In the Midst of a Warzone there’s an Afghani Skateboarding School for Girls

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In “don’t be a tourist” “Featured” “have you met” on November 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm Today I learned there’s a skateboarding school in Afghanistan where 40% of its students are female. In a part of the world where little girls are … Continue reading

Exercise May Protect Children From Stress

NY Times Article

By JAN HOFFMAN
Hélène Desplechi/Getty Images

Physically active children generally report happier moods and fewer symptoms of depression than children who are less active. Now researchers may have found a reason: by one measure, exercise seems to help children cope with stress.

Finnish researchers had 258 children wear accelerometers on their wrists for at least four days that registered the quality and quantity of their physical activity. Their parents used cotton swabs to take saliva samples at various times throughout a single day, which the researchers used to assess levels of cortisol, a hormone typically induced by physical or mental stress.

There was no difference in the cortisol levels at home between children who were active and those who were less active. But when the researchers gave the children a standard psychosocial stress test at a clinic involving arithmetic and storytelling challenges, they found that those who had not engaged in physical activity had raised cortisol levels. The children who had moderate or vigorous physical activity showed relatively no rise in cortisol levels.

Those results indicate a more positive physiological response to stress by children who were more active, the researchers said in a study that was published this week in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The children who were least active had the highest levels.

“This study shows that children who are more active throughout their day have a better hormonal response to an acute stressful situation,” said Disa Hatfield, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Hatfield noted that the study did not control for sugar intake, which has also been associated with higher levels of cortisol. And as the researchers themselves noted, the wrist-born accelerometers could not accurately measure certain activities like bicycling or swimming.

Michael F. Bergeron, a professor of pediatrics at the University of South Dakota and executive director of the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute, cautioned that chronic levels of cortisol might be a better measurement of a child’s propensity toward stress, rather than the single-day measurements taken in the new study.

“A single response to a single stressor may be what the body needs to do, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.

Although elementary schools in the last decade have generally been supportive of physical education, only 29 percent of high school students meet the national guideline of 60 minutes a day, said Russell R. Pate, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, who has worked on national studies of fitness levels in students.

“It’s not a huge surprise that kids who are encouraged to be more active would be more relaxed,” he said.

In a school, a child who gets more activity on a daily basis, Dr. Hatfield said, will respond better to everyday stressors like tests and social challenges. “The study suggests the physiological reason: it may be because their hormonal response is different,” she said.

Adolescent Girls Report Dance Has Positive Influence

By Gina Cairney on January 25, 2013 

Parents looking for worthwhile activities for their children may want to consider dance classes, especially for daughters who don’t seem interested in sports that come off as “too physical,” or may be experiencing low self-esteem or lack confidence.

Researchers found that dance intervention had a positive influence on self-rated health for adolescent girls in Sweden, which lasted up to a year after the program ended.

Some 140 girls, ages 13 to 18 years, participated in the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics. The girls selected for the study had visited the school nurse with complaints often associated with stress or low self-esteem, symptoms not serious enough to warrant a mental health referral. About half of the girls were randomly assigned to the intervention group, where they were given dance classes twice a week for 8 months. Each class lasted 75 minutes with an emphasis on the joy of movement, rather than performance, the study says, with various themes like African dance and jazz.

By the end of the program, 48 girls remained and were surveyed on their experience, with 43 of the girls rating it as a positive experience, three girls rating it neutral, and only one girl who found it to be a negative experience.

Adolescence is the time of life where everything seems awkward, and all that can go wrong, seems to go wrong. This and other stressors have an effect on how young people perceive themselves, and according to Statistics Sweden, girls are three times more likely than boysto rate themselves to have poor health.

This study’s suggestion to use dance as a preventative health measure is also supported by another study which looked at the prevalence of dance participation in the United States, and its contribution to total moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise in adolescents.

The Swedish study does acknowledge some limitations to its research however, noting that evaluating self-rated health is very subjective and the participants may have reported higher values to please their instructors.

