Friday, March 6, 2009

Bio-Engineering The Vesa2010

We all know how fans feel about athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs, but is it wrong for a professional athlete to opt for performance-enhancing surgery? I can't do the splits, and no amount of stretching is going to let me do the splits comfortably and easily anytime soon. On the other hand, if I was fabulously wealthy, say, like, 4-million-dollars-a-year wealthy, then I could probably just find a surgeon who could reconstruct my hips and pelvic muscles enough to make my groin feel elastic-fantastic. While I'm at it, I might as well replace the rotator cuff in my right shoulder using the most sophisticated technology available to re-enforce my catching arm so I can make super-bionic glove saves without feeling a thing. Maybe my focus and vision would be better if I had just ONE BIG EYE? Is this legal in sports now? Can athletes who are feeling fine, even great - all year long, essentially "buy" better "sports equipment" from doctors to try to improve their game?

"I got the same thing done on my other hip - during the lockout year - four or five years ago. So that hip has been great after that, which is why I'm excited to go get the surgery," Toskala said. "It's been almost better than before. It's going to be good next year."

Better then before what? You mean, before when it wasn't hurt and everything was fine? Is that allowed?

"I've been feeling good but, sometimes, it's not just easy," he said.

It's discouraging when stuff isn't easy, eh? That's the reason Michael Jordan started - and stopped - playing baseball. I wonder if this is what's going on with Rick Dipietro. Maybe he's just not a very good goaltender, but since the Islanders essentially own him for 15 years they feel they can send him back to surgeon after surgeon in the hopes of creating a super-cyborg-goaltender of the future? Well, at any rate, I'm sure looking forward to next season when the Vesa's groin and hips are literally 110% better and he finds playing every game at an elite level "easy". That's gonna be awesome.


blurr1974 said...

so long as he's not robo-Vesa, searching for Sarah Conner, I say it's all good....

general borschevsky said...

Thanks, blurr! I'm just trying to have some fun with the Vesa. However, I do wonder how far away we are from science-fiction type scenarios with super-human athletes with cyborg implants and genetically modified cells and muscle tissue. Maybe it's 50 years away or maybe it's right around the corner.

Peter Lynn said...

Some athletes already do have performance-enhancing surgery, at least in baseball. For batters, there's laser eye surgery, which helps them see the ball better. But some pitchers keep the playing field level with Tommy John surgery -- even if they've never injured their ligaments -- because pitchers who've had the surgery sometimes throw harder than they did before.

general borschevsky said...

Thanks for the excellent comment Peter Lynn, and welcome! Sometimes when we repair things we can also improve them. But then everyone wants the new and improved model, even if their original isn't broken, just to keep up, I guess.`


sleza said...

I think hockey is one the games where the skills and coordination are the most important things. One can always use stuff to improve the durability and have surgery to improve flexibility but if you can't skate/handle the puck/read the game, it really doesn't matter.

Peter Lynn said...

And thanks for the welcome! I should add that the idea that having Tommy John surgery will help a pitcher throw harder may be a misconception. The improved results may actually a a result of the increased focus on conditioning following the surgery, so there might be a bit of a placebo effect here. It might be better to skip the surgery and just focus on the conditioning. With regard to Toskala, though, considering some of Wilson's comments about his practice habits, focusing on conditioning might not be his strong suit.

Also, Tommy John surgery really doesn't let a pitcher throw harder than ever so much as it lets him throw as hard as he might have before it ever began to degrade. That is, he might throw harder than he did immediately before the surgery, but not as hard as he might have if he could restore his body's condition to that of when he was a rookie. So, given that Toskala has had a pretty similar surgery, it's probably fair to say that the one hip is better than it was immediately before the surgery, but about the same as that of a young Toskala. In other words, it's not better than new so much as it's good as new, which makes the surgery less about performance enhancement and more about simple maintenance.

Having undermined that part of my previous comment, though, the point about the LASIK surgery still stands. You could have the surgery done to "correct" your vision's focal point to a precision that you never had in the first place -- e.g., you could go from normal 20/20 vision to a more hawk-like 20/10. This would definitely be performance enhancing surgery, and considering how much it could improve your game to better your ability to see the ball (or puck), I can't see the downside in a batter (or goalie) having it done.

Of course, it's even easier to skip the surgery and just do what Mark McGuire did: get contact lenses that confer 20/10 vision.

general borschevsky said...

Hey sleza! It's great to see you in the General Area. I agree with your comment. Hockey is a combination of a lot of different skills, which is why players like Martin St. Louis or Zdeno Chara can both succeed in their own way.

Thanks again, Peter Lynn for your contribution. Your comments are really interesting and greatly helped to illustrate the idea I was exploring here.