Author Archives: Daniel Joseph Depaulo

Are Summer Babies More Likely to be Successful?

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(image via www.baby-connect.com)

I have always been curious about season of birth can affect a person later in life. The prospect that someone may have a disposition to be more successful or healthy as an adult based off when they were born is a fascinating idea to me. If something like this could be determined on the grounds of scientific evidence, then would a rational person plan a pregnancy around the most advantageous time of year in order to ensure success and or health for their child? It has always been my understanding that birth time of year was related most closely with age in school when it came to success later in life. Those who were older than their classmates would receive better grades, have an advantage in athletics, and be better prepared later in life. In America, for most schools, this would be fall birthdays as those students are usually the oldest in their class. Either way, this was an understanding I had with no scientific backing, but rather just something I thought to be true. In this entry I will be further examining the idea that season of birth could have an impact on someone later in life

A study recently came out in Heliyon that tracked birth month versus many other variables. This study, published October 12th, included 450,000 participants in the United Kingdom, and the results were very conclusive. What the study found was that children born in the summer months (June, July, and August) weighed more at birth, reached puberty later (for females), and had a taller adult height on average then those born in the winter. Not only this, the study found those born in the summer were more likely to continue education past age 16. In terms of analyzing this study, it can be a bit difficult at times. For example, they state that one mechanism by which babies born in the summer live to be taller and healthier is because of sunlight exposure during pregnancy. If a baby is born in the summer however, would that not mean that the mother saw less sun exposure during the winter months? Another part of this study that leaves me scratching my head are the four variables that are reported on. They handed out questionnaires to a very large sample of people, and took the four most conclusive correlations that lined up with their hypothesis. In this regard, the study appeared to suffer from the Texas sharpshooter problem, as they were just painting targets around their guesses and making them look like bull’s’ eyes. The study also states that the results are most likely affected by a third variable. The study reads: 

Month of birth is highly likely to be randomised to confounding factors, and resulting associations are not subject to reverse causality. These associations therefore represent causal, rather than correlative, relationships with effect sizes similar to genetic determinants identified for these traits.”

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Four of the last five presidents were born in the Summer. (image via wikipedia.org)

Those are topics frequently mentioned in class and is important to keep in mind when evaluating this study. Overall, the study is well conducted and they did manage to find a correlation, but just like any study that has a new finding, there has to be more studies done in order to determine that the results were not due to chance

One reason this study is more convincing is due to the fact that it is consistent with the findings of other studies. Many studies have found relationships between health and season of birth. For example this study that found summer babies are less likely to have schizophrenia. This study found summer babies are less likely to have bipolar disorder. This study showed summer babies are less likely to get melanoma. There are tons of studies like these, and what almost all of them find is that babies born in the summer are less likely to have health issues later in life. It may seem improbable at first, but with all of these studies pointing to summer babies being healthier, the idea is is worth some thought at the very least. So based off the studies we have seen, summer babies will be healthier, taller, and will stay in school longer. These are all traits we assign to someone who is perceived to be successful.

While there are many studies showing that summer babies are better off, not everyone is in agreement. There are a few studies out there that claim summer babies are actually at a disadvantage. This study in particular comes to the conclusion that those born in the fall and winter are more likely to score higher on tests than those born in the summer. This is not the only study to come to this conclusion either. There are many studies that reiterate similar messages, kids who are older then their classmates tend to do much better in school. This creates a very interesting problem, there are lots of studies saying kids born in fall do better in school, but now we have studies that say kids born in the summer stay in school longer. While at first it may seem like the studies directly conflict each other, it appears that they are actually measuring different things. The first school of thought, upon which many studies were done in the 2006 through 2011 time frame, state that kids born in the fall tend to excel as kids. The second school of thought, which many studies are being published on now, state that kids born in the fall excel as adults. For example one group of studies look at test scores as a kid while the other look at adult height. These are two very different variable to test for.

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(image via www.simplybabyphotography.com)

In conclusion, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that children born in the summer months are more successful. Even if summer babies grow up to be taller and have less health issues, fall babies still might do better in school. Judging which is more important for success later in life is very hard to do, as for one person testing well and getting good grades might be the most important, but for others being taller and having a smaller chance of having health issues may be more important. Due to how subjective the data currently is, it is impossible to say that summer babies do in fact have an advantage.