Regardless, the potential influence dance has on young girls who are experiencing emotional problems appears to be significant. It’s also important to consider the factors that make dance an appealing physical activity to girls.

Based on survey responses, the study found three possible key factors explaining why the girls reported feeling better:

• The dance intervention was enjoyable and undemanding,
• There were opportunities for girls to offer input in music selection and dance choreography, and
• The opportunity allowed them to make new friends who had similar interests, which may be the most critical factor in maintaining interest in the program or activity.

While all physical activity of some kind is important for the overall well-being of a child, dance programs may be the ideal ticket for some parents who have children—daughters and sons—who want to participate in a social activity without the overbearing competitive nature of sports like soccer and basketball.

Why Ex Athletes Are More Successful

Why Ex-Athletes Are More Successful

Your high school football glory days could pay off at the office.
By Cassie Shortsleeve, Men’s Health

altlete(Photo: Getty Images)

In a new study at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers found that playing team sports was a greater predictor of success in a residency program for doctors-in-training than test scores or a good interview.

“Not all of the outstanding students end up being the best doctors,” says lead author Richard Chole, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the American Board of Otolaryngology. When researchers noticed that a lot of the doctors-in-training were former athletes, they sent questionnaires to successful residents and indeed found that many good docs shared varsity letters in common.
 
Dr. Chole says the leadership lessons and social skills you learn from playing team sports can help you become a better worker. “Very good students are usually in the library studying madly to get wonderful scores on tests, but social interaction and maturity are lost on that sometimes,” he says. Sure, your ability to throw a deep spiral or seal a last-minute layup matters little when it comes to prepping sales reports–but that doesn’t mean your time on the field won’t come in handy at your 9-to-5. Here are three ways your sports experience can help you in the workplace.
 
When You’re Forced to Work in a Group
Different people with different roles must work together in order for an office–no matter the size–to succeed, says Steve Edwards, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at Oklahoma State University. It’s the same lesson you learned in your high school huddle: Make the right passes for the point. Or, even more broadly, you can’t score unless someone passes to you, Edwards adds.
 
When You Need to Form a Team for a Project
Individual sports require a certain self-examination that can be difficult, says Edwards. (Think: beating yourself up for every last mistake.) But in team sports, you learn to assess people’s strengths and weaknesses in addition to your own, he says. The same is important in a work scenario. Building the best possible team starts with being able to figure out who’s good at what (writing, analyzing, or speaking in public).
 
When Someone Screws Up, Big Time
“The kind of people who are successful in team sports are generally the people who have great determination, and are able to concentrate and learn from mistakes,” Edwards says. Here’s the thing: You may not realize it, but a high school playoff run that ended all too fast showed you how to push through the ups and downs of working with others. (Yes, your kicker missed the game-winning field goal, but you’ve got to move forward). Being able to handle setbacks that are out of your control while completing a tough task is a skill you can hone in your pickup league.

Preventing Sports Concussions Among Children

Preventing Sports Concussions Among Children

The New York Times

By ROBERT C. CANTU
Published: October 6, 2012

This fall, about three million children younger than 14 are playing organized tackle football in the United States. Is that a good thing?

For many parents and coaches, that means three million children are getting some pretty serious exercise, hanging out with old friends and making new ones, and unplugging from technology, for a few hours at least.

I see those positives. Yet if it were my call, those millions would be playing touch football instead. Many would be learning the fundamentals of tackling and other football skills. But they would not be playing tackle football until they turned 14.

The reason is simple. Tackle football is too dangerous for youngsters. Exposure to head trauma is too risky. What we know about football and the vulnerabilities of children’s brains leads me to this conclusion. More worrisome is what we don’t know. How will the hits absorbed by a 9-year-old today be felt at 30, or 50?

I’ve been treating young athletes for concussions and other head trauma for four decades. In an average year, I’ll meet with patients to discuss their concussion symptoms 1,500 times or more. I’ve treated children for concussions in any sport you can name, and a few you wouldn’t think of. I’ve seen pole-vaulters, BMX riders and tennis players. Not that long ago, I treated a young man injured playing Ultimate Frisbee.

