Wednesday, August 03, 2016

New high school football season advice-don't let your babies grow up to be defensive backs

 Extracted from an article  from AANS regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI) data from 2012:

Defensive backs in American football are at the greatest risk for both fatal head injury and serous cervical spine injury.:

"The majority of catastrophic injuries occur while playing defensive football. In 2012, two players were on defense and one was in a weight lifting session. Since 1977, 228 players with permanent cervical cord injuries were on the defensive side of the ball and 55 were on the offensive side with 44 unknown. Defensive backs were involved with 34.6 percent of the permanent cervical cord injuries followed by member of the kick-off team at 9.2 percent and linebackers at 9.5 percent."

Spending even a small amount of time watching high school,college and professional football on TV makes it seem obvious that the vast majority of high impact collisions occur in the defensive zone involving defensive backs and either runners or receivers and on kickoffs.Quarterbacks receive many hits with the helmets impacting the ground and have a significant risk of concussion but apparently have  lower risk of fatal injury or injury leading to permanent disability.Offensive and defensive  linemen may receive more sub-concussive head blows over a game or a season and whatever the long term consequences of that may be  seem less likely to regularly  be involved in high impact collisions and therefore less at risk for serious brain or cervical spine injury. There is a reason for ambulances to be  parked near the playing field of high school football games attesting to the cognitive dissonance of some of  the  parents cheering them on.The EMTs are not on site to help manage sprained ankles.

Don't let your babies grow up to be defensive backs.

Notice: This is a lightly edited and altered version of an earlier commentary on this blog. As  I see high school kids  on the practice field in early August in Texas with heat indices pushing 105 my antipathy to high school and youth football  flares again.




Monday, August 01, 2016

Another football season begins, what do we know about sports related head trauma

What do we know about head trauma in high school and college football?

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury ( mTBI) encompasses the clinical entity of concussion. Concussion is defined as a trauma induced alteration of mental status with or without loss of consciousness.

Considerable research has been published regarding concussion and recently  research has been published about the multiple blows to the head that occur in all levels of football in  the absence of a recognized concussion. These "sub-concussive blows" have become the target for various types of brain imaging and cognitive function testing and the results have raised concern about the long term effects on the brains of highs school and college players.

 Some of what we know is :

1.While conventional MRIs and CTs in concussed high school and college football players are normal , Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and functional MRI have shown abnormal findings some of which may persist for weeks or months. Additionally subtle impairments of verbal memory and other cognitive tests have been reported in concussion cases persisting past the time during which the player has any symptoms.The long term significance of these finding is not known.

2.Similar imaging findings and cognitive testing results are being reported in high school and college players after a season of participation in football even thought the players had no reported concussive event.

3.We know that football helmets do not prevent concussions.

4.We know that at least  some  college level contact sport athletes decades later show abnormal white matter by Diffusion tensor imaging and lowered test results on cognitive testing but again we don't know if these changes are a predictor of later symptoms of CTE.

 Some of  what we don't know is :

1.We do not know what pathological changes underlie the imaging findings. Do the scan results indicate transient damage and tissue repair without likely long term sequelae? Is there a recognizable subset of these players with these findings who if  they continue to be exposed to multiple head blows over many years will develop Chronic Traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)? How can those who may be destined to develop CTE be distinguished from the vast majority of players who never will  have those problems

From  the wide range of head hit exposures in those NFL players who have been diagnosed with CTE the obvious implication is that there must be a fairly wide range of thresholds. There are reports of NFL players with as little as five years of play showing  typical pathological findings at autopsy. Further there has been at least one case of a college player diagnosed with CTE.


2.the long term cognitive changing on various tests  and brain imaging abnormalities have been   demonstrated  in  contact sport athletes in college and high school who did not experience a concussion.

 After the last high school football season ending there were reports of 13 fatalities.   This is about average for the years following the meaningful changes made in the rules and the instruction of techniques of blocking and less dangerous ways to tackle. Better helmets probably prevent skull fractures but not concussions.Can you imagine the outcry if high school boys were forced to take part in an activity that results in deaths each year?

See here for details  of some  of those deaths. Tragically it seems that two were due to heat stroke, all were not due to head injury.In reading over the cases it seems reasonable to designate two of the deaths to the second hit syndrome.

You see the same parents who carefully made sure their kids did not ride tricycles without  wearing helmets are some of the same ones watching and yelling at Friday night football games and probably do not see the irony  of common practice of there being an ambulance at the stadium. If their son is the victim of the second hit syndrome, probably an ambulance won't help.

Note: Much of this posting is a rewrite of another commentary from last year which I shamelessly re-post  now with only  a few additions  because this topic is one I obviously feel strongly about .I used to really enjoy watching professional and college football on tv now I only occasionally watch  just to sample the action to notice obvious head trauma. Professional players increasingly are able to make some effort at an informed decision to play with considerations of the risk to their brains, high school kids and younger much less so. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Is the new professionalism and ACP's new ethics really just about following guidelines?

