Jan 29, 2015
Bulletin Board

Butkus Aims to Keep it Clean

Former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus spent years intimidating opponents with his skills as well as his attitude. Now, the 69-year-old Hall of Famer is trying to instill an attitude in young athletes that directs them away from banned substances like steroids and toward a healthier lifestyle.

It’s all part of Butkus’s “Play Clean” campaign, for which he’s partnered with EAS Sports Nutrition and Old Spice. “It’s really disturbing when you come across parents giving it to their kids and coaches suggesting they take it. It makes me sick,” Butkus told USA Today. “We’re just trying to do our little part [educating prep players to avoid illegal steroids and such]. It’s going to be a long, long fight.”

The campaign’s Web site, iplayclean.org, urges athletes, coaches, and parents to agree to a five-part pledge, which says:

• I am an athlete, a parent or fan who loves organized sports. • I believe the era of illegal steroid use among athletes must come to an end. • I believe in healthy lifelong alternatives–training hard, eating well, and playing with attitude. • I will encourage those around me to Play Clean and strengthen the future of sports. • I pledge to Play Clean!

The site also has information on steroid use, including facts, frequently asked questions, and an article from the Mayo Clinic on the science of steroids. Butkus is using social media to spread the word, and the campaign’s Facebook page has received support from several NFL players and teams. The page also includes information about healthy ways to work out and nutrition tips.

Curry Spice for Tendonitis Treatment?

Curcumin is one of the ingredients commonly used in Indian cuisine to give it its distinct flavor and yellow color. But a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich suggests that curcumin, a key part of the spice turmeric, also has the ability to suppress biological mechanisms that trigger tendon inflammation.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in August, researchers took a culture model of an inflamed tendon and looked at the effect curcumin had on protein molecules that trigger inflammation. Scientists found that introducing curcumin to the tendon culture inhibited a signaling protein called nuclear factor kB (NF-kB), which can induce further inflammation.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are currently used to treat the pain and inflammation associated with tendonitis. However, in more serious cases of tendonitis, NSAIDs may not offer enough relief.

“Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric, or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis,” researcher Ali Mobasheri, PhD, told sciencedaily.com. “However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition. Further research into curcumin, and chemically-modified versions of it, should be the subject of future investigations.”

To view the study “Curcumin Modulates Nuclear Factor kB (NF-kB) Mediated Inflammation in Human Tenocytes in Vitro,” go to: www.jbc.org/content/286/32/28556.full.

Predicting Injuries in Pitchers

A recent study from the University of North Carolina has shed some light on what is causing young baseball pitchers to suffer more shoulder injuries than ever before. Researchers identified 15 risk factors for injury and assigned each of them a “risk ratio.” While some ratios confirmed theories on the reasons for more injuries in recent years, there were also some surprises.

The study followed over 1,300 pitchers in three age groups over several years. More than 400 Little League pitchers aged eight to 13 were tracked from 2006 to 2010, almost 300 high school pitchers were followed from 2007 to 2010, and over 600 college pitchers were studied from 2008 to 2010.

Commissioned by Little League Baseball and funded by a grant from the Yawkey Foundations, the study divided the risk factors into three categories: Non-pitching factors, pitching exposures, and technique/pitch type. Non-pitching factors accounted for four of the five biggest risk factors, with a prior shoulder injury topping the list. Throwing sliders was the only technique/pitch type factor in the top five, coming in at number two. Rounding out the top five risks were elbow pain, an elbow injury, and shoulder pain.

One of the more surprising results was that pitching curveballs fell toward the lower end of the risk ratio spectrum. Curveballs still put pitchers at increased risk for injury, but the factor came in 11th on the list of 15.

Higher average innings pitched and pitching in a showcase were both ranked higher than throwing curveballs, which points to overuse being a main culprit. “Part of the confusion is that the pitchers that throw curveballs tend to be the ones that throw a lot,” Glenn Fleisig, PhD, Research Director at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which conducted a similar study with similar conclusions a couple of years ago, told USA Today. “So it’s hard to separate those factors. But when you do separate them statistically, the pitchers who pitch too much are the ones who got hurt, whether they throw a curveball or not.”

Instituting a pitch count program was one of only two risk factors that showed a decrease in shoulder injury risk. The other factor that seemed to decrease risk was “pitching in multiple leagues.”

Following the study, Little League Baseball came up with a list of recommendations for youth pitchers, including the use of pitch counts in other youth leagues and high schools. League officials also stressed the need for continuing education for coaches, parents, and athletes regarding the risks of participating in travel ball and showcases.

To download the Little League Baseball summary of the study, go to: www.littleleague.org/Assets/forms_pubs/media/UNCStudy.pdf.

Understanding CTE

Efforts to study the effects of repeated head trauma to athletes have picked up steam in recent years. The autopsies of former athletes’ brains have provided scientists with some insight about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), but have also raised new questions.

Earlier this year, researchers at the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University studied the brains of 17 former athletes who played contact sports and died abruptly from suicide, drug abuse, or an accident. Eleven of the 17 players had developed CTE. The study also showed important differences between CTE and Alzheimer’s disease, including the lack of cerebral atrophy in CTE victims, which may help doctors differentiate between the two diseases.

The big question researchers still face is why some athletes get CTE while others do not. In addition to six of the athletes in the West Virginia study not having CTE, researchers from the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital recently examined brains belonging to four former Canadian Football League players, and found that two of them showed signs of CTE.

“Right now we have more questions than answers about the relationship between repeated concussions and late brain degeneration,” Lili-Naz Hazarati, PhD, MD, a neuropathologist in the Laboratory Medicine Program at the University Health Network who performed the autopsies, told Medical News Today. “We are still trying to find out why these two players acquired CTE and the other two did not.”

Although the donated brains offer scientists the ability to study the effects of head trauma after the fact, the overarching goal is to find a way to prevent the damage from occurring. “We are trying to determine… how many concussions lead to the onset of this degenerative brain disease,” Charles Tator, PhD, MD and researcher for the University Health Network told Medical News Today. “Also, we need to develop tests to detect this condition at an early age and to discover treatments.

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