Author Archives: sjb6039

Sport Injuries Cause More Than Just Physical Effects

Around August of last year, I tore my ACL weeks before the start of my senior soccer season.  My injury left me feeling sad and upset that I could no longer play soccer, however those emotions quickly went away as I focused my mind on having a speedy recovery.  A few weeks later I underwent ACL reconstruction surgery and was physically handicapped for many weeks to the point of where I could not bend my knee.  Now, over a year later, I have made a full recovery and am perfectly healthy.  While the recovery process was physically hard, I made it through it mentally because I had ways of entertaining myself other than playing soccer.  However, I began to think about other athletes who suffer from severe injuries whose sport is their entire life.  In this blog I am going to examine the psychological effects of injuries on athletes.

It has been found that when an athlete suffers from a serious sports injury they also suffer from many physiological effects that come with it.  One of the biggest things that injured athletes struggle with is depression.  Because the injury prevents the athlete from doing what they love, they become lost and don’t know what to do with themselves, and often times go into depression.  A study  conducted looked at the psychological effects of an injury on 343 male college athletes.  The results of the study were that nearly half of the athletes had symptoms of depression, and in addition to this 12% of the athletes actually became depressed.  While this study shows support for the hypothesis that injuries cause depression, it would have been more credible had it been conducted with a larger number of participants and conducted on females in addition to males.  Nonetheless, it is believed that injuries can lead to an athlete coming depressed.


Along with depression, one of the biggest controversies in the sports world has been the psychological effects caused by concussions.  It is said that suffering from a concussion can lead to the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, aka CTE.chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy

CTE is said to lead to brain degeneration, which means a person can develop memory loss, impaired judgement, depression along with many other changes to behavior.  What is scary about CTE is that symptoms often do not show up right away, and can even show up year later.  CTE shows that injuries not only bring about psychological changes during the recovery process of the injury, but they can bring about psychological effects years after the person has completely recovered from their injury.

While small injuries might not have any mental health on athletes, large chronic injuries certainly do.  Some people may not be affect at all by their injury, whereas others will be mentally damaged.  Why is it that some people are more affected than others?  First, it may depend on the type of injury.  Head injuries are more likely to bring on depression and personality changes than knee injuries.  Also, a person’s family history may contribute.  If somebody has a family history of depression, they may be more likely to suffer depression when they become injuries than somebody who has no family history of depression.  All in all, while it may seem like injuries only have physical effects, they also have large psychological effects.


Putukian, By Margot. “Mind, Body and Sport: How Being Injured Affects Mental Health.” N.p., 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

“What Is CTE? » CTE Center | Boston University.” CTE Center RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Tarkin, Laurie. “Athletes’ Injuries Go Beyond the Physical.” The New York Times. N.p., 26 Sept. 2000. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

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Does Birth Control Increase Your Risk for Certain Cancers?

Birth control pills are one of the most commons forms of birth control and have been widely used by females for decades.  A person’s reason for taking it often varies from the most obvious reason, to avoid pregnancy.  While that is a top reason, many females also take it to help with menstrual pains such as headache and cramps as well as to clear up acne.  Birth control has many advantages however it has been said that it may increase one’s risk of cancer.  In class we recently discussed cancer trails which got me wanting to research into the effects of birth control on cancer risk more closely.


It is believed that birth control pills may increase one’s risk of having breast cancer.  In 1996 researchers reviewed 54 studies that examined birth control and breast cancer.  The review concluded that women who took birth control pills, specifically pills containing both progestin and estrogen, had an increased risk of breast cancer for as long as ten years going off of the pill.  However, after ten years the increased risk due to birth control went away and a women’s risk of having breast cancer went down to the level it was before using birth control. So while a women’s risk of breast cancer was increased while using birth control, it is hard to say if that was completely because of birth control.  There may have been other variables contributing, such as age and even smoking, as researchers have found smoking may increase one’s risk of breast cancer.


In addition to increasing the risk of breast cancer, birth control pills have also been found to increase a women’s risk of having cervical cancer.  Researchers have found similarly to breast cancer, taking birth control pills for five to ten years makes a women form a higher risk for cervical cancer.  Data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2002 saw a four times higher risk in women who took birth control pills than women who never have.  However, similarly again to breast cancer, ten years after women stopped taking birth control their risk of having cervical cancer returned to their pre birth control levels.

Now I wonder, why is it that the increased risk of cancer goes away years after women stop taking birth control pills?  I found very little research on this so I am going to propose the hypothesis that the increased risk of cancer goes away because the additional progesterone and estrogen hormones are no longer entering the body. In addition to this, we must remember that there may be other variables that cause the increased risk of cancer in the first place, such as family history, age, weight, and other exposures.


“Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

Miller, By Kelli. “Birth Control & Cancer: Which Methods Raise, Lower Risk.” Birth Control & Cancer: Which Methods Raise, Lower Risk. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

“Cancer & Birth Control | Boulder | Denver | CU Ob/Gyn.” University of Colorado OBGYN Family Planning. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

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Does Smiling Have Positive Health Effects?

Smiling is something that everyone does and is often associated with happiness.  Yes, smiling is used to show our emotions, but it so much more than that.  The University of Kansas conducted a study involving 170 college students to test whether smiling has a positive impact on our mood and health.  The students were randomly assigned to three groups, all of which had the students mimic a research assistant holding chopsticks between their teeth, however each group was mimicking different actions.  Of the three groups, one had the students genuinely smile while the other two partook in fake smiles all while continuing to hold the chopsticks in between their teeth.  Next, the students were asked to perform stressful tasks while researchers monitored their heart rates from beginning to end.  In addition, the researchers asked the students to describe their mood before and after completing the tasks.  The researchers found that heart rate rose while completing the stressful tasks, however the heart rate of smilers went back down to normal faster than those who forced their smiles.  In addition, when the students reported their moods to the researchers, those who were smiling had a smaller decrease in mood than those who forced their smiles.  The conclusion of the study was that smiling genuinely reduces stress while performing stressful tasks as well as helps the body recover quickly after the event.


Researchers have been continuously examining what makes smiling so good for you.  They believe it is good for your brain as smiling releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Endorphins can relieve pain and serotonin is thought to be a mood lifter.  In addition to smiling being good for your own health, it is also good for the health of others.  A Swedish study showed participants a picture of someone showing an emotion, such as joy and sadness.  The researchers then asked the participants to show the opposite emotion of what the picture shows.  For example, if the picture should someone frowning, they asked the participants to smile, and vice versa.  The researchers found that instead of doing the opposite of the picture, the subjects mimicked the images and then had to consciously correct their expression to be the opposite of the image.  This then lead researchers to the conclusion that if you smile at somebody they will most likely smile back.stock-photo-cartoon-illustration-of-a-smiling-head-with-rainbow-brain-and-a-sad-blue-face-head-with-dark-clouds-357527054

All in all, smiling makes you healthier, as well as those around you because they are likely to return a smile.  Also, it is believed that seeing somebody else smile activates the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain which actually makes people feel rewarded.  Furthermore, it can be concluded that smiling is good for our health and we should all try to smile more.

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Kennelly, By Stacey. “Smile! It’s Good for Your Heart.” Greater Good. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <

“There’s Magic In Your Smile.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

“Good Reasons to Smile.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. The Nemours Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

Vaccines Cause Autism: Fact or Myth?

Recently in class we discussed the topic of doctors making claims off of intuition rather than having science based evidence to support their claims.  Some examples of this were sudden infant death syndrome, Thalidomide, and brain stents.  An example similar to these cases is the question of whether vaccines lead to autism?  This question was brought about in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield published a study following eight children who received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine as well as several other types of vaccines.  He found that all eight of the children had symptoms of autism appear shortly after receiving the vaccinations.  He then went on to conclude that there was a link between vaccines and autism.  Shortly after the paper was published, vaccination rates, particularly rubella vaccines, began to drop due to the concerns of parents that were brought about by the content in Wakefield’s paper.  Although the publication had parents worried, scientist doubted the credibility of the paper as several studies had been conducted that contracted its data.  In addition, further investigation determined that the publication suffered from the Texas Sharp Shooter Problem as Wakefield only published the data that specifically suited his hypothesis.  Finally, it was established that Wakefield had failed to provide a causal link that showed that vaccines have any contribution to autism in children.  After further research, it was determined that Wakefield’s finding were false and misleading, as vaccines do NOT cause autism or increase a person’s chances of having autism. Since 1998, multiple studies have been conducted to provide evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism.  Recently in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC) conducted a study that analyzed numerous different substances, or antigens, used in vaccines from birth to age two.  The results found that those children who had autism and those who did not have autism received the same amount of antigens over the first two years of life, thus providing evidence to the claim that vaccines do not cause autism.vaccines-fb

Although there is a strong consensus among scientists that vaccines do not cause or increase one’s risk of having autism, many parents still are not convinced.  Since the publication of Wakefield’s study, the idea that autism and vaccines are linked has never gone away.  A survey conducted by the National Consumers League (NCL) in 2014 found that every one in three parents believe that vaccines and autism are linked. In addition, the survey also found that nearly half of parents are aware of Wakefield’s paper, and of those parents only half of them have been informed that Wakefield’s paper was not credible and the findings have been found false.  Since 1998, as a result of Wakefield’s study, many children have not received vaccines, some of which are our classmates.  The case of Wakefield’s false claim of vaccines causing autism is a prime example of how doctors make claims without science based evidence, which in return has lasting affects for years to come.


