. You don’t need to go out and buy cocaine. What you’re doing through the music, and through the context of being at a point when you can either win or lose the game, is setting up the brain to release chemicals….So your brain releases, for example, dopamine, and endorphins, which are kind of like opium in certain places, and adrenaline, and steroids in very specific places, some of them throughout the blood stream.” Just as with certain drugs, Dr. Tramo notes, “your heart starts pounding. You don’t want to just sit back in your seat and yawn. You want to stand. Your pupils get bigger. Your muscles get more active.”
All such symptoms are associated with our fight-and-flight reaction, the body’s primitive, automatic response when the brain alerts us to defend ourselves or flee from attack. Perhaps the effect of hip-hop music on sports most resembles that of military marches intended to prepare an army for battle. As Dr. Tramo observes, “an athletic contest…is kind of like a controlled war.”
Snowboarder Mike Yearin estimates that eight out of 10 of his fellow snowboarders listen to music as they ride — even as they compete. The picture is of the IPod ready snowboard jacket.