Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Heads Up: Be the First Responder! Your Turn to Talk

It has become clear to many of us that lots of head injuries and concussions go undiagnosed.  There are a number of reasons for this:
  • Athletes want to stay in the game.  
  • Denial is a powerful tool.  
  • Concussions impair judgment even when our best interests are at stake.  
  • The signs can be subtle.  
  • Players often think a headache after a soccer game is a normal part of the game and "suck it up." 
  •  Or the camp counsellor might think "Of course she needs to take a nap today, she fell out of her bunk last night."

In order to better understand what a concussion actually feels like, I am hoping to tap into the collective intelligence of my readers and their friends in order to "crowd source" this information.  I want to know what it felt like to have a concussion; what people around said and did, including coaches, parents, teachers and medical providers.  I want to hear what part of your head hurt and what else you experienced.  

This Questionnaire has already gone out through friends and family and is coming back to me with some astounding detail.  This will help all of us who work as health care providers and in schools to better understand the first minutes, hours and days of head injuries and how and why we need to respond to our children, athletes, and patients.  Please take a moment to look at the Concussion Query here.  It need only take a few minutes to respond. Or you may find yourself pausing to recollect some very interesting and powerful memories.  I will use all information anonymously.  

If you have never had experience with a head injury but know someone who might have,  please send this on.  For my research I am particularly (but  not exclusively) interested in hearing from more girls and young women, younger children, and non-athletes.  Stupid stuff is fine, too.  One student concussed by "merely" hitting his head on the upper locker door!

Many thanks!  Pass it on!

image from prevention.com via Googleimages

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Girls Got you Confused?

The HBO series "Girls",  that is.  And about HPV, that is.

The show has been criticized and is gaining traction but let's hope for the right reasons. The New York Times Blog Well recently discussed the criticism aimed at the show for portraying misinformation about human papillomavirus and the vaccine, Pap smears, HPV testing, cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections in general and the character Hannah in particular.

Let's be real:television is supposed to entertain and not always be a vehicle for education.  But, it does no service to these four college graduates or their alma maters or the qualities of their educations (in class or out) or to the depth and value of sex education (whether in class or self taught) when there is so much misinformation about HPV thrown around.

HPV is confusing.  But there are a few simple things to remember.  Here:

1. HPV is almost ubiquitous.

2. You are almost as likely to "catch" it as you are to "catch" the common cold once you become "sexual" .  "Sexual" includes outercourse: touching, fingering, blowjobs, playing the bases, mutual masturbation....you get the idea. 

3. There are over 100 strains of HPV. Most of them will come and go, leaving no trace, like the common cold virus.

4. The vaccine was designed to protect against only 4 specific strains of the virus. These are the ones most likely to cause genital warts, cervical cancer, and anal and oral cancers.  The bad guys.  Most of them anyway.

5. The vaccine is extremely good at what it does. And extremely safe.  Yeah, it DOES hurt for about thirty seconds when it is given (in the arm, by the way).

6. If you are under 26, it is not too late to get the vaccine even if you are already sexually active, have had an abnormal Pap smear, or have lost track of when you had the first shot and forgot to followup .

7. And BY ALL MEANS you should have the shot if you are MALE.  No, you can't get cervical cancer, but you can give the virus that causes it. Easily.

Finally, find yourself a reliable health care provider who can communicate with you and give you good information.  Also check out Youngwomenshealth.org and GoAskAlice.com for answers to many questions related to HPV and sexuality.

image from collegecandy.com via Googleimages

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do You Hold the Heads of our Youth on Yours?

image from performancetrainingsystems.net

My inbox was crowded with more compelling stories of concussions in sports.  On the one hand Junior Seau's dramatic suicide (the 44 year old NFL legend shot himself in the chest, some say thus preserving his brain for pathologic examination for evidence of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy) inspired analogies of the sport of football with bullfighting and gladiators. The cover story of The Week (above) posed the obvious question. 

On the other hand, Kate Snow and Brian Williams produced an almost unbelievable report about a suburban soccer team where a majority of the girls are allowed to play almost daily with headaches and injuries and handicaps that most certainly will affect their lives forever. 

We can no longer ignore the scientific and public health data that has been streaming out of academic centers and the media but somehow is falling on resistant and deaf ears when it comes to players, coaches, parents, and even health care providers who certainly should know better by now.     Even when confronted by Kate Snow (who claims to be a soccer mom and sympathetic to the game) some of the parents are reluctant to pull their daughters from the sport.  This in the face of dramatic symptoms that virtually scream concussion and post concussion syndrome.

As a school physician in a relatively tightly knit community we see students who are removed from play due to a reported head injury at school but who are known to be allowed to play over the weekend on their travel teams.  Of course, we beg the deeper questions of excessive involvement in a uni-dimensional activity at this age, but more importantly and germane to this discussion is the issue of the lack of responsibility on the part of everyone from the player on up.

Parents, rec leagues, coaches and volunteers should be held to a much higher standard when it comes to concussion.  I would suggest that at a minimum every coach and parent start by taking the free online course offered by the CDC before they take on the responsibility for  the well-being, physical and mental health of these young athletes. 

This is only a place to begin.  Once more people are educated about the risks, a more reasonable conversation can begin about changing sports, rules, practices, regulations and our relationships to them.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Paper Towel Man

Here's an easy way to save paper.  And a fun, quick You Tube video to share with friends and family.  Dressed in a suitably green sweater, Joe Smith, an environmental activist from Oregon regales us in this four minute TED talk with his simple technique for drying our hands with a paper towel (just ONE!) so that we can potentially save over 571 million pounds of paper each year.

The trick is to properly wash, then to shake the water off twelve (he explains why he chooses the number twelve) times, then to fold just one piece of paper towel in half and pat the hands dry.  Although the talk begins in an appropriately dry manner, it crescendos to a humorous ending, is worth the investment and will probably change the way you dry your hands henceforth.