Danger of Concussions Again in News with Suicide of Ray Easterling

The issue of sports and concussions has just reared its ugly head again, as former football star Ray Easterling took his own life. Suffering from depression for years, the 62 year old went so far as to sue the NFL. In August, he joined with six other players to sue the NFL for failing to properly treat players for concussions and for trying to conceal for decades the links between football and brain injury.Ray Easterling

As far back as twenty years ago, Ray started to show signs of brain damage and to experience depression and insomnia. Just in the last year, the suicides of other famous sportsmen have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated blows to the head.  It typically leads to depression and anger, but one of the tricky things about the condition is that it can’t be diagnosed until a post-mortem exam is done.  Chicago Bear star Dave Duerson was found to have this condition after dying in February 2011.

The life-altering and extremely damaging condition is often referred to as “punch drunk syndrome” and it has been seen in boxers, combat veterans, ice-hockey players and other athletes.

Mrs. Easterling said that she plans to continue her suit against the NFL and force them to set up a fund for injured players and to educate them about the risks. As she said, “Half the time the player puts themselves back in the game, and they don’t know what kind of impact it has.”

The impact of concussions has also been widely discussed in high school and college circles, and legislation has been created to curtail these issues. Thirty two states, at this point, have laws that address student-athlete concussions according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Senator Ralph Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist and the primary sponsor of legislation that recently passed in Virginia, said that schools need more consistent guidelines on the evaluation of athletes after a concussion.

Most legislation says that an athlete must leave the competition when a concussion occurs or is suspected and that they can only return to play when a doctor or other medical professional deems them ready.

Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late for athletes like Ray Easterling.  Hopefully, however, tragedies of this sort will help to make the public more aware and to increase the checks and balances systems for athletes and soldiers.

Get Up And Move Says New Study

In a shocking new study, researchers at the University of Sydney have found that people who sit for 11 hours a day or more increase their chances of dying within three years!  Even more surprising, this takes into account the physical activity and weight – and they found that even those who are physically active during the rest of their day are still at high risk for dying. The research was commissioned by the Cardiovascular Research Network and it was supported by the NSW Division of the National Heart Foundation Australia.

As Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, the lead of the study said,

“These results have important public health implications. That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it's also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more.”

Obviously – activity does matter. The study found that people who sat the most did double their risk of dying within three years over those who were active.

Statistics show that the typical adult sits for 90% of their leisure time; similarly, less than 50% of adults engage in physical activities at the level recommended by the World Health Organization.

 As Heart Foundation CEO Tony Thirlwell reported,

“Watching TV, using computers and electronic games can involve sitting for long periods and have become a big part of leisure time. But we know that people who spend less time on these things have better health than those who spend too much time on them.”

DARPA Cheetah Breaks Record

It looks like a futuristic toy that one might see in a movie. But it’s actually real. The Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently developed a robot that can run up to 18 mph.  While 18 mph may not sound like a dazzling amount, it is 5 mph faster than the previous record set in 1989, and it is significantly faster than the average jogger.

The news release on DARPA’s website says,

"The robot's movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does."

The video here shows the “cheetah” robot running on a laboratory treadmill powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and using a boom-like device to keep it running on the treadmill.  DARPA says that it will test a free-running prototype later this year.


Certainly, the DARPA M3 performer for Cheetah could have many military uses for emergency response, firefighting, advanced agriculture and more.  DARPA has not yet revealed the intended use for this prototype.


Giving Up Gluten?

What is gluten?  According to Dr. Sheila Crowe, Director of Research in the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of California, San Diego, it is a protein that is found in wheat.  Rye and barley have similar types of protein but they are not the same. 

The Rich and Famous Are Doing It

It appears that going off gluten is becoming popular with the stars as well. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow is not eating gluten which means she is avoiding pasta, bread, cookies and more.  It is often surprising to people just how often gluten appears in food – such as a huge variety of condiments. 

While some swear that avoiding this protein is great for your waistline since it is said to cause hormonal imbalances and thus increase cravings, others dismiss the notion.  Besides, cutting gluten out of the diet runs the risk of causing other deficiencies as well.

Who Should Go Gluten-Free?

For sure if one is diagnosed as a celiac they immediately have to remove all traces of gluten from their diet.  Otherwise it is treated as a toxin and the body goes into attack mode, damaging the small intestine which can cause nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain, as well as headaches, neurological problems and skin rashes.  Currently about 1 percent of people are affected by this disease but since statistics show that rates are doubling every 15 years, it is definitely a matter that needs to be understood on a deeper level.  The reason that has been given for this epidemic is the new grains that are being grown in America which are richer in gluten.

Who Should Stay with Gluten?

If your physician has done tests to rule out gluten sensitivity and celiac, you shouldn’t give up gluten as you could miss out – unnecessarily – on vital nutrients like Vitamin B, fiber, iron and zinc. For those who want to lose weight, quitting gluten is not the answer as there has been no scientific evidence to prove that it helps.

17 ½ Hour Old Has Open Heart Surgery

The youngest baby to ever have open heart surgery was a mere 17-and-a-half hours old. The surgery took place a few months ago at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, UK where parents Jo and James were warned their newborn baby daughter only had a 15 percent chance of survival. Beating the odds however, it now appears baby Jasmine Carr will be home by April 2012.

Baby Jasmine needed the surgery as, at a 20-week scan, it was found that she had hypoplastic left heart syndrome.  This is when one side of the heart doesn’t develop properly, so, at 37 weeks, they induced labor and Jasmine weighed in at 5 lb 13 oz with a heart that was only the size of a walnut.  During the 11-hour surgery, Dr. Asif Hasan re-plumbed the heart so that the right side could do the work of the left.  The day after, Jasmine suffered a cardiac arrest and for three months thereafter, was confined to intensive care.  But then, in mid-December, she moved to a high dependency ward and now doctors are confident she will make a complete recovery.

She has now undergone further surgery in order to widen an artery.  In the next few months, it is hoped – and expected – she will be able to go home.  Jasmine breaks records since the youngest baby before her to undergo this surgery was 36-hour-old Rudy Maxwell-Jones who was operated on in July 2011.

What Else Are We Missing in Life?

A crazy story is told of a man playing the violin at a Washington DC metro station.  If it is true, it shows just how caught up society has become in appearances and how, as a result, we could be missing out on so much in life. 

Anyway, the man played the violin for around 45 minutes, covering six pieces of Bach.  Thousands of people passed him (it was rush hour), probably on their way to work.  A man did notice him playing, paused a few seconds, but then carried on his rush to wherever he was going. One woman threw in a dollar without stopping. Someone else did stop to listen, but then, on seeing the time on his watch, started up his pace again.

It was a three-year-old boy who paid the man the most attention.  His mother was trying to hurry him along but the kid was really interested in the violin player. Finally the mother pulled so hard he had no choice but to go along with her, but not without turning his head back so he could keep watching the man.  Other kids then started to do the same; but all the parents pulled them along regardless.

During the time the man played, only six individuals stopped and stayed for a while.  Around 20 gave him money but didn’t take any notice of him (he collected $32).  When he finished playing, there was no applause or recognition of his music.

But why should there be?  It was only one of the world’s top musicians – Joshua Bell – who had been playing the violin for free in the  metro station, including a rendition of  one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.  A mere two days earlier he played in a theater that was sold out for seats that sold at an average of $100 per piece.

This experiment was conducted by the Washington Post as part of a project on perception, taste and priorities of people. The question being addressed was: “in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?”

After this we really need to ask ourselves, what else are we missing?