Friday, February 4, 2011

Let's Call It the Stupid Bowl

Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder noted yesterday in a post about the Amish raw-milk black market:

Two people have died in the last 10 years from drinking unpasteurized milk. Twelve states have banned it. (By comparison, between two and twelve children die every year playing high school football. When will high school football be banned?)
Schematic drawing of a head, with brain and brainstem highlighted, crashing into the groundSusan Perry on MinnPost wrote today about the incidence of dementia among professional football players, following on the heals of a New Yorker article on the future of football in light of the new concussion evidence.

Drs. Steve Novella from the Science-Based Medicine blog and Craig Bowron, local doctor-about-town and writer, talked with Kerrie Miller about 2010 in medical news, and half the show was about concussion, including a call-in from Vikings great Carl Eller.

"Retired N.F.L. players are five to nineteen times as likely as the general population to have received a dementia-related diagnosis," write the New Yorker's Ben McGrath. For those keeping score at home, that means they're 500 to 1,900 percent as likely to get that diagnosis.

Table comparing likelihoods of NFL players getting dementia and women on HRT getting various maladiesThat's a pretty big increase in likelihood, compared to the types of risks we hear about in most medical research. Compare it, for example, to the Women's Health Initiative study on hormone therapy in menopausal women, where the worst outcome was a 100 percent increase in likelihood (twice as likely) of pulmonary embolism, which was offset to some extent by decreases in the likelihood of other afflictions, such as hip fractures and colorectal cancer. Not to mention decreases in debilitating hotflashes. The WHI results were considered so extreme that the study was stopped early, and the publicity and recommendations caused a rapid decrease in the number of women taking hormone therapy.

There's no upside to the "treatment" of elective concussion, except the joy of millions who like to watch men bash their heads together. But football continues, unchanged.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

My family thinks I'm crazy, but I think it's only a matter of time (perhaps a couple of decades) before football disappears as a college sport. Economics and the potential damage to players will make the game untenable.