I’m not in favor of abolishing any sport for children, football included. Sports have too much to offer young people. There is nothing like being part of a Little League team or competing as a swimmer, tennis player or golfer to promote perseverance, sportsmanship, fair play, to keep fighting until the last point in the match or the last out. These are traits that carry us through life’s challenges.

In light of what we now know about concussions and the brains of children, though, many sports should be fine-tuned. But many parents and coaches are satisfied with the rules as they are. They like seeing youngsters in helmets and pads, and watching them slide headfirst into second base. The closer the peewee games resemble those of the professionals, the happier we are. It’s natural for a parent or a coach. Even a neurosurgeon.

But children are not adults. Their bodies are still maturing. Their vulnerabilities to head trauma are far greater.

A child’s brain and head are disproportionately large for the rest of the body, especially through the first five to eight years of life. And a child’s weak neck cannot brace for a hit the way an adult’s can. (Think of a bobblehead doll.) A child’s cranium at 4 is about 90 percent the size an adult’s. That’s important to a discussion of concussions and concussion risk.

We cannot eliminate head trauma from youth sports. What we can change is our mind-set so protecting the head and the brain is always a top consideration.

The guiding principle should be that no head trauma is good head trauma. Let’s re-examine youth sports and take steps to keep young athletes safe. I would like to see these changes written into the rules across the country.

SOCCER Many parents and coaches are surprised to learn that soccer is not among the safer sports for head trauma. It is actually one of the riskiest. In 2010, more high school soccer players sustained concussions than did athletes in basketball, baseball, wrestling and softball combined, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio.

Most of that risk comes from one play: heading the ball. When two or more leap to direct the ball with their heads, a number of collisions can occur with heads, shoulders and elbows. From a neurological standpoint, nearly all are bad. About 90 percent of the patients I see with soccer head trauma and concussion are related to heading accidents.

It’s an easy call for me: take heading out of soccer until the players are 14.

ICE HOCKEY The progressive leadership of USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have done most of the heavy lifting in this sport. Hockey Canada outlawed checking to the head throughout amateur hockey. In 2011, USA Hockey approved a ban on body checking before the age of 13. I would extend the ban on body checking to 14. (The previous rule permitted body checking for players as young as 11.)

BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL Batting helmets are mandatory at every level of baseball, yet it’s surprising how little we do to ensure that they stay on. Some youth leagues around the country have mandated chin straps for years. All youth and high school leagues should require them.

In addition, headfirst slides should be eliminated. When a child’s head plows into an ankle or a shin, the leg always wins. Worse are home-plate collisions in which the head of the base runner can crash into the catcher’s hard shinguards.

FIELD HOCKEY AND GIRLS’ LACROSSE

I have heard that girls would be emboldened to play more aggressively if helmets were required in these sports, and that the net effect would be more injuries, not fewer. I say hold officials accountable for enforcing the rules, and that will not happen.

In lacrosse, some officials now favor something like a bike helmet to protect the top of the head. That is not good enough. When helmets that cover the entire head are required, fewer young women will sustain concussions.

Field hockey rules state that players should not raise their sticks above the knee. But that rule is broken in every game, often resulting in concussions, eye injuries, cuts, broken noses and more. Helmets are needed, although they do not have to be as robust as football helmets.

]I would expect resistance to these recommendations from parents of the 16,000 players in Pop Warner football’s tackle division for 5- to 7-year-olds, for example. But let’s begin the debate.

Robert C. Cantu, a clinical professor in the department of neurosurgery and a co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine, is a co-author with Mark Hyman of the new book “Concussions and Our Kids.”

For Young Athletes, Good Reasons to Break the Fast-Food Habit

September 14, 2012,

For Young Athletes, Good Reasons to Break the Fast-Food Habit

By SINDYA N. BHANOO
 
Fast food is a popular choice for a post-game celebration.Mike Blake/Reuters
 
Fast food is a popular choice for a post-game celebration.

