Jan 29, 2015
Bulletin Board

Wrestlers Sue After Contracting Herpes

In a lawsuit filed last November, three former York College wrestlers claim they contracted herpes simplex 1 (the virus associated with genital herpes and cold sores) due to negligence by the school’s athletic trainer, head wrestling coach, and administration. The athletes were allegedly infected after school officials failed to follow NCAA guidelines on infection control.

The wrestlers say that in October 2006, approximately two weeks into regular season practice, a teammate with visible open lesions was kept out of practice for three days, then returned with bandages covering his wounds. In the following weeks, multiple team members noticed lesions on their skin, and some reported flu-like symptoms. They, too, were held out for only three days and then returned to full-contact practices wearing bandages. Soon after, the three plaintiffs learned they had contracted herpes.

The suit claims the athletic trainer, head coach, and dean of athletics acted negligently by requiring infected team members to participate in practice and not providing the team with information about confirmed cases of the virus. The complaint also says the school ignored NCAA guidelines, which in the case of herpes call for five days of antiviral drug therapy and no participation if active lesions are present.

“Blame rolls uphill,” says the wrestlers’ attorney, David Avedissian. “It starts with the coach and athletic trainer who were working with the wrestlers on a daily basis. They needed to make sure the situation was being managed on the front lines. The administrator also had a duty to make sure the coach and athletic trainer were aware of and were following the rules. That was not the case here.”

The college refutes the wrestlers’ claims and has vowed to fight the lawsuit. “York College denies that the college or any of its employees engaged in any negligent conduct,” York College attorney Paul Minnich said in a statement. “In fact, the college has, at all times, met or exceeded all applicable standards of care.”

H.S. Football Death Rate Rises

Based on figures from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, 2008 was the deadliest year for high school football players in recent memory. Newspapers from around the country reported at least eight football-related deaths, including three in North Carolina in a span of just over a month. Has high school football become more dangerous?

“We’re still figuring out what these numbers mean,” says Bob Colgate, Assistant Director of the NFHS and liaison to the Football Rules Committee. “We’re obviously concerned–one death is too many. But it’s too early to tell whether this is an actual increase, or if something else is going on, like the reporting channels for catastrophic injury have improved.”

Colgate says the NFHS sports medicine advisory committee will examine the issue at its upcoming meetings. In North Carolina, however, immediate action was taken this past fall. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) called an emergency meeting of its own sports medicine advisory committee and put several new policies in place.

Each school was ordered to develop an emergency action plan (if it didn’t already have one) with procedures for catastrophic injuries, heart attacks, heat-related illnesses, and other serious medical conditions. Schools also must now report to the association the current status of their athletic medical coverage–whether they have a full-time athletic trainer, what medical personnel cover sporting events, and any other arrangements for on-site injury treatment and prevention. In addition, any time an athlete has a suspected head injury, the NCHSAA now requires that he or she be removed from play and not return until released by a doctor.

Finally, a new task force was created to reduce catastrophic injuries, and its primary recommendation is a statewide mandate that each school employ a certified athletic trainer. “That idea makes a lot of sense, but there’s an obvious budget concern,” says Que Tucker, Deputy Executive Director of the NCHSAA. “So first we need to see where funding might come from. An unfunded mandate would be a major hardship for some schools.”

In the meantime, the NCHSAA is considering other recommendations from the task force. These include revamping the state’s required pre-participation exam and adding required baseline neurocognitive testing to help guide return-to-play decisions after concussions.

Using Probiotics to Prevent Illness

New research involving distance runners who took a probiotic supplement during winter training offers good news for athletes looking to avoid the common cold. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an Australian study found that the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 enhanced athletes’ immune systems, helping ward off colds and other respiratory ailments.

Probiotics are naturally occurring “good bacteria” or yeasts which may be beneficial to the human body. In essence, they compete with the “bad bacteria” by balancing and strengthening the immune system.

While completing their usual winter training regimens, 20 elite long-distance male runners took Lactobacillus fermentum supplements for one month in the form of a freeze-dried powder encased in gel capsules. During that time, three contracted colds. The group then took a month off from treatment before taking a placebo capsule for another month. During the placebo month, seven of the 20 contracted colds.

To assess the runners’ health, researchers measured their mucosal and systemic immunity, serum cytokine and immunoglobulin A (an antibody) levels, and the incidence, duration, and severity of any respiratory tract infections. The study authors also measured the athletes’ running performance, and found no substantial effects from the supplementation.

Though it was a small study, the findings should open doors for more probiotics research. Because the athletes in this study were elite runners who naturally compromise their immune systems through intense training, it remains to be seen whether moderate-level athletes or non-athletes with healthy immune systems would benefit from probiotic supplements.

To view the abstract of the study, “Oral administration of the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 and mucosal immunity in endurance athletes,” go to: bjsm.bmj.com and type “probiotics supplement” into the keyword search window.

Urine Test for HGH on the Horizon

Science has taken another step forward in the ever-evolving battle against performance-enhancing drugs. Two George Mason University professors working with scientists in Virginia and Italy have found a process that can detect human growth hormone (HGH) in urine.

Presently, HGH testing is performed only via blood samples. Blood testing is more invasive and expensive than urine testing, and HGH shows up in blood for only 24 to 48 hours after use. The researchers say HGH can be detected in urine up to two weeks after use.

Their peer-reviewed paper, which appeared in the December 2008 issue of the journal Nano Research, says that “a reliable detectable concentration” of HGH can be found through a process involving nanotechnology, and readily available lab equipment can do the work. A nanoparticle attracts and traps HGH molecules, acting as an amplifier so standard lab instruments can detect the substance.

While experts say the implementation of an HGH urine test for athletes is still years away, the lab finding has caught the attention of researchers, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and organizations like the NCAA and professional sports leagues, including MLB and the NFL. And large-scale clinical studies are likely on the way.

“WADA encouraged the company to continue its work and emphasized that there is a robust process to be followed from research to the full implementation of a test for anti-doping purpose,” WADA spokesman Frederic Donze told USA Today. “WADA must ensure that all detection methods it approves and implements can withstand any scientific and legal challenge.

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