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Published in Print: September 20, 2000, as Health Update

Health Update

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Concussions More Likely Second Time Around: High school and college football players who suffer concussions are three times more likely than other football players to suffer concussions later in the same season, concludes a study from the University of North Carolina.

The highest incidences of injury were at the high school and Division III college levels, according to the study's lead researcher, Kevin M. Guskiewicz. Division III institutions tend to be smaller than other National Collegiate Athletic Association colleges.

The study, published in the September-October issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, suggests that the brain is more susceptible to injury when it has not had enough time to recover from a first injury.

"We believe recurrences are more likely because injured players are returning to practice and to games too quickly after blows to the head," said Mr. Guskiewicz, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science at the university's Chapel Hill campus.

"Many clinicians are not following the medical guidelines that players should be symptom-free for several days before returning," he added.

Researchers spent three years surveying certified athletic trainers who worked with high school and college football teams. More than 17,500 players were represented in the study. About 5 percent suffered concussions each year. Nearly 31 percent of athletes with concussions began playing again the same day they were injured, the study found.

Female Athletes: The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning to pediatricians, coaches, and parents to watch for eating disorders, delayed menstrual periods, and osteoporosis in female athletes. Nevertheless, the academy stresses that exercise is good and should be promoted for girls for health and enjoyment.

Some female athletes may experience a loss of energy from inadequate food intake because of training demands or an attempt to lose weight or body fat to improve performance, the physicians' group says.

Girls participating in activities that emphasize leanness—ballet, gymnastics, long- distance running, diving, and figure skating—are most at risk, according to the academy.

One potential health problem, for example, is the disruption of the production of sex hormones or delayed menstrual periods, which can result in low estrogen levels.

Because estrogen helps maintain bone density, low levels can make female athletes more at risk for stress fractures and the development of osteoporosis as they get older.

The academy recommends that education and counseling be provided to athletes, parents, and coaches. It also urges coaches and athletes not to define an ideal weight or level of body fat.

Effects of Toxins: One in 200 children in the United States suffers from developmental or neurological disabilities caused by exposure to a range of toxic substances, a new study concludes.

In the report, "Polluting Our Future: Chemical Pollution in the U.S. That Affects Child Development and Learning," researchers estimate that about 24 billion pounds of developmental and neurological toxins are released into the environment each year.

Louisiana and Texas lead the nation as the first and second biggest emitters of such toxins, the report says.

A number of scientists believe that such toxins are partly responsible for the increased incidence of a variety of physical and mental defects in children. They cite, for example, a 6 percent increase in the number of low-birthweight babies and a probable increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The study, sponsored by the National Environmental Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Learning Disabilities Association of America, is available on the Web at http://environ

Self-Esteem: African-American teenage boys whose parents are unmarried are at greater risk for developing low self-esteem than their peers whose parents are married, a study says.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, examined the effects of marital status, family income, and family functioning—described as cohesiveness and family interaction—on African-American adolescents' self- esteem.

A sample of 116 adolescents was asked to fill out questionnaires focusing on such issues as competence, lovability, moral self-approval, and personal power.

The researchers found that boys with married parents had higher overall self-esteem than boys whose parents weren't married, even when the study controlled for family income and family functioning.

Parents' marital status had no effect on girls' self-esteem. "Boys are sensitive to family structure," said Carolyn B. Murray, a co-author of the the study, which was published in the September issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. "Girls were more sensitive to family functioning."

Studies have shown that self-esteem is crucially related to measures of well-being for African-Americans, the report says. "Low self-esteem can lead to all sorts of negative outcomes," Ms. Murray said.

The problem has been linked to suppressed anger, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression.

Childhood Obesity: Fewer than half the parents questioned in a recent survey believe schools are doing a "good" or "excellent" job of teaching lifestyle patterns to prevent obesity.

The American Obesity Association surveyed more than 1,000 parents of children ages 6 to 17 nationwide and found that about 80 percent of them did not want physical education classes in their children's schools to be cut back in favor of academic classes. Almost 30 percent of the parents said they were "somewhat" or "very" concerned about their children's weight. The number of overweight children has doubled in the United States in the past 30 years. The survey is available by calling (202) 776-7711.

Short Takes:

Concern for others: "The Development of Concern for Others in Children With Behavior Problems." Aggressive and disruptive children can show concern for others' welfare at an early age, but those traits tend to diminish when they get into early elementary school. Developmental Psychology, September issue.

Children's misbehavior: "Discipline Responses: Influences of Parents' Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, Beliefs About Parenting, Stress, and Cognitive Emotional Process." Low-income parents tend to endorse much harsher discipline. Web site: .

Marijuana use: "Cannibis Youth Treatment Experiment: Preliminary Findings." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlines five treatment protocols that have proved to be effective in combating teenage marijuana use. Web site: l/sept00/3.htm.

Hunger: "Household Food Security in the United States, 1999." Nearly 8 million people—over a third of them children— lived in families that experienced hunger last year. Web site: http://www.ers.usda. gov/epubs/pdf/fanrr8/.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 3, Page 10

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