Doctors are teaching ‘Omicron’ men about how to stay upright

Men with a rare condition called Omicron have a tendency to go fast. This is typically a surprise to people with normal cardiovascular health, since they do not regularly work out to increase their speed. No one knows exactly why they do this, but it is not easily ignored. The 15 Omicron sufferers in the United Kingdom are about to get a new education in the practice of smooth motor control, given their startling ability to go up and down stairs, dive through swimming pools, or do pull-ups faster than most of us can do it. I was intrigued to read an abstract in the Experimental Biology journal about some speed sports performed by the Omicron patients. A follow-up article to the first, by Professor John Ballard and his colleagues at the University of East Anglia, warns that they need to be coached more carefully if they want to have a good experience. There is also concern that their hearts may not be capable of producing sufficient force on the go.

The authors of the papers point out that the human body has evolved to produce twice the normal amount of force on the go to navigate difficult challenges. So the Omicron patients, who are forced to be just one-tenth of a degree faster to maintain their speed, can do this without giving their hearts or lungs a chance to catch up. But, the papers say, “preventing constant hyperacceleration with repeated corticosteroid shots” may prove to be a real challenge.

The Glasgow Herald, noting the peculiarity of speed sports made popular in the United States, in 2018, introduced readers to a Calin Messener in Seattle. Mr. Messener developed Omicron after a fall when he was 5 years old, landing him in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Six years later, he was not quite ready to be released from the hospital. So, by the time he was 16, Mr. Messener was hitting the “60 m.p.h. mark in the Schulenberg barre dance class at his local gym.” That wasn’t all. “Within the first hour of class,” says the Herald, “Messener powered through 15 pull-ups, 3 push-ups and 2 jump-ropes, all while stretching each step of the way, even bending into a Warrior position. He added two more push-ups at the end of the class. His instructor, a young woman, remembers it as ‘really insane.’”

The doctors hope that the doctor will be able to see how fast these Omicron patients can go in this new course of treatment. The aim of the study in the next two years will be to find out whether other accelerometers could tell how fast they’re going. But without any reference points, it is difficult to know whether these guys have unique physical attributes or can just do their own thing a little faster than most of us. The authors of the two papers feel it will take serious work, and an unflagging dedication to get out their limit. If they succeed, the Journal of the American Heart Association should be looking for some “supersmashers.”

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