Are ACL Injuries Hereditary?

 

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(image via fansided.com)

Tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the worst injuries an athlete can sustain. When a player in any sport suffered this injury, they will be sidelined for at least a year, and their career often times comes into question. However, for what a serious injury this is, it seems to happen way too often. ACL tears have become so common that just last last year two football players suffered tears during sack celebrations. While there are many jokes to be made about Steven Tulloch and Lamar Houston, both of wh
om suffered a torn ACL’s while outlandishly celebrating a sack of the quarterback, they both serve as excellent examples of how common this injury has become. In the 2013-2014 NFL season, 63 players tore their ACL. There are 53 players on a team, and 32 teams in the league. This means out of the 1590 players active on opening day, about 4% of them tore their ACL.Another way to think about that statistic is you coul
d field an entire NFL team with the players who tore their ACL. 4% is a very large percent and is clearly indicative of large problem. It is commonly known that athletes are at risk to injure the ACL after a hard change of direction, landing awkwardly from a jump, or from physical contact to the knee. These causes are very general, and athletes do them all the time, and not all athletes tear their ACL. This leads to the question of what else could be causing these injuries. In this post I will explore the idea that some people are born more likely to tear their ACL’s than others.

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(image via orthoinfo.aaos.org)

In a study published September of 2010 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers looked into two young girls who were twins. They videotaped the girls cutting, jumping, and running while wearing special markers to track them. While they were taped both the girls were totally healthy, but within a year of the tape, they had both suffered ACL tears while playing their respective sports. It is important to note that the twins had shown the following risk factors prior to the injury “increased knee abduction angles, decreased knee flexion angles, increased general joint laxity, decreased H/Q ratios and femoral intercondylar notch width”(as reported by the study). Not only that, but it was reported in this article that the older sister of the twins had also torn her ACL in this time frame. Clearly this does not even come remotely close to providing good evidence towards the alternative hypothesis, but it did get the conversation going. This report was actually part of a much larger study looking into ACL injury risk and possible causes among thousands of young athletes. The researches involved were observing many different risk factors and just happened to come upon this one. This means the report was largely due to the Texas sharpshooter problem. So this report, while interesting, does not hold much water and was effected by Texas sharpshooter problem.

As I mentioned, this small report had gotten the conversation started about family genetics and ACL tears. In December of 2010, another study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine examining the correlation between a specific gene and ACL tears. This study took a simple random sample 129 people with a previous ACL tear and a control of 219 people with no history of the injury. In the two groups there were 38 and 83 females respectively. The gene tested for was COL12A1, and the results showed a strong correlation between ACL tears and this gene among females. The correlation did not exist amongst males, or the control group (male or female). For the female group with a previous injury to the ACL, the researchers calculated a .048 p-value, which at the standard 5% significance level would lead to a rejection of the null hypothesis. Given that this study was properly conducted, can we now officially say with confidence that ACL injuries are hereditary? The answer to that question would be no for a few reasons. First, based off this study we would have to believe that it is only women who have a predisposition, which would be hard to believe. Second, it is impossible to say anything with reasonable confidence based off one study, especially one where the main results were only found with 39 women. It would certainly be useful to not only see more studies done on this, but also studies with a larger sample size. Third, the p-value was .048, and as it is standard practice to use a 5% significance level, this only barely makes the cut. At basically any lower significance level the researchers would have failed to reject the null hypothesis. Given what we know about this study, the chances of a type one error are high. Once again the results in this study were encouraging, but there is still no solid evidence here to show that ACL tears are hereditary. It is still close however, and it does show the potential for one day possibly being able to predict these types of injuries.

