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Parenting, Public Safety, Research, Sports

Is repetitive heading in soccer a health hazard?

Is repetitive heading in soccer a health hazard?

soccer_headerIn the 20 years that I played soccer as a child and young adult, I used my head countless times to challenge and control the ball as it sailed through the air. During practices, coaches gave instructions on which part of the head to use in making contact and redirecting the ball so that the impact was less painful. They also trained me and my teammates on the body mechanics of receiving the ball to maintain possession. But there was never a discussion on the potential health affects of repetitively heading the ball.

So I was interested to read about a paper (subscription required) recently published in Brain Injury wherein researchers raise concerns about long-term consequences of repetitive heading. In the study, Canadian researchers analyzed nearly 50 papers that examining the incidence of concussion in soccer. Among their findings:

  • Overall, concussions accounted for 5.8 per cent to 8.6 per cent of total injuries sustained during games.
  • In particular, girls’ soccer accounted for 8.2 per cent of sports-related concussions, the second highest sport after football.
  • Research papers that looked at the mechanism of injury found 41.1 per cent of concussions resulted from contact by an elbow, arm or hand to the head.
  • Another study showed 62.7 per cent of varsity soccer players had suffered symptoms of a concussion during their playing careers, yet only 19.2 per cent realized it.
  • Studies on the long-term effects of heading found greater memory, planning and perceptual deficits in forwards and defenders, players who execute more headers.
  • One study found professional players reporting the highest prevalence of heading during their careers did poorest in tests of verbal and visual memory as well as attention.

Considering that an estimated 265 million(.pdf) people worldwide play soccer, researchers say these findings show more research on the long-term consequences of repetitive heading is greatly needed.

Previously: Kids and concussions: What to keep in mind, Measuring vs. reporting concussions in cheerleading, Can a single concussion cause lasting brain damage? and A conversation with Daniel Garza about football and concussions
Photo by Gordon Marino

In the News, Parenting, Pediatrics, Public Safety

Carseats save lives, but only if kids are buckled in

Carseats save lives, but only if kids are buckled in

carseatA new study shows failure to properly restrain children in carseats or a seatbelt remains a leading cause of death for children involved in motor vehicle accidents. As reported today on the Well blog, the death rate decreased from 2002 to 2011, but  thousands of children under 12 unfortunately died because they were not buckled in. Using a carseat or seatbelt could have saved many of those lives:

In 2011, 33 percent of children who died in motor vehicle accidents were not buckled in. While only 2 percent of children under age 1 rode unrestrained, 22 percent of those in that age group who died were unbuckled. An estimated 3,308 children under 4 are alive today because they were properly buckled in.

“We can do more to help protect our children on the road,” [lead author Erin K. Sauber-Schatz, PhD] said “We have to make sure that children are buckled into age- and size-appropriate seats and seatbelts on every trip, no matter how short the trip.”

Many hospitals, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, offer car seat installations and inspections for new parents.

Previously: Precious cargo: Keeping kids safe in cars and planes
Photo by Kari Bluff

Mental Health, Parenting, Pediatrics

Study finds treatment for anxiety disorders among children and young adults inadequate

Study finds treatment for anxiety disorders among children and young adults inadequate

anxiety_teenNew research shows that less than half of children and young adults who are treated for anxiety disorders will achieve long-term relief from symptoms.

In the study (subscription required), researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and five other institutions conducted a long-term analysis of nearly 300 patients, ages 11 to 26,  treated with medication, cognitive behavioral therapy or a combination of the two. Individuals received treatment for three months and followed, on average, for six years. Results showed 47 percent were anxiety-free by the end of the follow-up period and nearly 70 percent required some form of occasional mental health treatment.

A story published today in U.S. News and World Report discusses the significance of the findings:

“The study underscores the chronic nature of psychiatric illnesses and illustrates the importance of the pressing need to study and support mental health treatments across the age and demographic spectrum,” said Dr. Aaron Krasner, adolescent transitional living program chief at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Conn. “Anxiety, a common condition by most epidemiologic estimates, is understudied and undertreated, especially in the pediatric population,” he said.

[Lead investigator Golda Ginsburg, PhD and her] team believe their findings also highlight the importance of close follow-up and monitoring of symptoms among children, teens and young adults who’ve been treated for anxiety, even if they seem to be getting better.

“Our findings are encouraging in that nearly half of these children achieved significant improvement and were disease-free an average of six years after treatment, but at the same time we ought to look at the other half who didn’t fare so well and figure out how we can do better,” Ginsburg, who is also professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

“Just because a child responds well to treatment early on, doesn’t mean our work is done and we can lower our guard,” she added.

