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Article on Beta Blockers in pistol competitions.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by lbmii, Aug 27, 2008.

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  1. lbmii

    lbmii Member

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    Here is an interesting article on the use of Beta Blocker drugs as performance enhancer drugs in olympic pistol competitions. A 13 percent increase in performance was shown by users of Beta Blockers because of a reduction of hand tremble.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200808u/beta-blockers
     
  2. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    Hmm ... I have a problem with an essential tremor that comes and goes ... maybe I should look into this (no, I don't shoot competitively either)
     
  3. wadcutter45

    wadcutter45 Member

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    In the world of biostatistics 13% is not a significant figure and is well within the expected range of variation.

    It always sounds more credible to quote statistics even if the reporter doesn't understand statistics.

    Fuzzy data fuzzy conclusions. Remember, this is being quoted in a popular magazine, not from a scientific peer-reviewed journal
     
  4. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Tell that to the Korean who got disqualified at the Olympics.

    I know a lot of shooters who would take a dose for a 13% improvement, +/- 12%.
     
  5. lbmii

    lbmii Member

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    Indeed, "The Atlantic" is top rate as far as general readership type of magazines go. The 13% comes from a primary reseach medical journal.

    "In a double-blind cross-over study of 33 marksmen (standard pistol, 25 m) the adrenergic beta 1-receptor blocker, metoprolol, was compared to placebo. Metoprolol obviously improved the pistol shooting performance compared with placebo. Shooting improved by 13.4% of possible improvement (i.e., 600 points minus actual points obtained) as an average (SE = 4%, 2P less than 0.002). The most skilled athletes demonstrated the clearest metoprolol improvement. We found no correlation between the shooting improvement and changes in the cardiovascular variables (i.e., changes of heart rate and systolic blood pressure) and no correlation to the estimated maximum O2 uptake. The shooting improvement is an effect of metoprolol on hand tremor. Emotional increase of heart rate and systolic blood pressure seem to be a beta 1-receptor phenomenon."
     
  6. taprackbang

    taprackbang member

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    I would like to see if the great G. David Tubb uses Beta Blockers for perf. enhancement.

     
  7. HIcarry

    HIcarry Member

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    Not sure that I agree that a 13% improvement isn't significant. What I believe to be more significant in evaluating this is that the cohort size was small (33 shooters; since it was a double blind study, it means that about half, or 16 folks actually got the drug). Other issues that might affect the significance of the study is the Confidence Interval, P value, and other such statistical tools, as well as the overall construct of the study itself. It should be noted that the study quoted in the magazine article was done in a peer-reviewed journal (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2875053) in 1986, but used metoprolol, not the propanalol found in the Korean athletes. They are related compounds, but not the same drug.
    Still, for most folks the use of beta blockers to improve shooting accuracy is not worth the risk. Besides, personally, I want the flight/fight response to be as nature intended if I get into a situation, not blunted by drugs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2008
  8. geophysicishooter

    geophysicishooter Member

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    If you saw the documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster", you'll recall the segment in which several symphony/orchestra musicians talked about how beta blocker drugs helped keep their nerves under control. I know little about these drugs other than that they're supposed to be great for anxiety and keep the brain from freaking out in stressfull situations.. Given that, I wouldn't be surprised to find out competitive shooters would find that effect useful..

    13% is about 1 in 8 which is hardly statistically insignificant. Of course that concept varies and I'm not a biostatistician but it would be hard to disregard a calming of the nerves in a shooting situation.

    Isn't diazapam a drug that snipers use to calm their nerves and slow their heart rate??
     
  9. Haemon

    Haemon Member

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    Wouldn't be surprised -- Diazepam is the generic name for Valium. It's used as an anticonvulsant, to treat muscle spasms, and much more. It's been around for ages and the docs know exactly how it works. This other drug is probably bring used in olympic competition instead because of more "refined" effects or becaouse it is harder to test for.
     
  10. HIcarry

    HIcarry Member

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    Valium (diazepam) also causes drowiness, which, I imagine would not be a desired effect while waiting, hidden and still, for your target. Beta blockers do not generally cause drowiness.
     
