Latest sports performance enhancer? Tourette syndrome | Bob's Blitz

Latest sports performance enhancer? Tourette syndrome

Tourette syndrome, the latest performance enhancer? Neurologist Oliver Sacks backs up the theory that Tourette’s can supercharge the brain, giving those with the disorder extraordinary quickness and swifter reaction times. United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard told ESPN: “I remember being so exhausted at the end of days ... trying to suppress it or maybe wait until I could get home in my room to really have an outburst. People think they're hiding it, but it's very obvious to someone who has Tourette syndrome that they're being looked at and made fun of.” But? Howard believes his Tourette's gives him an edge with abnormally rapid reflexes allowing him to move faster than his opponents.

Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin, who took gold at the 2000 summer games in Sydney, also battles Tourette's. And also thinks it helps him compete. “There have been very positive ways that it has helped me,” he said, such as, “making me faster than everybody else ... most of the time.”

“The way that I have come to understand my Tourette’s is that there is an over excitation of the nervous system,” Ervin added. “I can channel all that nervousness better than a majority of my competitors.”

Dr. Jonathan Mink, who specializes in Tourette syndrome and other movement disorders at the University of Rochester, and is the co-chair of the National Tourette Syndrome Association’s scientific advisory board doesn't buy it. “The studies that have been done of people where actually measuring their movements, measuring how fast their movements are and the reaction times show that on average, people with Tourette Syndrome are about the same as people without,” Mink said.

Ray Donovan actor Dash Mihok has an interesting take:

“I think that the reason I became an actor, probably, underneath it, was that I spent my life acting normal,” the 40-year-old said. “I spent my life figuring out ways to make the room OK with me.”

But, remarkably, once he is on set and hears the director call “action,” his tics stop.

“Because it's life or death, you know? It's make it or break it,” Mihok said. “I don't know if I ever realized, initially, that I didn't tic when I was so focused on my acting. I think it was after I had already done it a few years, when I went, ‘Hey, interesting that this happens.’

Howard said his tics also disappear when he's on the pitch. “I think it has to do with the mechanisms in the brain that are producing the tics, that they compete with the mechanisms of the brain that are producing the other activities: the playing, the sport, acting,” Dr. Jonathan Mink said.

So perhaps Tourette syndrome is not an athletic performance enhancer. However, it certainly appears that sports participation is probably a great adjuvant therapy. As is, potentially, performance art.

Learn more at WFAN Radio CBS Sports Network Host Craig Carton's Tic Toc Stop.

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