Study: More Brain-Disease Deaths Among NFL Players
Former NFL players are more likely to die of neurological disorders than other men. That's according to a new study of more than 3,400 retired pros who played for at least five years between 1959 and 1988. The players were three times as likely as the general population to die from a disease like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or Lou Gehrig's, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The research suggests that concussions and repeated blows to the head are likely to blame for the increased risk, though more research is needed to draw any conclusions. "Right now, we need to be able to test for neurological problems and treat them—once you get to the point of having a full-blown disease, there's not a whole lot we can do," researcher Everett Lehman told U.S. News. "The idea is to intervene much earlier on." The NFL announced Wednesday that it's donating $30 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for brain injury research.
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Rolfing: No Longer a Fringe Therapy
After eight years with the Philadelphia Orchestra, C.J. Chang, the principal viola, says he "couldn't really play more than 10 minutes without severe pain." Doctors diagnosed an overgrown muscle in his right hand, but neither massage nor ultrasound provided relief. A colleague recommended that Chang try an alternative therapy known as Rolfing. After the fifth or sixth treatment, Chang says, he felt his "whole hand just freeing" and was able to resume his career.
Rolfing Structural Integration was developed in the 1930s by Ida P. Rolf, a biochemist from New York, after she was diagnosed with spinal arthritis. Rolf focused on the role of the fascia, a form of connective tissue that envelops different muscle groups, allowing them to move freely in relation to each other and often across several joints. When an injury occurs, she theorized, the fascia tightens around that injury, somewhat like a cast or band-aid. Even after the injury heals, the fascia stays in that rigid position, often causing chronic pain and discomfort. Structural Integration is a form of deep tissue massage that stretches and opens the fascia, correcting misalignment and restoring balance throughout the whole body. Actor Christopher Reeve was treated around his lungs to allow him to breathe without his ventilator. Figure skater Michelle Kwan has used the therapy to gain a competitive edge, help with her balance, and recover from injuries more quickly.
While many schools around the world teach Structural Integration, only the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colo., is accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. As of April, the United States alone had approximately 1,000 certified Rolfers. And this number is likely to continue expanding.
Long ignored as a fringe therapy, Structural Integration, which consists of 10 weekly sessions of 60 to 90 minutes, has recently been getting serious attention from researchers. The National Institutes of Health provided a grant for the First International Fascia Research Congress in 2007, which brought together therapists, scientists, and doctors. [Read more: Rolfing: No Longer a Fringe Therapy]
Tending Your Inner Ecosystem
Most people give little thought to the teeming, diverse, and industrious community of bacteria that reside in their intestines. But each of us hosts an entire ecosystem of microscopic organisms—often referred to as "microflora," or "gut flora"—whose existence has evolved with humankind for millennia. To give you a sense of just how large and diverse this population is, consider these fun flora facts: our colons are home to bacteria from at least 400 different species (and possibly many more), with each gram of content hosting up to one trillion individual bacteria. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of our stool is actually comprised of dead bacteria! And how's this for mind-blowing: You carry around more bacterial DNA than your own human DNA, writes U.S. News blogger Tamara Duker Freuman.
The more squeamish among us may prefer to ignore their unwitting role as landlord to this invisible community. But do so at your own risk! These friendly bacteria have important roles in metabolizing our food, producing vitamins, and protecting us from infectious overgrowth of harmful yeast and disease-causing bacteria. Beyond these established roles, there is a growing body of research investigating associations between the health of one's gut flora and the health of one's body.
Although the implications of this emerging research remain controversial, it has been noted that people with normal digestive function tend to have a different profile of gut flora than people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and obese people may have gut flora skewed toward different classes of bacteria than those at a normal weight. It has also been observed that infants given antibiotics in their first six months of life have a greater risk of obesity later in childhood, and those given antibiotics in their first year may have an increased risk of asthma. While these associations most certainly do not imply causation, there does seem to be growing consensus in the research community that our gut flora play a role in health that is far wider-reaching than once presumed. [Read more: Tending Your Inner Ecosystem]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.