Health Buzz: Repetitive On-Field Hits Linked to Brain Damage

14 HIV/AIDS beliefs--which ones are true? Plus, is dairy healthy or not?

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Further Evidence That Repetitive Head Traumas May Lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

A new study adds to evidence that each of those tackles on the football field and checks on the ice rink may lead to something more. Boston University researchers analyzed the brains of 85 donors, most of whom were professional athletes who had experienced repetitive mild traumatic brain injury. Sixty-eight of the brains showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is associated with aggression and depression and, as it advances, can lead to dementia, abnormalities in gait and speech, and parkinsonism. Of the 68 brains that showed evidence of the disease, 50 once belonged to football players, including 33 who played in the National Football League. The brains of hockey players, boxers and one wrestler also developed CTE, as well as those of four participants who had no history of contact sports. Three of those four were veterans, and one displayed self-injuring head-banging behavior.

This study, published today in the journal Brain, may be concerning to parents of young athletes who are at risk for experiencing repetitive head trauma. If a kid takes a brutal hit on the pitch, look for a few tell-tale concussion indicators, such as confusion, clumsiness, trouble concentrating, as well as nausea, dizziness, or vomiting. If he does indeed have a concussion, seek medical attention and give the athlete plenty of time to recover before playing again.

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  • 14 HIV/AIDS Beliefs—Which Ones Are True?

    As if waging war against an incurable virus that plagues 33 million people globally weren't enough, researchers, doctors, and public health officials continued to battle yet another elusive problem on World Aids Day Saturday: misinformation.

    "It really does obstruct the fight," says Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research at amfAR, a nonprofit that funds HIV/AIDS research. Broaching topics like sex and drug use­­—the major vehicles for transmission—is "taboo" for many, she says, "so a challenge certainly is getting people to talk openly and honestly about what HIV is and isn't." And part of a candid conversation should be devoted to debunking the myths many have come to believe, including the following:

    1. If I had HIV, I would know: Not the case, says Kimberley Hagen, assistant director for the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University in Atlanta. About 1.1 million people in the United States are HIV-positive, and as many as 1 in 5 don't know it, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them feel perfectly healthy. And those who have symptoms may confuse them with run-of-the-mill flu. Denial also plays a role, say experts. "There is a universal tendency with HIV," says Hagen, to try to say, " 'This is something that will affect someone else and not me.' And so you say that you can't get it doing the things that you do—you can only get it doing the things that other people do. That may be the biggest myth." [Read more: 14 HIV/AIDS Beliefs—Which Ones Are True?]

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    • Is Dairy Healthy or Not?

      Few nutrition topics are in a more constant state of froth than the place of dairy in a healthful diet, writes U.S. News blogger David Katz. And that's really saying something, because nutrition topics in general are pretty frothy.

      I have made my case now, more than once, that despite our decidedly imperfect knowledge of nutrition, we do have actual knowledge of nutrition—and that it is the basis for opinions worth sharing. Knowledge and expertise should be the basis of widely disseminated opinions about nutrition, just as they are the basis for such opinions in engineering, architecture, and rocket science.

      But nutrition is perennially in a second-rate henhouse, where not only are those with no particular knowledge of hens invited to stand guard and opine, but so, too, are the foxes. In the case of nutrition, that means those who have a specific food-marketing agenda are not only at liberty to disseminate views about what's good to eat, but even to design measurement scales of nutritional quality that the world seems willing to take seriously. It would be as if Dell's assessment of the new MacBook carried exactly the same weight as that of Computerworld or Consumer Reports. Really, it's that weird. [Read more: Is Dairy Healthy or Not?]