Previously: Anxious children’s brains are different from those of other kidsNew research tracks “math anxiety” in the brain and Fear leads to creation of new neurons, new emotional memories 

Behavioral Science, Neuroscience, Parenting, Pediatrics, Research

Study finds age at which early-childhood memories fade

Study finds age at which early-childhood memories fade

baby with balloonI have a clear memory of standing near a crêpe-paper-lined wall of my fourth-grade classroom and deciding that age 9 was the time kids got a grip on how things worked and became fully initiated into the world of adult-level thinking. (I had recently turned 9.) That hypothesis wasn’t confirmed but, let’s say, wouldn’t be struck down by the results of a recent study on childhood amnesia that suggests that 7 is the age that the earliest childhood memories – of events that happened before age 3 – fall away.

Researchers from Emory University recorded 83 3-year-olds being interviewed by their mothers about unique autobiographical events. From the study:

Different subgroups of children were tested for recall of the events at ages 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 years. At the later session they were interviewed by an experimenter about the events discussed 2 to 6 years previously with their mothers (early-life events). Children aged 5, 6, and 7 remembered 60% or more of the early-life events. In contrast, children aged 8 and 9 years remembered fewer than 40% of the early-life events.

The authors found that children whose parents allowed them to direct the conversation, even to switch topics, recalled more than children whose parents kept them on topic.

A release describes more on the findings:

“One surprising finding was that, although the five-and-six year-old children remembered a higher percentage of the events, their narratives of these events were less complete,” [Emory University psychologist Patricia Bauer, PhD, the study's lead author] says. “The older children remembered fewer events, but the ones they remembered had more detail.”

Some reasons for this difference may be that memories that stick around longer may have richer detail associated with them and increasing language skills enable an older child to better elaborate the memory, further cementing it in their minds, Bauer says.

Young children tend to forget events more rapidly than adults do because they lack the strong neural processes required to bring together all the pieces of information that go into a complex autobiographical memory, she explains.

The study was published in the journal Memory.

Previously: We’ve got your number: Exact spot in brain where numeral recognition takes place revealedIndividuals’ extraordinary talent to never forget could offer insights into memory and Childhood-cancer survivors face increased risk of PTSD
Photo by Charlotte Morrall

Orthopedics, Pain, Parenting, Pediatrics

On being a parent with chronic pain

Mom3The Atlantic posted a moving piece today written by a mother whose severe scoliosis has left her body in a near-constant state of pain. The author, Rachel Rabkin Peachman, points to a recent review of scientific literature documenting how children of parents with chronic pain are affected by their mothers’ and fathers’ condition:

The results, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, are, well, painful to read. It turns out that children whose parents experience chronic pain are at increased risk for adjustment problems and behavioral issues, and are more likely to complain of pain themselves. The whole family suffers.

Peachman details some of the studies’ findings. She also describes her own history with pain and parenting, and discusses the times she was unable to pick up and soothe her crying daughter. She writes:

Science may say the odds are against parents with chronic pain. And I know there are days I’m sidelined and short-tempered. But I’m determined to raise children who feel supported, secure, and loved. I don’t know what my future holds—surgery, therapies, or a lifetime of pain. But I have to believe that despite a deteriorating body, it’s possible to be a successful mother.

The entire piece is worth a read.

Previously: Image of the Week: The agony of painStanford researchers address the complexities of chronic painLetting go of control during chronic illness or pain and Chronic illness in childhood: One patient’s story
Photo by Miki Yoshihito

Parenting, Pediatrics, Videos

Tips from a child on managing asthma

Tips from a child on managing asthma

Get ready to be charmed: A young boy who has asthma describes his daily medication routine through storytelling and cartoon drawings in the video above. He offers helpful tips on how to inhale steroids using a puff and spacer, advises that a certain of his medications must not be given to him more than once within four hours, and educates viewers on how to identify wheezing.

In a recent post on, Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, a pediatric diabetes specialist at the University of Michigan and mother of the filmmaker, “B,” remarks, “I have to admit that I learned  a lot about how to use a spacer from this experience.”

Watch more of B’s films here and here.

Previously: Text messages about asthma could help children breathe easier
Via @SusannahFox

Health and Fitness, Media, Parenting, Pediatrics, Research

Depictions of obesity in children’s movies

Depictions of obesity in children's movies

As winter break approaches for schoolchildren, movie-watching in theaters or snuggled together on the couch may be on the family calendar. But while ratings alert parents to violent or otherwise “adult” content, some more hidden messages within a movie could have an impact on a child’s well-being.