Since 2010 there have been a few more studies that have found similar results (such as this one) but there still are simply not enough. In order to determine with more certainty that genetics can determine ACL tears there have to be more studies done that all show similar results. At the base of this question however, there seems to be a very simple answer. If a person wants to know if they are at risk of an injury to their ACL, simply looking at their family history seems like a pretty good way of finding out. In a New York Times article, Dr. Timothy Hewett, director of sports medicine research at Ohio State and lead researcher for the study with the twins, was quoted saying, “If you have a first-generation relative, a sibling or parent, who has torn an A.C.L., you are likely to be at above-average risk.” For now, there is not enough evidence to say ACL injuries are hereditary and there is no mechanism to predict them, but the future seems bright.

Is the Lunch Period in our Public School System Flawed?

When I was a little kid, my favorite part of the school day was always recess. After that, my  favorite part was lunch. Looking back, I realize how important it was for me to eat at school and fill as much of my daily nutrition requirements as I could. Of course back then all I cared about was the occasional cookies my teacher would hand out to the class if we were well behaved. After stumbling upon this article on the internet, I couldn’t help but think how beneficial it would be if the United States were to invest heavily in school lunches, especially in low income areas where kids depend on this school lunch for their main meal of the day.

There are an abundance of studies showing how important good nutrition is for the development of kids. It can promote both improved learning and physical growth. Acquiring important micronutrients can both help in the short term and long term for adolescents. For how well it’s known that kids rely on diet to grow and develop properly, the article by the Library of Alexandria came as a large shock to me. The article mentions some schools having as little as 20 minutes for kids to eat lunch, and when you factor in a kid might be late, or the lines might be long, kids can sometimes get left with as little as 10 minutes to eat their meal. The results of the study (which can be found here) are what you would expect. Children who had 20 minutes or less consumed 13% less of their entrée and were also less likely to select a fruit with their meal.

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(image via now.tufts.edu)

Education is a highly debated topic in the United States. Should we increase spending? Should we cut spending? Where would that money come from? With all these questions being asked so frequently, it amazes me that there could be flaws in the system so basic as school lunch. Without proper nutrition, it does not matter how good the teachers are, how advanced the technology is, or even how nice the facilities are. Kids who don’t receive proper nutrition will not learn or develop as well, meaning improvement to the school lunch system should be a top priority. Whether we have the resources available to achieve this, is an entirely different question that remains to be seen.

Based off the studies and articles provided in this post it is clear that the lunch system is flawed by not giving children necessary time to eat. Not all schools will be able to extend their lunch period, but there would certainly be ways to improve the speed at which kids move through lunch lines, which would ultimately leave them with more time to eat. We know based off the scientific community that kids who eat better, will learn better, and now that we know a fair amount of kids aren’t getting the proper nutrition, fixing that should be a huge concern.

Should the Leg Extension Machine be Taken out of the Gym?

I have gone to the gym somewhat regularly throughout high school, and now  into college. Whenever the time comes for me do legs, there is always one machine I will avoid like the plague. This of course being the leg extension machine. The leg extension machine is a bigger mystery than bigfoot. The leg extension machine just sits in the corner collecting cobwebs, with no one ever using it. No one knows anything about it, either. Most people are worried that it may be unsafe, and if that is the case the possible muscle gains a person could stand to benefit from the machine would be totally not worth it. If this were true it would also bring into question why a gym would even have a leg extension in the first place.

There is obviously a right and wrong way to use every piece of equipment in the gym. This video is a very good example of how to ruin your knees, it doesn’t take any science to figure that out. In this post it is assumed that your using the machine correctly and not doing anything crazy that would put you knees in obvious jeopardy. I could use any piece of equipment in the gym incorrectly and injure myself but that does not mean it should be removed. For argument’s sake it will be assumed that all form is correct.

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(image via afproducts.com)

To be clear, there are no decisive scientific studies pointing to the leg extension machine being harmful, or causing injuries. Instead we are left with differing opinions from sports doctors and knee specialists giving hypotheses on the subject. Due to the lack of experimental or observational studies, whether or whether not to use this machine has become a very ambiguous debate. What is known, is that the leg extension  does put a lot of stress on your anterior cruciate ligament. The fact remains to be seen however, if this stress can result in a knee injury further down the road. For example, in this interview with Brad Schofield, he says it is fine so long as you do not have a pre-existing knee condition. Then there is this article written by Eric Cressey stating that you should stay away from it. Research for this can become very frustrating very quickly, as for every one article stating one viewpoint, another article will pose the exact opposite one.

