The athletes of the recent Olympic games possess superb physical skills
that have allowed them to compete in amazing displays of their prowess.
Their power stems from their highly conditioned and trained muscular
system that works in cooperation with the skeletal
system. These systems provide the fast and furious sprints that win
the races, as well as the graceful ballets that sway the gymnastics judges.
There are three types of muscle fibers; smooth (involuntary), cardiac, and striated (voluntary). All three are necessary in any activity, but striated muscles are responsible for the movement of limbs. An electrical impulse sent from the brain via the neurons, stimulates the muscle to contract. This shortens their length so that they pull upon the bone which they are attached to by a tendon. This action is illustrated every time you flex your arm to show off your biceps.
The bones that provide support for you are collectively called the skeleton. Those bones that support limbs such as your legs and arms are classified in the appendicular skeleton, whereas those that support the head and trunk form the axial skeleton. The skeleton is a rigid frame work that is composed of living tissue. This tissue forms mostly during childhood and adolescence, causing you to become taller. Bone also grows after an injury such as a fracture, and the cells repair the break.
While most of us take the ability to walk, run, and carry out physical
tasks for granted, some people are not bestowed with even the capability
to lift a finger. These physically disabled people may suffer from a variety
of disorders ranging from Muscular Dystrophy to being paralyzed by an automobile
Muscular Dystrophy is a very serious condition which involves the slow, but continuous wasting away of the muscle fibers. The person grows weaker and weaker and may become paralyzed, losing all physical abilities in time. Involuntary movements critical to life such as breathing may also be affected, which can eventually lead to death.
Multiple Sclerosis, although a nervous system disease, involves loss of control of muscles and trouble in speaking distinctly. This is a very life altering disease that usually strikes in adolescence, and causes problems to the immune system as well.
Another muscular disease that is caused by nerve signals gone astray is called Myasthenia Gravia. This is caused when the nerve signal is blocked when traveling between nerve fibers to the muscle itself. Doctors are able to treat this with drugs that encourage the transmission of the nerve, or blood filtering techniques that remove the blocking substance.
Other diseases that, because of complications, may cause paralysis are polimyelitis, spinal meningitis, and measles. People may also be born with congenital defects that lead to physical impairments.
Paralysis caused by an automobile or occupational accident can be tiring emotionally as well as physically. Many people become very discouraged at having their lives torn away from them and become depressed at what seems like a slow and almost hopeless rehabilitation. But, research on these subjects is advancing at a very rapid rate, and paralysis may have a cure in the near future.
Physical therapy is a major part of the rehabilitation of any disabled
person with the purpose to restore muscle control, flexibility, and strength.
Now, a paralyzed person has the hope to return to a normal lifestyle through
a series of vigorous, but effective strengthening exercises that virtually
allows the body to "relearn" how to work. Almost any disabled
person can be helped. A person who had a congenital defect and was born
with an ineffective, short and twisted leg can have the limb straightened
and even lengthened by transplanting a bone from other parts of the body.
For the muscular or nerve impaired diseases, treatments could involve special massages, strengthening exercises, and electrical stimulation, without the use of drugs. Physical therapy can be used to aid a handicapped child, an injured worker or athlete, or a stroke victim and is carried out by experts known as physiotherapists. Each new step taken, each word clearly spoken, and each breath taken is a miracle of this science, and a slow but steady recovery can be made...step by step.
Images copyright PhotoDisc, Inc., 1996.
Images copyright T/Maker Company, 1996.
New Book of Knowledge, 1987. Grolier Inc.