MEDICA MEDICINE + SPORTS CONFERENCE: from “smart” products to biomarkers all the way to a recipe for exercise

When the Austrian extreme athlete, Felix Baumgärtner jumped from about 39,000 metres towards Earth two years ago, it attracted enormous public attention worldwide. Impressively, Baumgärtner and his team showed what a person could achieve when physique, psyche, training and equipment are “just right”. Therefore, within the scope of the coming MEDICA MEDICINE + SPORTS CONFERENCE, the daring jump is a perfect demonstration of what humans can achieve and how they can control and optimise their physical and mental strengths.


After the first Medicine + Sports Conference generated significant public interest at MEDICA 2013, the world’s largest medical trade fair, the second conference will be held during MEDICA 2014 (12 to 15 November). Internationally renowned players from the fields of sports science, medicine and industry will be providing a comprehensive look this time into what is possible today in the fields of sports medicine and the exercise sciences as well as what the future may bring. So Baumgärtner’s spectacular jump is just one highlight during the event filled with many current and exciting topics.

“Big data” – also a big topic in the field of recreational and therapeutic sports.

At the beginning of the two-day conference however, – after a lecture by Simon Drabble, director of digital sports at Adidas, on the latest developments in performance monitoring – there will be a podium discussion on a really “big topic” that is gaining in significance and also increasingly becoming the focal point of intrigue in many social spheres. It has to do with “big data”, more exactly the many potentially sensitive health data that can be generated and saved, whether it be by means of “activity and fitness trackers”, smartphones, clocks and eyeglasses, or shirts equipped with sensors and other so-called “wearables”. As is generally known, all of them can capture a variety of the wearer’s physiological data, from heart and respiration rates to heart rate variability, all the way to skin resistance, a parameter that can also make it possible to tell how “good or bad” an athlete is “at the present time” in combination with other parameters. It is quite obvious that such data is not only interesting from a scientific and medical perspective, but could also awaken the desires of those paying for treatments. Therefore, in view of the many questions that this issue raises, it is especially important what may and should happen with this data; how it is stored, how it is interpreted and how it can be implemented for treatment recommendations. In addition to Simon Drabble and Dr. Adrian Hutber, the general secretary of the initiative “Exercise is Medicine” (American College of Sports Medicine), the participants of the podium discussion will include Dr. Bernd Heinrichs, managing director of EMEAR IoT Solutions at CISCO, Dr. Horst Merkle, vice-president of the non-profit organisation “Continua Health Alliance”, Dr. Maximilian Müller, CEO of Moticon and Stefan Schraps, managing director at Bodytel.

High-tech products and biomarkers – a glimpse into the future

The second part of the first day offers – included in a guided tour of the trade show halls – a comprehensive look into innovations and new products, such as the “wearables” that can naturally also be tested on site (e.g. at the Wearables Technologies Joint Stand in hall 15, stand A 23).

The second day will then start with a presentation of Felix Baumgärtner’s jump in which he reached a maximum speed of Mach 1.25 or 13,576 km/h during this controlled jump from the stratosphere – a mental and physical achievement that was only made possible with the aid of elaborate preparation and supervision. Professor Jonathan B. Clark, the medical director of the “Red Bull Stratos Project” will explain, among other things, the process from a medical perspective and what knowledge had been gained from the project.

A variety of lectures on exciting, new developments in sports science will follow. As was the case last year, Professor Tim Meyer, director of the Institute for Sports and Preventive Medicine at the Saarbrücken University and team physician of the German national football team, will be addressing the topic of “Personal Training of Top Professional Athletes”. As is known, individual physiological data are required for such personalised training. For example, Reimut Hellmerichs, who is a sports scientist and fitness expert at the Finnish company, Polar, one the pioneers in training computers, will present which data can be used today.

Professor Wilhelm Bloch, director of the Institute for Circulatory Research and Sports Medicine at the Sports Academy in Cologne will be addressing a topic with future potential that is important for “personalised” strategies in the field of medicine in general and also for the field of sports medicine. His topic: Biomarkers – in this method common parameters such as lactate concentration and heart rate variability can be valuable and significant but, for really individualised supervision, other simple and reliable markers must be measured. Examples for such biomarkers that Block and his co-workers are researching include erythrocyte deformation, NO (nitrogen monoxide) and special immune cells. Here, a lot of basic research and epidemiological trials are necessary until it will be possible to control physical training with a cluster of simple-to-determine markers.  However, according to Block, that is “the future”, not only for professional sports but also in the field of preventive and therapeutic sports.

Capturing data via a sensor in the ear canal

Johannes Kreuzer, founder of the Munich start-up company Cosinuss, will present a further “highlight” during the second day – a sensor that determines the oxygen saturation and body temperature in the ear canal for example, transmitting the data wirelessly to a smartphone or a PC. Such data could be relevant for marathon runners or other endurance athletes. With the aid of such a sensor, they could be warned against the threat of hyperthermia or even the body being cooled down too much, to name just one of several possibilities of use.

Body composition, the ratio between fat and protein mass is another parameter that is significant for high-performance sports, but also in the field of therapeutic sports. This parameter makes it possible, for example, to judge the development of an athlete’s performance and manage training, nutrition as well as the effectiveness of physiotherapeutic measures. Naturally, reliable assessment of the body composition is a requirement. For example, the diagnosis equipment by the company SECA, a specialist in the field, makes this possible.

“Smart” sports trousers signal a warning in the event of muscle fatigue

An especially “smart” product is going to be presented in Düsseldorf by Pekka Tolvanen, manager of the Finnish company, Myontec – high-tech sports trousers that record muscle activity via an integrated sensor, making it possible to tell the degree of muscle fatigue for example. Using a recording device that is attached to the trousers during physical activity, data can be collected and analysed with the aid of a smartphone and a special app. The data is naturally transmitted wirelessly. For example, with the aid of these high-tech trousers, Finnish researchers have found out that the musculature of people that undertake sport on a daily basis is predominately inactive, and not more or less inactive than is the case for those who do not perform any sport. (“PLoS ONE“ 2013; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052228).

Physical exercise – more than just preventive

The two-day MEDICA MEDICINE + SPORTS CONFERENCE will end with a topic whose significance has been known throughout the entire medical field for a long time. It has to do with the topic of sports and physical exercise for prevention, but also for the therapy of chronic disease. Background information: Too many people in prosperous countries don’t exercise enough; also many children and adolescents spend too much time sitting, whether it be in front of a television or a computer. The results: Not only adults, but also many children and adolescents are overweight; many even develop “type-2 diabetes”. Their risk of cardiovascular disease increases throughout their lives.

Therefore, it is often said that exercise is sometimes better than any medicine. Despite the fact that physical activity in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention that has been scientifically proven to be of  great benefit, too often, it plays the role of a “wallflower”. Addressing this problem is the objective of an initiative of the “International Federation of Sports Medicine/Fédération Internationale de Médécine du Sport” (FIMS) and the “European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations” (EFSMA). The German Society for Sports Medicine and Prevention (DGSP), the German Olympic Sports Association (DOSB) and the German Medical Association also strongly promote exercise for prevention and similarly for the therapy of chronic disease. This is implemented with their initiative “The Recipe for Exercise” that was established a few years ago.

All information on the MEDICA MEDICINE + SPORTS CONFERENCE, on the programme and cooperating partners, is accessible online at:

Author: Dr. Thomas Kron, freelance medical journalist (from Worms, Germany)

Messe Düsseldorf GmbH

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