It is important to note that the leg extension is an open chain exercise, meaning it is done with your feet not planted and they are free to move. Studies do exist that show closed chain movements are more beneficial to recovering and rehabbing injuries to the knee. It is also important to note that this exercise entirely works the quadriceps, and the hamstrings are neglected entirely. When the quadricep is is overdeveloped in relation to the glutes and the hamstrings, it can leave a person susceptible to knee injury.

Winding up, there is a lack of information surrounding the leg extension machine safety with regard the knee. This lack of information certainly explains why no one uses the machine in the gym, and until there is some legitimate information, people will continue to avoid it. At this point in time, there is no reason for gyms to throw away these machines, but those who do use it should know that there is certainly more risk associated with it than a normal piece of equipment in the gym.

Does Icing an Injury Help Recovery?

I have participated in many organized sports throughout my life. When I was young I played little league baseball and and pee wee football, both of which developed into high school football and baseball. When I was not playing organized sports, my younger self was always outside, whether it be playing basketball, climbing trees, riding bikes, or swimming in the pool. As you could imagine, the amount bumps, bruises and cuts I would come home with was too much for my mom to keep track of. Regardless of the injury, I would always be handed an ice pack and was told it would make me feel better. Even into high school, the athletic trainer would give me ice for any sort of injury I got in a sport. I never questioned this and always assumed it was my best course of action in recovery. Recently, there have been increasing articles popping up online questioning the effectiveness of using ice for recovery. These articles came as a shock to me at first, but the basis for them is certainly warranted, after all, I don’t know why icing helps, I’ve only been told that it does. In any case, these articles peaked my curiosity, so I will be analyzing this topic further.

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(image via health.howstuffworks.com)

The phenomenon of icing an injury became popular in large part due to Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Mirkin came up with the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) in his 1978 book Sports Medicine Book. Since then, the RICE method of recovery has been used widely throughout sports medicine, but even Mirkin has gone back on the phrase he once made famous. Mirkin says, “there is no data to show that ice does anything more than block pain”, and he adds “And there is data that shows it delays healing.” (Source for both quotes here)

One study that points to ice not helping was done by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In this study, eleven male subjects did sex sets of tricep extensions at 85% maximum capacity to failure. Then they were randomly split up and some of them were given cooling treatments while others were not. The cooling treatments were administered for 15 minutes at a time and done 0,3,24,48,72 hours after completion of the exercise. The study found that those who were given the cooling treatment actually recovered slower than those who were not. Another study done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine notes that, “Ice is commonly used after acute muscle strains but there are no clinical studies of its effectiveness.” There are no real studies that point to ice helping to recover from injuries, yet it is one of the most commonly practiced techniques in sports medicine. Icing injuries is commonplace, and to find out there is no scientific backing to it came as a shock to me.  

In conclusion, the world of sports medicine needs to reevaluate the way it uses ice in the rehabbing process. There is no scientific evidence behind the use of ice, but there are dozens of studies pointing against it. Until any sort of study comes out that points to ice helping to aid recovery time, I will stay away from it.

Does Lifting Weights Cause Arthritis?

I usually lift weights at the gym about three to four times a week. As a young person, I never feel any pain or discomfort in any of the exercises I do. This is normal for most people around my age, and so no one usually thinks that anything bad could come of exercising regularly. When you talk to someone around or over the age of 45 however, they usually complain of some sort of joint pain and or injury that they have sustained over the years. Whether it be a bad back or bum knees, people around 50 years old who have been lifting their whole life are always experience pain when they go to the gym. The most common injury I hear people have is arthritis, which led me to wonder if this could be caused from years of lifting weights. As defined by mayoclinic.org, arthritis is the inflammation of your joints. It can cause great pain and discomfort and is especially prevalent among senior citizens. It is generally known to be caused by wear and tear on the different joints in your body, but sometimes arthritis can be genetic, making it impossible to avoid for some people. It is also known that women are at a higher risk naturally for arthritis than men. The treatment for arthritis can be either physical therapy, drugs, or surgery depending on the severity of one’s symptoms. Arthritis can severely damage quality of life and is something that should be avoided if possible.

