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Extreme sports ups risk of neck and head injuries

A new study has found that the risk of severe neck and head injuries is higher when it comes to extreme sports.

Extreme sports are gaining in popularity: skateboarding has surged 49 per cent to 14 million US participants, and snowboarding now claims 7.2 million enthusiasts, up 51 per cent since 1999.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers reviewed 2000-2011 National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data for seven popular sports featured in the Winter and Summer X Games: surfing, mountain biking, motocross, skateboarding, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snow skiing.

Data from the NEISS database was collected for each individual sport, and type of head and neck injury (HNI): lacerations, contusions/abrasions, fractures, sprains (neck) and concussions (head).

The risk of concussion, neck fracture and skull fracture were calculated using extreme sport participation rates from the 2013 Outdoor Foundation Participation Report.

Of the 4 million injuries reported for extreme sport participants, 11.3 per cent were HNI. Of all HNI reported in extreme sports, 83 per cent were head injuries and 17 per cent neck injuries. The data included all ages; however, teens and young adults accounted for the highest percentage .

“The research provides a baseline to further study head and neck injuries among extreme sport participants,” Vani J Sabesan, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Western Michigan University School of Medicine, and lead author of the study, said. 

“There’s an understanding that these sports are growing in participation, and that they can result in significant injuries,” the researcher said.

Schizophrenia sufferers have impaired ability to imitate

Researchers have conducted a brain mapping experiment to strengthen the theory that an impaired ability to imitate may underlie the profound and enduring difficulty with social interactions that characterise schizophrenia.

The researchers have reported that when patients with schizophrenia were asked to imitate simple hand movements, their brains exhibited abnormal brain activity in areas associated with the ability to imitate.

First author Katharine Thakkar, who conducted much of the research while completing her doctoral program at Vanderbilt and is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, said that the fact that patients with schizophrenia show abnormal brain activity when they imitate simple hand gestures is important because action imitation is a primary building block of social abilities.

She said that the ability to imitate is present early in life and is crucial for learning how to navigate the social world. According to current theory, covert imitation is also the most fundamental way that we understand the intentions and feelings of other people.

The researchers found that the individuals with schizophrenia showed altered brain activity levels in regions of the brain that prior studies in primates have identified as crucial for imitation.

During imitation, the patients had less activation than healthy individuals in brain regions involved in detecting biological movement – the special way in which living things move – and also in regions involved in transforming this visual information into a plan for movement. At the same time, patients with schizophrenia had more activation than the healthy participants in these same regions when they performed non-imitative actions.

How to cope with fatigue after a stroke

New research suggests that dreams of returning to everyday life as it was before the stroke may contribute to the patients’ experiences of fatigue and that it may be a help to establish new routines instead of trying to regain old ones.

“Having a stroke can be a devastating experience, and those affected by one often feel that their lives are turned upside down. For many patients, life after a stroke is therefore about reestablishing life as it was before the stroke. But this is very rarely possible and thus a source of frustration for stroke patients,” ethnologist Michael Andersen from University of Copenhagen, said.

Andersen’s PhD thesis was carried out in collaboration with a Danish hospital, where doctors found it hard to find a correlation between the size or the impact of the stroke and the individual experiences of fatigue. He located other potential reasons for the fatigue than the patients’ brains – their everyday lives.

When interviewing the patients Andersen noticed that they no longer related their fatigue to the same objects or actions as they did pre-stroke.

“In our everyday lives we link fatigue with specific objects or actions which we hardly even notice; it can be a bed or making a cup of tea in the evening. After a stroke, many patients feel constantly fatigued without being able to locate it,” Andersen said.

According to him, locating fatigue in other objects and actions than before can be a successful approach when trying to restore an everyday life – not the same as before, but a completely new one.

Andersen suggests that stroke patients might learn to cope with their fatigue if they – in collaboration with their own doctor – learned to think of fatigue in relation to specific objects or actions. This could frame the patients’ fatigue so it does not become a phenomenon defining their lives.

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