Stranger things may never again be witnessed in health class than what happened to Colt Dotson's right hand Wednesday when it took on a life of its own.
Not that it was pursuing the quiet life as a writer of novellas or the adventurous life of a crime fighter constantly on call. But it sure had tackled the fine art of dancing as it moved around at the end of the boy's wrist.
"I'm not doing that," Colt said, peering down at his hand and laughing.
Next to him, in the front of the classroom, stood Stevie Fisher, 14; Cassie Arnold, 13; and Sarah Staples, 13. Electrical-stimulation machines were hooked to all of their arms, except to Cassie's, who had a diode on her back right shoulder. The electrical pulse occasionally lurched her forward, while the rest of the students' hands moved without their own accord.
"What we try to do (with these machines) is wake the muscle back up and get it working again," explained Marc Paul, head athletic trainer at the University of Nevada, Reno.
To students, it was just plain unusual.
"It's gory," said classmate Hayden Harrower, 13. "It was like they were possessed."
"It was weird," student Chuck Deisley said from the back of the room.
Paul said the electrical pulse emitted through the machine can be slight enough as to have no outwardly effect at all, but be hard at work massaging the muscle inside.
He and co-worker John Archer, head strength-conditioning coach at UNR, were invited to speak to the Virginia City Middle School class by eighth-grade teacher Connie Robertson.
They spoke to the students about athletic training, and impressed them with information about eating right, but most of all, they emphasized not hampering the body's growth with excessive weightlifting.
It was information important to Hayden, 13. The teenager is a forward on the Comstockers basketball team and benches 50 pounds several times a week.
"I learned not to use heavy weights," he said. "And use light weights and do a lot of repetitions. And eat well."
Heavy weights can cause the body to release extra levels of hormone, causing plates at the ends of the bone to form prematurely, and bring a growth spurt to an early end, the trainers said.
Although Hayden avoids heavy weights, he has plenty of classmates who lift big loads.
"They want to feel better than everyone else because they lift a lot more," he said.
Colt, who is also a forward on the Comstockers basketball team, stopped lifting weights this year, although he did bench the year before.
"I've just read a lot that you really shouldn't lift a lot of weight, and I've heard that from a lot of different people, and I don't want to screw up my growth," he said.
For now, he wants to follow the trainers' advice about eating well, exercising and being active.
"I know I'm probably going to start lifting weights," he said. "But not right now. Probably when I'm a sophomore. My body's just not ready for it yet."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.