In Your Corner: June 2012
Woo We! It took a bit to get here, but summer is finally here and in full swing! Don’t forget to check out this month’s edition of In Your Corner to help fight the heat, the sun, and get a sneak peak of our new column, the Cornerstone Difference! Happy Monday!
(Not so) Dumb Jock
Springtime is our family’s busiest time of year when it comes to sports and extracurricular activities. You might have noticed many of our recent posts have touched on various aspects of sports and exercise. Today’s post is about how a generalization we’ve all heard, “dumb jock”, may not be so, well…smart!
A recent study out of Sweden looked at how athletes versus non-athletes did on standardized testing of cognitive function. They looked at how elite soccer players, and “regular” soccer players, compared with standardized normals. They found that both groups of players performed significantly better than average on the tests of executive function, and further that the elite players outperformed than the “regular” players. The study went on to show a correlation between players doing well on the cognitive testing, and having an increased likelihood of scoring more goals and assists during a subsequent season!
Hmm, maybe “Sports Nerd” would be a little more accurate…!
To read more about this study, click here:
Homework can be a real pain in the…
…back! Literally, at least according to a study published yesterday about schoolchildren’s backpacks and back pain. The researchers looked at more than 1400 adolescents, the weight of their backpacks, and the incidence of back pain. Having lifted my own children’s backpacks, I was not entirely surprised by the results, but they are nonetheless concerning.
The average weight of the backpacks was more than 15 lbs! And more than half of the children carried backpacks that weighed more than 10% of their own body weight. One quarter of the children reported having back pain that lasted >15 days in the past year, and the students who carried the heaviest backpacks had a 50% greater likelihood of having back pain than the students with the lightest. The risks were higher in girls than boys, and increased as the children got older.
Anyone who has had an episode of significant back pain knows that it’s no laughing matter. If most of the weight of the backpacks was books and related school supplies, perhaps the growing preponderance of e-books and web-based homework will help prevent an epidemic of teenage back pain.
Fast or Curvey… Either Way, Just Keep Count!
Spring is the start of baseball for many young athletes and so we thought a recent study from Athletic Training and Sports Health Care was relevant. This study looked at both little league and high school players and made some useful points. Previous studies have already shown that high pitch counts lead to more elbow and shoulder injuries. It is thought that as children and their arms tire, poor form results, and leads to more arm, elbow, and shoulder injuries. As a result many leagues limit the number of pitches kids can pitch each game. This new study found that kids who play baseball in multiple leagues (i.e. local and travel leagues) seem to have more arm injuries–including more surgeries–even if they adhere to pitch count limitations in individual games. They point out that total pitch count limitations need to take into account pitches thrown in every league in which a child is playing.
Not all Fat is Created Equal
Ever wondered why it sometimes seems that thin, fit people don’t have to watch what they eat as much and are better able to keep exercising? This month Harvard & Dana Farber researchers report on a newly discovered hormone, Irisin, that may play a role in this seemingly unfair phenomenon. Irisin, created when people exercise, seems to turn white fat cells into brown fat cells. White fat? Brown fat? What difference does it make–fat is fat, right? Actually no, not all fat is created equal.
White fat just stores calories, whereas brown fat actually burns calories. We used to think that only babies had brown fat. It was thought that they used it to help keep themselves warm until they were old enough to move around and generate their own heat, and then-no longer needing the brown fat’s heat-the brown fat was replaced by white fat. In 2009 we learned that some adults still seem to have some brown fat, but we didn’t know how or why. This new study seems to have revealed one possible mechanism. In brief, exercising muscles release a hormone called PGC1-alpha which in turn leads to the creation of Irisin. Irisin then travels to white fat and seems to signal the white fat to become brown.
Now these guys aren’t the only reasons fit people are more toned than sedentary individuals, but the study does demonstrate that the more you exercise, the more of these hormones you release, and the more brown fat you develop – ergo, burning calories for you and increasing your metabolism!
You can read more in this NY Times article.
Tackling Obesity: Contrasting Approaches to Moving Forward
Georgia’s new campaign to stop childhood obesity, “Strong4Life” has caused a fair amount of controversy with it’s high “shock value” videos about the problem. Here is one of the Strong4Life videos as well as another, more education-focused video about childhood obesity. Check them both out and see what you think. Is one approach better than the other? Is there a need for both?
New Year’s Resolutions – Make Them Stick
We all enjoy creating our own New Year’s Resolution and churning it out at the start of every New Year. Here is a quick slideshow and a couple tips to keep some of the more common promises we make to ourselves.
I wonder if that big sack of toys ever sets off Santa’s back…
I had a conversation with a patient recently who has had a few episodes of low back pain, and wondered what to do about it. This patient drives a sleigh for a living and didn’t want to take an oral pain medication or “muscle relaxer” on a regular basis, and wondered if there are other things that could be done.
(Okay, just kidding about the sleigh!)
After a careful neuro-muscular exam, we discussed the many different treatment options that exist for this challenging problem besides oral medications. Today I thought I’d share two recent studies that highlight 2 of those options. The first looked at both yoga and traditional stretching and the second at yoga alone, and each compared these modalities to a more conventional approach. In the first both yoga and more traditional stretching resulted in less pain and better function. In the second, the yoga group of patients had significant improvements in function at the end of a 12 week period.
So, if you or a loved one struggle with chronic recurrent back pain, try to incorporate a regular stretching regimen (yoga or traditional) into your daily routine. Or maybe Santa will leave a gift certificate for a yoga session under the tree this year!
Obesity & Children: the Good News and the Bad News
Bad news first?
Okay, the bad news is that children who are overweight and obese and stay that way into adulthood, have a much greater risk of developing some serious problems. This risk ranges from about double the chance of having abnormal cholesterol levels to more than five times the chance of developing diabetes.
The good news is pretty good though. According to an article released today in the New England Journal of Medicine, if those children become nonobese–in other words, if they loose the excess weight–by the time they become adults, their risk for these problems goes back down. In fact, it seems to go back to the same risk as people who were never overweight or obese as children.
So, it’s never to late to encourage our kids to start exercising and eating well!
Hovering Parents = Less Active Children
As the level of obesity rises with adults, it also rises with children. A main reason for this is decreased activity. And while parents continue to take their children to parks, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine released a study earlier this month showing that when parents “hover” over their playing children, their children tend to play less actively versus children whose parents stand back and just “let them go.” We do not want to see any harm come to our children, but as we stand on the sidelines and holler, “Not too high!” or “Careful; not so fast!” our children focus more on what not to do instead of just running around and having fun. Of course don’t let your children get into dangerous predicaments, but the more leeway you give them to run around without worrying about getting a bump or bruise, the more apt they are to be more active and the less likely they’ll become overweight.