  11. wadcutter45

    wadcutter45 Member

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    HIcarry said it better than I....I should have said in a small sample (cohort) 13% is not a significant number...if the cohort were , say 1,000 it would be a significant conclusion.

    And Geophysicishooter is absolutely right one in eight is a significant number...significant in our world, my fellow geophysicist. But the world of biology and the life sciences is less precise than the world of physics.

    HIcarry nailed it when he said 13% isn't worth the risk...health-wise or legal-wise. I guess that's how I should have phrased it.

    Besides, everyone knows that 23.7% of all statistics are made up anyhow. <smile>

    Good points, gentlemen...they don't call this forum "The High Road" for nothin. Any medical statisticans out there who care to comment on methodology and conclusions?
     
  12. wadcutter45

    wadcutter45 Member

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    Oh, and Ibmii...I didn't in any way mean to disparage your contribution...thank you for posting this article
     
  13. KelVarnson

    KelVarnson Member

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    As I understand it, propranolol is an older drug, which acts on a larger group of receptors than metoprolol (Toprol). I currently take both. Not for competition shooting but for high blood pressure, and for something else, which I will get to in a moment.

    My doctor and I have been experimenting with a number of different meds and combinations of meds to keep my B.P. under control. Just about anyone with hypertension would understand that trying a bunch of different drugs is fairly common; trying to find the perfect drug or combination.

    Along the way, we tried propranolol. First of all, it did a remarkable job of controlling my BP, better than anything I had tried. But unlike all of the other drugs, it also had a profound effect on how I felt. Much like a tranquilizer, but without any intoxication, like the article said. It just made me calmer.

    Unfortunately, because propranolol works on a wider range of receptors, it does open you up to more side effects than some of the newer, more targeted drugs. In my case, it caused a couple of nuisance side effects that I grew weary of, so I switched to metoprolol, which is more targeted specifically to the receptors that control BP (if I understand it correctly). The metoprolol works almost as well as the propranolol for my BP.

    The more generalized effect of propranolol makes me believe that it would be more effective, likely much more effective at improving shooting skills under pressure than metoprolol would.

    I said I take both drugs. Here's why: I play in a band that gigs on a very regular basis. When I started taking propranolol, all of a sudden stage fright became non-existant. This was not placebo effect, because at that point I was unaware of this application for the drug. Doing a little research showed me that I wasn't just imagining it.

    But the since the side effects proved too much, I switched off of 24-hour time-release propranolol, and onto the time-release metoprolol for BP. But, my doctor prescribed a small dose of short-acting propranolol for gig days. He said it is very common for this application, and another doctor I spoke to echoed that. Both said they had a few of patients that took it for various forms of performance anxiety.

    So, it works, it's dirt cheap, and it doesn't have any of the negatives of other "solutions", like alcohol or sedatives. I haven't tried it for shooting, but I am already convinced that it would help.
     
  14. geophysicishooter

    geophysicishooter Member

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    The cellists and oboeists popped 'em like m&m's in that film.. Maybe no one saw it but I highly recommend it. But they swore by them. Said they wouldn't stand a chance of beating out someone for a chair in a symphony if they weren't on blockers and the person they were competing against were. Of course, that's just annecdotal (I didn't spell that right), but the musicians interview for that film were convinced of the positive effects of beta blockers. One of the key interviewees said he pretty much took them all the time whether he was playing or not. Interesting film. people should check it out, "Bigger, Stronger Faster* the side effects of being American"

    btw, good to know there's another phys on the high road.
     
  15. HIcarry

    HIcarry Member

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    Wadcutter: While I am not a medical statistician, I do have to spend a good deal of time reviewing medical journals and research. I tried to read the article referenced just to look at the study construct and results, but couldn't get it online. The abstract available online didn't offer enough relevant info to make any determinations about the study itself.

    As to the cohort size, while important, it in and of itself is not necessarily the determining factor in evaluating studies either. A poorly constructed study that doesn't allow for confounding factors, doesn't screen or adequately blind the participants is "bad" regardless of the size of the cohort. Another issue is repeatability. As they say in medical research, your findings don't mean anything until someone else can recreate the study and obtain similar results.

    Aloha
     
  16. AZAndy
    • Contributing Member

    AZAndy Member

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    More on beta blockers and shooting

    Saw an article this morning that discussed the use of beta blockers and shooting:

    Here's the link to the article.
     