According to a journal by Robert Sandmeier, it has been shown that increased athletic activities in animals does not cause arthritis, but the same does not hold true for humans. Sandmeier points to a study of 81 athletes and 900 controls, and results showed slightly increased arthritis in the athletes. Sandmeier also talks about the studies that have been done for weightbearing activities versus non weight bearing ones. For example a runner versus a powerlifter. He mentions another study which showed that 31% of weightlifters started to develop signs of arthritis while only 14% of the runners did. This is difficult to assess however, because powerlifters will naturally carry weigh more, which is also proven to cause arthritis. Most of the studies so far have been very inconclusive, and there is little evidence to show that a strong correlation exists between weightlifting and arthritis. This study also measured soccer players, of whom 29% started to develop arthritis. The authors of this study blame the high rate amongst soccer players on the frequent knee injuries they suffer.

(image via www.clker.com)

(image via www.clker.com)

Based off the reports and studies examined in this entry, the conclusion can be drawn that participating in physical activity does somewhat increase your chances of developing arthritis later in life. Does this mean that we should all cancel our gym memberships and avoid working out all together? Obviously the answer to that question is no, and this is a case where the benefits of exercising far outweigh the possible consequences. In addition, stopping exercise all together would most likely cause weight gain for most people, which is far more proven to cause arthritis. Until there is a definitive study showing a real correlation between lifting and arthritis, don’t cancel your gym membership or quit your favorite sport.

Are Antibiotics the Answer?

Antibiotics have become very common in modern medicine. They can be very effective in curing some illness, therefore doctors prescribe often. Antibiotics kill bacteria in the body, therefore they are used to cure illnesses such as strep throat or pneumonia. An example of when not to use them would be for something like a common cold or flu. This entry does not focus on when to take them however, but rather what happens when you take them too often. Antibiotic resistance has become a growing problem over the past couple years, and people have started taking notice. When doctors prescribe antibiotics to a patient too often, or prescribe a drug that is too powerful relative to their illness, they begin to build a resistance. As mentioned on fda.gov, antibiotic resistance can lead to longer illnesses, more complex illness, more doctor visits, and the use of stronger drugs.

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(image via www.telegraph.co.uk)

Too much of a good thing can be harmful, and antibiotics are no exception. The overuse of antibiotics can harm one’s ability to fight bacteria later in life. In an Oxford journal, published in September 2007, antibiotic resistance is referred to as a “crisis” in the United States. The journal also mentions how antibiotic resistant diseases have skyrocketed while the amount of research going into new drugs has staggered significantly. The researchers at oxford blame a multitude of the things for this, namely the government. The authors of this journal point to the government’s lack of legislature demanding new research for alternative drugs.

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(image via globe-views.com)

If doctors are prescribing antibiotics poorly, then there is also a possibility that a larger problem within the United
States health care system exists. The solution in this case would not be better drugs, but rather better doctors. If the latter is true, then the real solution would consume a larger amount of resources then the United States would want to spend on the issue. This means the only real
solution is better drugs, given that improving or replacing doctors would be near impossible at this time. Even with better drugs however, the risk for misprespcribing is still there.

In conclusion, the need for new drugs that kill bacteria has become critical, and with little push from the government, the solution to this problem seems very far away. In the meantime all we can do is try to limit our use of antibiotics for when we truly need them, and encourage government spending on new alternative forms of medication.

 

Initial Blog Post

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image via visitwilmingtonde.com

Hello SC 200. My name is Dan DePaulo and I am from Wilmington, Delaware (pictured), which is about a half hour from Philadelphia. I am a freshman at Penn State but I also took classes in the summer. I am currently in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, however I hope to be in Smeal eventually. My reason for taking this course is because it was recommended to me by my academic advisor after I told him science wasn’t my strongest subject. In addition to that, it fits very well with my current schedule and doesn’t require that I wake up too early. As I mentioned before, science has never been my strongest subject so naturally I never entertained the notion of majoring science. Majoring in something that I don’t excel in, or find particularly interesting could make for a painful four years.