When I ran high school cross-country 14 years ago, the bus that took us to meets always stopped at a Wendy’s or McDonald’s after the event. Most of the team would order some variation of burgers, fries and a big soda. It was fast, easy and satisfying.

Things haven’t changed much for young athletes, according to a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Toben Nelson, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues interviewed 60 parents of youth athletes, ages 6 to 13, in Minneapolis and its suburbs. They found that parents brought post-game snacks for the team that typically included such items as candy, ice cream, doughnuts, pizza, cheese puffs, chips, even something called ‘‘taco in a bag.” They also said that stopping at fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen or grabbing a hot dog and a sugary sports drink at the concession stand during a meet was the norm.

‘‘Generally, it’s not what you would consider healthy,” one parent told the researchers. “It’s more of the things that the kids want to eat.”

For growing adolescents, a big meal after a tough game or race is necessary to replenish the body, said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University. And since they burn a lot of calories, they also need a fair amount of fat and protein.

“They are hungry,” Dr. Nestle said. “Especially if they are adolescent boys, they need phenomenal numbers of calories.” Serious athletes, she said, are burning so much fat and so many calories that they will not gain weight from eating a couple of burgers a week. “Sure, it would be better if they ate healthier, but we have to be realistic,” she said. “Fast food isn’t poison; it just isn’t daily fare.”

An active teenage boy requires about 3,000 calories a day, and an active teenage girl about 2,400 calories. Younger children, like those in Dr. Nelson’s study, require anywhere from 600 to 1,000 calories a day less.

Problems can arise, though, when young athletes are taking in more calories than they are burning. Studies show that more than one in four youth sport participants are overweight, and half of youths who are obese say they participate in a sport.

Very young athletes may be particularly prone to excess intake. “They’re not yet exercising as much, and they’re not growing as much,” Dr. Nestle said. “They don’t need to be eating every two hours.”

And other research has shown that players spend quite a bit of time sitting on the bench during practices and games.

“The premise of sports is not about health” and getting a good workout, said Jim Sallis, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “The premise of sports is about beating your opponent.”

Part of the tradition in American sports is also to celebrate with food, Dr. Sallis added.

Instead of the standard ice cream and pizza, he suggested some alternatives for snacks after games or workouts. “Maybe go to a grocery store, and everybody gets a couple pieces of fruit,” he said. “There are other ways to do it. Parents could take turns making something for the kids, or help the coach find healthy eating options.”

Alicia Kendig, a sports dietitian for the United States Olympic Committee who works with swimmers, figure skaters and other athletes, called fruits “nature’s perfectly sized snack” and said the most important thing was to eat natural, unprocessed foods and unsaturated fats that come from foods like avocados and almonds.

“Sports nutrition is now a competitive advantage,” she said. “If you’re eating correctly and you’re ingesting the correct nutrients, there are clear performance benefits.” Whole foods take longer to digest and keep the body full longer, she added.

In a report published last year, Sonia Kim, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that one in four teenagers ate fruit less than once a day, and one in three ate vegetables less than once a day.

Teenage girls should eat at least one and a half cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables each day, she said, and boys should eat two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables daily. A cup is equal to about one medium apple, a dozen baby carrots or a large tomato.

“Fruits and vegetables are important for everyone, but especially for athletes,” Dr. Kim said.

An athletic 15-year-old boy needs about two and a half cups of fruit and four cups of vegetables a day. An athletic girl of the same age needs two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables daily.

Dr. Kim encouraged parents to pack healthy meals for their children so they can avoid fast food, and to leave fruit out and readily available in the kitchen. Schools and sports teams should also provide and encourage healthier options, she said, including whole grains and nuts and other healthy protein sources, like lean meats and seafood.

For parents, the time and investment in setting a good example is worthwhile, so their young children mature into healthy, fit adults. “It will have a lifelong effect,” Dr. Kim said. “Habits formed early on track to younger adolescence and into at least young adulthood.”

Original article