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“Boosting” — the performance-enhancement one gets from injuring oneself

Mar 19, 2014, 5:04 PM EDT

Chase Utley

This doesn’t come from the world of baseball. It actually comes from paralympics. And while it is something people in that world have known about and dealt with for some time, it’s news to me:

Elite athletes are often told to work through their pain… it may be more than merely stoic advice. Some athletes with disabilities have discovered injuring themselves enhances their performance. It works so well, it’s against the rules. The International Paralympic Committee has banned the practice. but that hasn’t stopped some athletes to continue to seek out the competitive edge.

Breaking toes, sticking themselves with pins, filling their bladders and any number of other things to give themselves momentary bursts of adrenaline or elevated heart rates. One guy explains via audio embedded on the linked article what it feels like to get electric shocks and how it helps him in rock climbing.

Obviously there are limits to comparisons between paralympic athletes and baseball players in that some of the “boosts” paralympians might give themselves could be specific to dealing with their disabilities. But I am fascinated by the body hack aspects to all of this.

On some level all athletes have done this forever. Rituals they use to pump themselves up, foods they eat, clothes they wear under their uniform and so on could give them mental edges and perhaps physical edges as well. But I bet there are a lot of other things baseball players could do that they haven’t even thought of to help them out in terms of adrenaline and heart rate boosting. I wonder how much of it goes on we don’t know about. And whether, if we did know more about it, people would consider it unfair or call for bans on the practice.

(Thanks to John Measor for the heads up)

  1. halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Why put Chase Utley in the picture with your pain-avoidance article? Because he lost 2011 and 2012 with a degenerative knee condition and wasn’t tough enough to play through it?

    • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      I’ll add something to the reason that I made the above comment. There is a certain Philly media personality (who I will not name) who thought Utley was weak to not play through his degenerative knee condition but praised Ryan Howard for playing through a bad leg and Jimmy Rollins playing through a bad hamstring. It was this Philly personality’s agenda towards Utley. He doesn’t like him.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        Perhaps Utley acquired the degenerative knee condition intentionally, so he could amass three seasons worth of adrenaline to unleash on MLB in 2014. Seems like a reasonable strategy.

    • schmedley69 - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      Because Craig is obsessed with the Phillies. He can barely make it through one post without mentioning them in one shape or form.

    • clemente2 - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      Hmmm, your mind works in strange ways.

      Craig was trolling Philly fans—this is easy to understand and not deserving of any comment.

      • yourcubreporter - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:03 PM

        …and yet you commented

  2. slaugin - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    I’m not from Philly so I’m just an outsider looking in. That being said, how does someone dislike this guy? He seems like the type of player I’d want on my team, injuries aside.

    • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:43 PM

      Utley is beloved in Philly. But, some media types here don’t like that the guy is 100% untouchable to criticism. That’s the truth.

      • jcmeyer10 - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        Plus, Mac will beat up that beat writer.

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:47 PM

        I never said it was a Philly writer that doesn’t like Utley.

      • paul621 - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:34 PM

        I don’t understand the secrecy here… if he’s “a media type,” doesn’t that mean he’s saying these anti-Utley, pro-Rollins and Howard things publicly? Why not just tell us who you’re talking about?

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:42 PM

        @paul621,

        It’s not a secret who belittles Chase Utley in Philadelphia. His name is Ike Reese. He’s a former football player from the Eagles that is on a local radio station in Philly. I have listen to the man and he personally does not like Chase Utley because of the reasons I stated above. I find it strange. So do a lot of other Philly fans.

  3. nymets4ever - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    “I wonder how much of it goes on we don’t know about. And whether, if we did know more about it, people would consider it unfair or call for bans on the practice.”

    It was utterly disgusting and despicable of you to slip this comment here, trying to equate the benign motivational tactics used by Paralympians to the pill-popping, needle-pushing steroid garbage you endorse.

    • Sign Ahead - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      The benign, motivational tactics that have been banned by the International Olympic Committee?

      This sounds an awful lot like concern trolling. Kudos to you for changing things up, but it would hit harder if you also mentioned the children. Oh, won’t somebody think of the children?

    • indaburg - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:07 PM

      Benign motivational tactics? The paralympians who boost are taking advantage of a condition called autonomic dysreflexia. It is a very dangerous, potentially life threatening condition that can affect those with spinal cord injuries at or above the T6 level. It can result in uncontrolled hypertension (we’re talking crazy numbers, like 300 mmHg systolic), seizures, strokes, or myocardial infarction if not treated. Athletes without spinal cord injuries (e.g. Chase Utley) cannot take advantage of the potential boost due to the pathophysiology of autonomic dysreflexia. Basically, we have the working nerve impulses and receptors that would prevent this from ever occurring.

      The more you know.

  4. kiwicricket - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    For some reason I am imagining the Philly bench slapping themselves WWF style before each AB. If it works, run with it.

    • cur'68 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:04 PM

      I say this is a process that would be perfect for Sumo. Imagine it. Lets say its Ortiz vs Pedroia in the dugout. They square off, do the ritual foot stomp, profile at each other, scream their heads off and charge! They seize each other by the belts, getting massive wedgies, and attempt to hurl one another out of the dugout. Then, whichever of them is up, goes out to face the pitcher. If they weren’t pumped up for that AB after a bout of Sumo then there is no hope for humanity.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:23 PM

        Whichever one is up? I’m picturing Pedey flying out of the circle as if shot by a human-shooting cannon.

      • cur'68 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:41 PM

        Pedroia’s a tough little weasel. I bet he gets an iron clad grip on Papi’s belt and every time Ortiz tries to give him the heave, David gets a taste of the old ro-sham-bo. I like Pedroia’s chances.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:44 PM

        I’d bet on Pedey still talking sh!t while flying through the air. Then landing, bouncing up like Phil McConkey & concussedly demanding best 2 out of 3.

      • cur'68 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:50 PM

        Now that’s a given. No way he takes defeat with anything other than a full frontal revenge attack. He’ll wear Ortiz out and eventually defeat him with a sleeper hold (they do that in Sumo? I always think of it as a diapered version of WWE).

        THEN he’ll take his AB.

  5. Bhavin Bavalia - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Roger Clemens’s sadistic use of Icy Hot suddenly makes a lot of sense.

  6. vanrossum1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Relax everyone, its the resident troll-in-chief CC.

  7. frank35sox - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Your last paragraph is worthless. But thank you for educating me on the practice of “boosting.”

  8. kappy32 - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Nothing like having to take a piss while at bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th. I wonder if “boosting” was why Angel Pagan had to be removed from a game while with the Mets due to “uncontrollable diarrhea.” It’s no joke, look it up.

  9. unclemosesgreen - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    In my day, “boosting” was the only manner in which an Irishman could procure a vehicle.

  10. drewnichols81 - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Hardball Talk Writer Who Shall Remain Nameless predicted the Rangers would Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. Did the the Red Sox win Game 7 of WS in 86, did the Angels win any games after Donnie Moore gave it up to Henderson in ’86. Did the Cubs win Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS? “I’m a baseball writer and I do not understand the history of the game” -HTWWSRN

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