  17. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

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    It depends on how you define "best." In the Olympics, it's the latter, as the author noted.

    In sports (and performing arts), its about performance. It doesn't matter how well I sing in the shower, if I can't sing in public, I won't be a star musician. I may be able to make a living in the recording studio, but it's performance that is rewarded.

    ETA: Threads merged for convenience
     
  18. makarovnik

    makarovnik Member

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    I take beta blockers for my blood pressure not anxiety. It is sometimes prescribed after a heart attack. I would be in big trouble without it.
     
  19. svtruth

    svtruth Member

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    Beta blockers are,

    IIRC, negative inotropes, they make your heart contract less forcefully, which should also help accuracy. The idea of taking them in an aerobic sport like basketball is crazy.
    Those beta receptors they block are the ones that are stimulated by beta agonist inhalers used by asthmatics to keep from dying.
    But this raises an interesting, related, point. Can any one shed light on the use of relaxation or meditation techniques in shooting?
     
  20. HIcarry

    HIcarry Member

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    Beta blockers are negative inotropes (reduce contractile force) and negative chronotropes (reduce heart rate), which in part is why they work for things like performance anxiety. But, as you mention, in some situations, say aerobic sports or a real fight or flight situation, you might not want that effect.
    There are actually three types of beta receptors, denoted as beta 1, beta 2, and beta 3, and the different beta blockers target the various receptors in different combinations and selectivity. That's why some folks get better results from one type of beta blocker than another. However, in general beta blockers are avoided in asthmatics for exactly the reasons you mention. They tend to close the small airways (bronchioles) via beta 2 blockade and inhibit the bronchodilation of emergency asthma medication, such as inhalers.
    Aloha
     
  21. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    No, but in the world of Olympic shooting 13% is the difference between Gold and never making it to the Olympics in the first place.

    Even if the gain is little (or only placebo) many athletes on that level will take whatever sliver of advantage they can get.
     
  22. KelVarnson

    KelVarnson Member

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    Very true. I mountain bike, and the beta blockers slow me down significantly on that. But it's way better than the alternative!
     
  23. wadcutter45

    wadcutter45 Member

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    <Sigh>....I'm sorry i even commented. I was critiqueing the statistical methods...not an actual score improvement. Of Course 13% SCORE IMPROVEMENT is significant. And some say math skills aren't important....<sigh> :banghead:

    Math skills help you interpret what is meaningful and what is not.

    To put it very, very simply...the STUDY itself is not meaningful enough to encourage anyone to take beta blockers to improve their score.
     
  24. mec

    mec Member

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    better living through chemistry

    Propanolol is a definate aide. About 35 years ago, I was on the stuff for blood pressure. At that time, I was getting some astounding results in indoor pistol matches. I was also working as a security guard and had to handle drunks on a regular basis. It was simple. Clamp the drunk's whrists so he couldn't move, put on the cuffs and take care of business. Heart beat stayed steady at 72 bpm or thereabout.
    when I started an aerobics program, my blood pressure dropped out and I experienced some mental dullness. The doctor took me off the stuff without advising that I taper off and pretty soon my pulse was racing with a good bit of ventricular fibrilation. That calmed down and a couple of nights later, I handled another drunk.
    This time my pulse speeded up and I got a tremor in my voice and was fairly excited by what had been a low stress process on the drug.
     
  25. antsi

    antsi Member

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    You're misunderstanding statistical power. Large samples allow one to detect statistically significant but small magnitude effects. According to the quote above, the p-value was less than 0.002. This certainly achieves statistical significance by any meaningful standard. It does not make sense to criticize this study for its small sample size when statistical significance was achieved. If statistical significance was achieved, then by definition, the sample size was large enough. The value of large samples lies in detecting small, subtle effects. P of 0.002 in a small sample is not a small, subtle effect: it is a dramatic effect.

    This depends on the distribution of the value in the population. In a population that is heterogenous for the variable in question, you're right, 13% might not be much of a difference. If, however, we are talking about the pistol shooting scores of Olympic-level marksmen, this is going to be a relatively homogenous population and 13% could be huge in such a group.
     
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