2007-06-08 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

Commentary By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT

Commentary By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT

The internet is a powerful tool, not only for those looking for entertainment, but for those looking for answers. As Uncle Ben Parker of the Spiderman franchise has been quoted saying: "With great power there must also come great responsibility". When it comes to the internet, it has the power and we must be the responsible ones.

The wealth of information on the internet is priceless. We can instantaneously find information on almost any topic, from recipes, to car maintenance, to our health, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My son, who is finishing his sophomore year of high school, often asks me to help out with homework or papers that he is writing. It is sad to say that very often I have no clue as to what he is talking about. In my own defense, it has been over 25 years since I learned what phylum the cockroach belongs to.

I think I have finally trained him to stop asking by employing a well-known father's trick; to bore him with stories of when I was growing up. I begin by telling him to look up his topic on the internet. I then proceed to tell him that if I wanted to get more information on a certain topic, I had to high-tail it to the library, hoping I would get there before it closed. As I often let my assignments go until late Sunday nights, the library was not even an option. Then, my parents suggested the encyclopedia set we had in the basement. By the time I was a sophomore, this set was already 20 years old. In fact, I don't even think it covered the moon landing, due to the fact that it hadn't happened yet!

So, why all this reminiscing on factfinding? Back in the day, we could take comfort that, even if out of date, the information in that encyclopedia had been checked and double-checked by experts and an editor. The internet comes with no editor, and we must be on guard to filter through information that we find. Anyone with a computer and $9.95 per month can host their own web site and put anything at all on it.

Message board groups and blogs allow anyone with an extra few minutes to spare to wax eloquent, albeit more often than not dimwittedly, about the topic of their choice. Many who read it take this drivel as gospel, thinking "it is on the internet, it must be true". I recently signed up for a Yahoo group on health and fitness. After perusing the topics, I unsubscribed to the group. Innocents who are looking for information sign up for the group and post questions looking for help. The topics could range from weight loss products, to certain exercises, to toning and building muscle. The same three to five members of this group post most of the answers. As such, they are viewed by the readership as the "experts". They never mention their credentials, if they have any. Some proudly crow that they are "personal trainers". Many personal trainers are fantastic and chock full of knowledge of real science. In fact, many have Master's Degrees in Exercise Physiology.

Unfortunately, many have nothing more than an internet based correspondence course. If you are looking for health and fitness related information, I recommend starting with a well-known site such as www.WebMD.com. Other good sources are the AARP web site at www.aarp. org and the American College of Sports Medicine site at www.acsm.org.

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