The Charter ( Medical Professionalism in the New Millennium.A Physician's Charter) did not deal with just the important relationship of the physician and the patients but presumed to define what the relationship of the physician  should be to society. The physician was to strive for social justice and was to act as the "steward of society's " finite medical resources.

Implicit in the stewardship of resources notion is the egalitarian concept of the collectivization of  privately owned resources i.e all of the assets and individual skills that constitute the medical resources. This is the view that resources as a whole should be considered as the common asset of everyone with each to have a right to their share or that the resources are "owned" by everyone.  This notion is antithetical of the notion of private property and seemingly ignoring the key role of  private property concepts as the basis for civilization, At least that is what David Hume,Adam Smith, John Locke and founding fathers thought about the importance of private property.

Owned is in scare quotes because the concept of ownership in a free society with rule of law entails the right of the owner to use his property,to exclude others from use of his property and the right to dispose of the property.If everyone owns the resource then no one owns it and no one could be excluded from use of the property.

All of the  medical resources of the United States cannot in any real sense or legal sense be owned by everyone. So the common ownership rhetoric must be metaphorical and physicians as stewards of the resources must be rhetorical as well. It is a poetic way of saying the physicians should rein in the ever increasing cost of medical care. Further they can do that  by ordering fewer tests and procedures and treatments,that they should abide by recommendations based on studies of cost effectiveness of various medical options, that they should not let their concern and duty to the individual patient override the collective good which will be brought about by doing what is best for the group and what will be best will be determined by the progressive medical elite.Just follow the guidelines,Doc.


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The 4th of July, Pride and "How Can I help you/"

This blog is for the most part about medicine and the practice of medicine so quoting extensively from a economist's blog might seem off track and one may wonder what if any is the link to medicine. This recent posting by George Mason University's professor, Don Boudreaux is so congruent with my core beliefs and he expresses them so well  that I have to quote him.

Broudreaux's topic is why, on the 240 th anniversary of the United States, we should be proud to be an American. See here for the entire essay.

Quoting from his blog, Cafe Hayek:

"...I’m proud of the peaceful manner in which most Americans conduct their private affairs.  I’m proud of the widespread respect for private property that continues to govern people’s personal, private relations.  I’m proud of the entrepreneurial spirit that continues to exist among many of my fellow denizens of these United States.  I’m proud of – and deeply grateful for – the innovativeness and entrepreneurial creativity of many of my fellow Americans.  I’m proud that America continues to be a destination for people seeking better, freer lives.  I’m proud that many Americans continue to believe that the most ethical course in life is for each individual to be self-responsible, self-supporting, hard-working, honest, and upright.

I’m proud, in short, of America’s bourgeoisness.  It’s this bourgeoisness that has made America great.  This greatness comes not from bellowing politicians, not from well-weaponed armies, not from arrogant judges, not from meddling bureaucrats, not from pompous Washington and New York and San Francisco pundits; it comes not from anything but the hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans who daily work hard, honor their contracts and other people’s property, cherish their families, friends, and neighbors, and think it perfectly natural to ask strangers in commercial settings “How can I help you?” "

 It has always seemed natural for a physician to ask that same question upon seeing a patient. In fact I recently saw an orthopedics for pain in my calf who asked that exact question.

As I read commentaries about the MACRA proposal and the nearly 1000 pages it takes to describe the process I wonder how long as the bureaucratic interference levels continues to increase and impede medical practice  will it be before that question will be merely perfunctory as more and more time and effort will be drained  away in an effort to go by the rules of " quality care" and properly document them so the reimbursement  will be 3 or 4 % more or less ( see here) and less available to do what is needed to help the patient.

Addendum; For an excellent  review of how MACRO will change just the "Meaningful Use" program (and there is much more to it than that) see here.

 h/t to Margalit Gur-Arie on her blog "On Heath Care Technology"


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The last refuge arguments for central planning find a home in health care discourse

The economist and historian Dierdre McCloskey put it this way ( my paraphrasing). If some one glanced at what happened in the twentieth century and still believed in the value of central planning, they were not paying attention.

The Marxian dreams and even the subsequent efforts of the market socialists such as Oscar Lange ended badly or sometimes never really got off the ground. Things ended   badly in the case of the USSR and Communist China wherein the promises of greater prosperity and equality ended in mass starvation and mass murder.The 1917-1991 gigantic social experiment was a failure.

 The contrast between East and West Germany and North and South Korea could not be more striking and devastating to the devotees of socialist planning and their advocates  had to find arguments not based on economic success.

The economist Anthony de Jasay in his book Political Economy,Concisely  discusses what he considers to be   the two last refuges of the socialist central planner;the plea for social justice and the doctrine of unequal exchange.

We can find versions of both in the rhetoric of the defenders of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in the pronouncements of the medical progressives whose major premise is that medical care is too important and complex to be left to the individual physician and patient and that we must have wise leaders with ideas to replace the traditional "dyad" of the patient and physician as the deciders of medical care .