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focused on messages about healthy eating and obesity in films. Researchers looked at 20 of the most popular children’s movies released in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010 and found that a good number featured characters that overeat and under-exercise and/or stigmatization of overweight and obesity.

As described in a release:

Segments from each movie were assessed for the prevalence of key nutrition and physical behaviors corresponding to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ obesity prevention recommendations for families, prevalence of weight stigma, assessment of the segment as healthy, unhealthy or neutral, and free-text interpretations.

With regard to eating behaviors, the researchers found that 26 percent of the movie segments with food depicted exaggerated portion size, 51 percent depicted unhealthy snacks and 19 percent depicted sugar-sweetened beverages.

With regard to depiction of behaviors, 40 percent of movies showed characters watching television, 35 percent showed characters using a computer and 20 percent showed characters playing video games.

The authors conclude that these movies “present a mixed message to children: promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors’ possible effects.” The study (registration or purchase required) appears in the journal Obesity.

Previously: Sugar intake, diabetes and kids: Q&A with a pediatric obesity expertTalking to kids about junk food ads and Health experts to Nickelodeon: Please stop promoting unhealthy food to our kids

Chronic Disease, Parenting, Patient Care

Parent details practical ways to get care and support for your child’s rare disease

Parent details practical ways to get care and support for your child's rare disease

holding hands with child_560Since rare diseases are inherently uncommon, researchers have few opportunities to learn about them. As Marcela De Vivo explained earlier this month on the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) blog, this can make it hard for people with such disorders to get the care the need.

In her post, Vivo describes the challenges she faced as a mother of a child with a rare disease. But the bulk of her story is crafted to help other parents in similar situations. Think of it as a frank, how-to guide that details the practical ways that parents can overcome the challenges of caring for a child with an uncommon medical condition.

Among the actions she recommends in her post:

  • Become a part of an online community (such as NORD), where you can get information on your child’s disease.
  • Be relentless when trying possible treatments for your child’s condition – if the first (or second or third) treatment is unsuccessful, keep trying.
  • Share what you learn about the treatments your child tries with other parents and with your doctors.

Even if you don’t have a child, this post is an enlightening and helpful read.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: The day my doctor thanked meLessons from five million patient and caregiver posts, When do you tell a potential partner about your rare illness?When you say nothing at all: Living with an invisible illness and New search engine designed to help physicians and the public in diagnosing rare diseases
Photo by stephanski

Parenting, Pediatrics, Videos

The year in the life of a preemie – and his parents

The year in the life of a preemie - and his parents

I got chills within seconds of watching the video above, which chronicles a baby’s 107-day journey from the NICU home, and beyond. (At the moment when the mom holds her son for the first time and closes her eyes in relief/elation/exhaustion/sadness, the tears came for me, too.) Ward Miles Miller was born weighing just 1.5 pounds, and his father filmed and produced this video of the first year of Ward’s life “as a love letter to his wife and son.” Ben Miller told USA Today, “I just wanted Lyndsey to have a really cool film she could watch of her and her son. I knew all the tender moments really meant a lot to her, and that a lot of people would relate.” Indeed, many people have related, with the video going viral and parents of preemies contacting Ben and thanking him “for giving them a tool to show others what their stay at the NICU was like.” There are close to 3,000 comments on YouTube already.

Previously: NICU trauma intervention shown to benefit mothers of preemies, Using the iPad to connect ill newborns, parents, The emotional struggles of parents of preemies and PTSD a problem among some parents of ill children

Chronic Disease, Parenting, Pediatrics, Stanford News

Tips for parents on recognizing and responding to type 1 diabetes

Tips for parents on recognizing and responding to type 1 diabetes

Talking ToAn estimated 15,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, and Jen Block, FNP, CDE, a family nurse practitioner at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, is among those who cares for patients and educates families dealing with the disease. In a new Q&A, Block, who has diabetes herself, provides tips for parents on such things as how to spot warning signs in a child and what to look for in an endocrinologist.

Additionally, she offers this advice for adults on modeling behavior to encourage a positive outlook for a child who has diabetes:

Young children view the disease through the lens of the parents and the health-care providers they interact with. If they are scared, then the child will be too. Emphasize to children that they can still live the life they want, even if they have diabetes. In fact, to build my patients’ confidence I tell them that in many ways they are stronger and braver because they are taking on the tasks their body did without intervention prior to the diabetes diagnosis.

In addition, it is important to meet other patient families with diabetes so that there is a network of support. Managing diabetes well can be done as long as a family has the tools and the support that they need.

Previously: Can a series of DNA vaccine shots halt type-1 diabetes progression?Screening for type-1 diabetes trials goes online and Researchers struggle to explain rise of Type 1 diabetes 
Photo by nateOne

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