NFL Players May Have Altered Brain Development, and Other News

Football players ready to tackle each otherMedical providers have long raised concerns about how the repeated head trauma football players experience affects their brains.

A large class action lawsuit gave rise to a settlement agreement that offers former NFL players baseline medical exams, education programs and initiatives related to football safety, and monetary awards for players who are diagnosed with ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, and certain cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. Former players and their families do not have to prove that injuries or diagnoses were caused by playing in the NFL to receive money from the settlement.

Head trauma may not be the only thing to change the brain, though. A study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma suggests NFL players who played tackle football prior to age 12 have an increased risk of altered brain development.

Researchers tracked 40 former NFL players aged 40 to 65, each with more than 12 years of participation in organized football and at least two years in the NFL. Half of the group began playing organized football prior to age 12, and the other half began after age 12. Researchers used diffuser tensing imaging (DTI), a type of MRI that looks at how water molecules move through the brain’s white matter. The brain uses white matter tracts to relay commands and information to the rest of the body.

Players who began playing before age 12 were more likely to have changes in white matter pathways in the corpus callosum, a structure that connects the brain’s left and right hemispheres. The study’s authors say there is mounting evidence that the brain undergoes a critical window of development between ages 10 and 12. During this time, the brain may be more vulnerable to injuries, so repeated head traumas may change the way the brain develops.

Because the researchers only studied 40 former professional players, they emphasize that the results cannot be generalized to non-professional former players, and more research is necessary to replicate these results.

Study Shows Why We Shouldn’t Underestimate Value of Phone-Based Therapy for Seniors in Underserved Rural Communities

A Wake Forest University study suggests that phone therapy might be a viable alternative to traditional in-person therapy for seniors living in rural areas. Researchers studied 141 people who were at least 60 years old, living in rural counties of North Carolina, and experiencing symptoms related to anxiety. The participants received 11 phone therapy sessions each. Half of them received intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that focused on skills for managing stress and anxiety, while the other half received less intensive therapy that offered support, but no advice on developing coping skills. The mental health of both groups improved, but the improvements were greater among the group that received cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Don’t Hit Send: Angry Emails Just Make You Angrier

Venting can be easy in today’s digital world, as some people feel safe venting from behind a screen. However, venting online or via email can be risky. Anything created on the Internet exists forever and can cause problems at work or school. In some studies, people have reported feeling better after venting their emotions, but researchers find they actually become more likely to be angry and aggressive. In one study on venting, 600 college students wrote an essay and received negative feedback from a partner. The students then divided into three groups. A “rumination” group hit a punching bag while thinking about the person who graded the essay, while the “distraction” group hit the punching bag while thinking about becoming physically fit. A third “control” group did nothing. Students in the rumination group were the angriest and most aggressive, suggesting that fixating on the problem—even while pursuing an outlet for aggression—may make things worse.

How Many Scientists Does it Take to Write a Paper? Apparently, Thousands

Scientific papers are listing more authors than ever before. One physicist, Georges Aad, was listed as the lead author on 458 scientific papers in less than a decade. Dr. Aad’s scientific renown may be due to his last name’s likelihood to be the leader in an alphabetical list. Many papers by “G. Aad et al.” involve so many scientists and researchers that they decided to list themselves alphabetically. In one study led by Dr. Aad, 5,154 other authors were listed. Though complicated experiments that require many experts may explain the steady rise in authors, a culture in which scientists face increased pressure to get their names on papers may also play a role. And when thousands of scientists are listed on a paper, responsibility for who did what can be elusive.

Science-Backed Brain Game Eases Distraction, Anxiety

With many ineffective “brain-training” games on the market, a more streamlined game that encourages participants to identify shapes may be all that is necessary to ease distraction and anxiety. College students who reported feeling various levels of anxiety were asked to complete a focus task of identifying a specific shape in a series, which improved concentration and lessened anxiety for most of the participants. Even when they were assigned another task designed to distract them (mixing in different colored shapes), the focus task kept anxiety levels low.

At Dutch Euthanasia Clinic, Requests From People ‘Tired of Living’

In the Netherlands and Belgium, where physician-assisted suicide is legal and socially acceptable, some people seek euthanasia because they are “tired of living.” At one clinic that specializes in assisting people who meet the legal requirements for euthanasia—but whose own doctors refused to help them—a third of the requests came from people who said they were tired of life.

How Does Religion Affect the Well-Being of Cancer Patients?

Sixty-nine percent of cancer patients pray for better health, compared to just 45% of the general population in the United States, according to a survey on the subject. Researchers interested in how religion and spirituality might affect people who are cancer patients reviewed all major studies on the topic, gathering data on a total of 44,000 patients. They found that people in the study who reported stronger religious beliefs also reported greater physical well-being and ability to complete daily tasks. Among those who reported having a strong emotional connection to their religion, the association was even stronger. Researchers also found that spiritual well-being could ease anxiety and stress, while positively impacting the physical, mental, and social wellness of cancer patients.

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  • Cason

    Cason

    August 14th, 2015 at 6:34 PM

    note to me- tennis looks like a good sports option for the kids, maybe not football so much

  • claudia

    claudia

    August 15th, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Just type out a draft of the email that you know you would like to send… but just keep it as a draft and never hit send. I am serious, just writing it out makes me feel so much better.

  • Reed

    Reed

    August 16th, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    For someone who needs to be in therapy and there is no access to anything except over the phone, then I am all for it. I think that the therapy relationship can be helped by developing a face to face relationship but there are going to be times specially with an elderly or even rural population that just will not make it possible so doing the meetings over the phone may be the only solution. I am all for offering help to others in whatever venue is going to reach them as well as be beneficial to them.

  • barbara d

    barbara d

    August 17th, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Belief in a higher power, and prayer, wow, those are the two things that are always in my heart, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these beliefs and this faith have gotten me through a lot of terrible things in my life. I am not sure that I would have ever made it this far without having this foundation to stand upon.

  • Tim

    Tim

    August 17th, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    I think that I can somewhat understand the need for so many people to be involved and to help with the writing with certain research projects but at the same time it almost seems that this would open the way to a lot more ,mistakes being made and no one being able to see it because of too many hands stirring the pot so to speak.

  • shannon c

    shannon c

    August 18th, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    I am pretty sure that tired of living should qualify for being able to choose to enact euthanasia. We all get tired of things in life now and again, but there is always tomorrow to look forward to

  • Swinn

    Swinn

    August 20th, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    The NFL has GOT to get a handle on this problem if they think that parents are going to continue to allow their young children to be involved in this game.

  • leah

    leah

    August 20th, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Really, the concept of phone therapy shouldn’t be marginalized for any segment of the population. This is something that many people could use and benefit from. Sure, it may not be traditional, but maybe it could become the new thing.

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