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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Exercise associated collapse

The term exercise-Associated Collapse (EAC) as used by Dr. Tim Noakes of Cape Town South Africa refers to athletes collapsing after completing a marathon or longer event, though the term more generally could refer to anyone collapsing during or after an endurance event.
Noakes writing specifically about the endurance race event collapse is describing a runner who typically finishes the event and then feels lightheaded, possible nauseated and may indicate that he feels like he will faint. The blood pressure is low in the 100 to 110 range with a mild tachycardia in the 110 range. Noakes emphasizes that the appropriate intervention is to elevate the legs or low the head below leg level. This maneuver, in his vast experience will bring about recovery fairly quickly without the use of IV fluids. This approach received some documented support from a small randomized trial recently published by Noakes and co workers. See here for abstract.

Although the runner will be to varying degrees dehydrated, or volume depleted, Noakes indicates that the faint is not due to the volume status per se. Rather the mechanisms he postulates is as follows:

The post exercise collapse ( as opposed to the collapse that may occur while exercising which brings to mind a number of other more serious possible causes ) is due to postural hypotension related to several factors.

With exercise in the heat there is increased blood flow to vessels near the skin leading to a redistribution of blood to the peripheral veins ,more so as the ambient temperature increases.

Next the action of the calf muscles, while exercise continues, will reduce the volume of blood stored in the lower limbs and maintains an adequate venous return to the heart. When exercise stops, the calf muscle mechanism for venous return decreases and blood accumulates in the dilated venous system leading to decreased venous return and hypotension in the upright position.He also suggests that in the trained athlete there is a blunted compensatory increase in heart rate in response to a lowered blood pressure further increasing the likelihood of faint or near fainting.

So the treatment is the standard treatment for what used to be called vaso-vagal faint namely the Trendellenberg position. He believes that dehydration is not the cause and volume repletion is not the treatment, although obviously volume replacement is appropriate but can be done orally.

Noakes in his book ,Lore of Running, 4th edition, says that approach has worked well in his vast experience in the medical tent after the Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa.

Key information to management of the collapsed athlete is the following;

Location of collapse (i.e. while running versus after the race)
Level of consciousness and cognition (altered states suggest something more ominous that benign post exercise hypotension-particularly exercise associated hyponatremia )
Rectal temperature greater than 40C ( 104 F) means heat stroke.

Noakes and others have emphasized the importance of prompt measurement of serum sodium and blood sugar. Serum sodium less than 120 plus altered mental status should lead to administration of 3 % NaCl.





Friday, June 17, 2016

This preventive medicine stuff is not easy

Case in point  is in regard to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women.It has not been easy to get that right.

The stylized facts of the history of that effort briefly are:

Use HRT widely as heart disease will be prevented plus the usual listing of such things as better skin,lessened hot flashes,improved mentation and all of the advantages of being younger rather than older.

Give HRT to almost no one as actually it increases not decreases incidence of heart disease.Yeah we got the sign wrong.And then there was the issue of increased blood clots and cancer risk.

Then  a study demonstrates decreases incidence of clinical heart disease if the HRT is given early after the onset of menopause.The earlier data that demonstrated increased heart disease was derived from a study of older women who received HRT later after the onset of menopause. This suggests that a major determinant of outcome is timing.

See here for the more recent study on HRT in which women received HRT soon after the onset of menopause which demonstrated a decrease in the incidence of clinical heart disease.

Preventive medicine is not rocket science. The rocket scientists know with impressive accuracy where the rocket will come down as the law of physics applicable to that application are pretty well worked out. Preventive medicine is much harder.

Information voltage drop-not just a hospitalist issue

I recently read that hospitalists have a term for one type of failure to communicate namely "information voltage drop"

This refers to the information relevant to the patients discharged from the hospital not reaching the outpatient "health care entities", eg the nurses at the nursing home and/or the doctors who don't go to hospitals doctors doing the primary care. This would obviously was a problem if the physician in the hospital and the physician in the office were the same person as it was typically in the heyday of the general internist.

It is , of course, a multi-two way street, information from the primary care docs do not always get to the hospitalists in a complete accurate form. reports from tests in the hospital may not get to the chart in time for discharge, etc etc.

 A google search yielded 131,000 hits for that term in quotes. The blog "notes form dr.rw" recently discussed the important issue of the drop of key information from the hospital setting to the post hospital care. I has seen it repeatedly in my mother-in-law as she veered  from nursing home  to the ER and then hospitalization..One one occasion her Remeron  was not given for weeks in the nursing home due to nursing oversight and then started back in the hospital at the dose the docs thought she was taken resulting in near coma and a neuro consult.

Voltage drops can occurs in very short times and distances. I informed at least 6 different medical personnel prior to a invasive cardiac procedure , one not fifteen feet and four minutes before an IV bag was hung containing the same mediation regarding which  I had repeatedly mentioned a personal  allergy.Fortunately the dose of Versed I had received  was low and I  could protect myself.