Health Highlights: Sept. 30, 2009

HealthDay SHARE
  • Memory Problems Higher Among Ex-NFL Players: Study
  • Distracted Driving Takes Heavy Toll On U.S. Roads
  • Cervical Cancer Vaccine Didn't Cause Girl's Death: Health Official
  • Appeals Court Upholds U.S. Military Anthrax Vaccination
  • Neocate Infant Formula Recalled: FDA

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Memory Problems Higher Among Ex-NFL Players: Study

Former pro football players are much more likely than people in the general population to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other memory disorders, according to a new study commissioned by the National Football League.

For example, retired players have a diagnosis rate 19 times higher than the normal rate for men ages 30 to 49, said The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the study conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. A detailed summary of the study, which hasn't been peer-reviewed, was distributed to NFL officials this month.

The NFL has long insisted that there is no reliable data about cognitive problems in its players. But the findings of the new study appear to be in line with the results of a number of recent studies that examined head injuries in pro football players.

"This is a game-changer -- the whole debate, the ball's now in the NFL's court," Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and a former team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, told the Times. "They always say, 'We're going to do our own studies.' And now they have."

The new study could have an impact at all levels of football, because youth and college programs often follow the lead of the NFL on safety policies. In addition, many young players follow the examples of their professional heroes.

"This is about more than us -- it's about the high school kid in 2011 who might not die on the field because he ignored the risks of concussions," Sean Morey, an Arizona Cardinals player who's pushed for research into the effects of head injuries, told The Times.

In an email to the newspaper, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the study didn't formally diagnose dementia and was subject to shortcomings of telephone surveys. He also noted that "there are thousands of retired players who do not have memory problems.

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Distracted Driving Takes Heavy Toll On U.S. Roads

Last year, 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 injured in vehicle crashes caused by such driver distractions as talking on cell phones or texting, according to a U.S. Transportation Department report released Wednesday.

The document, which noted that driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008, was introduced prior to the start of meeting of experts who'll spend two days discussing distracted driving, the Associated Press reported.

At the end of the meeting Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce recommendations that could lead to new laws and other ways to reduce distracted driving.

"You see people texting and driving and using cell phones and driving everywhere you go, even in places where it's outlawed, like Washington, D.C. We feel a very strong obligation to point to incidents where people have been killed or where serious injury has occurred," LaHood said, the AP reported.

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Cervical Cancer Vaccine Didn't Cause Girl's Death: Health Official

It's highly unlikely that a cervical cancer vaccine caused the death of a 14-year-old girl, a British health official said Tuesday.

Natalie Morton died in hospital Monday a few hours after she received an injection of the Cervarix vaccine, which protects against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Morton appeared healthy before the shot and her death sparked a wave of concern across the U.K.

But it appears she had a "serious underlying medical condition which was likely to have caused death," Caron Grainger, the director for public health at Coventry City Council, said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.