“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. < >

“Survey: One Third of American Parents Mistakenly Link Vaccines to Autism.” National Consumers League. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. “The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Medknow Publications, 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <>

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Is Your Face Wash More Harmful Than You Think?

Like many Freshman here at Penn State I am currently enrolled in CAS 100A, also known as speech class.  For my upcoming speech assignment, my class was instructed to select a social issue that we would then explain to a class as well as come up with a policy to correct the issue.  I wanted to select a unique topic other than the typical topics of why texting while driving is bad or why marijuana should be legalized.  After several hours of researching, I came across the issue of microbeads being used in cosmetic products and why they are extremely harmful.

First you may ask, what exactly are microbeads.  Microbeads are micro sized balls of plastic that are used in everyday cosmetic products such as soap, facewash, and toothpaste.  While these small little beads may not seem come across as harmless, they actually are not.  Microbeads are made out of plastic which means that they do not dissolve while a personal care product is being used.  Because they do not dissolve, they end up being flushed down the drains.  Although we have filtration systems in place with the purpose of filtering what is flushed down the drains, the miniscule size of the microbeads makes it nearly impossible for them to be filtered, thus allowing them to enter into our oceans and lakes.4928

Microbeads are estimated to enter our oceans and lakes by the thousands every time we use a product, which results in hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic being flushed into our waters daily.  Researcher Sherri Mason wanted to find out for herself just how inflected our waters are with microbeads, so she went to the great lakes to collect data.  Her findings were startling.  She found that on average the lakes contained about 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer.  Even more startling results found that Lake Ontario contains 1.1 million microbeads per square kilometer.


In addition to polluting our lakes and oceans, microbeads have other costly effects.  Many marine animals mistake the microbeads for fish eggs as they have a similar resemblance, and end up eating the tiny pieces of plastic.  Not only does this harm the fish as they have plastic in their bodies, but it harms us as humans as well.  The food chain is alive and well.  Fish eat food, and we then eat fish.  But if these fish are eating microbeads, that means that we as humans are also eating the microbeads when we consume the fish.  So now I wonder, when people become sick from eating fish, are they sick because it was undercooked or sick because they ate plastic microbeads? Researches have not yet been able to prove that microbeads are making people sick however it could be a cofounding variable.

Now knowing what we know, would a rational person stop using personal care products that contain microbeads in them?  I personally would stop using them, as it takes little effort for me to switch to a different brand that does not use microbeads in their products.  However, everybody is different and some people may not see it as a problem.  Researchers and myself are in agreement that microbeads are terrible for the environment and in fact are more harmful than people think.


Zimmer, Russ. “Microbeads and the Ocean’s Plastic Smog.” TCA Regional NewsDec 29 2015. ProQuest. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.

Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.

Altavilla, Nicole. “Banning the Bead.” American Spa 01 2016: 1. ProQuest. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.



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Female Athletes: Higher Risk of Suffering an ACL Tear

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament, more commonly known as the ACL, is a ligament located in the center of the knee that functions as the main source of stability for the knee.  An ACL tear is a common injury that is seen in almost all sports, however it most commonly occurs in soccer, football, and tennis.  Roughly a year ago I tore my ACL while playing soccer and since then I have been interested in knowing what factors played a role in my injury. I have heard when it comes to ACL tears females have a higher risk of sustaining an injury than males, but why is that?


Another explanation According to Robert Shmerling, the number of ACL tears sustained by females is six times more common than that of males.  One of the main explanations for this is the difference in body types of the two genders.  To start, females have a wider pelvic width which then changes the configuration of the ankles and knee compared to that of a male.   In addition, females have different thigh bone structures than men do which could also become a factor in the increase risk of injury.  When it comes to the quadriceps and hamstrings males have a better ratio which in return allows for the hamstring to balance out the strength of the quadriceps.  It has been found that female athletes have weaker hamstrings, thus resulting in an uneven ratio of quadriceps to hamstring strength and an increased risk of injury due to stress on the knee.


Another explanation as to why females are at a higher risk is the difference in the way men and females cut and land when wanting to make a change in direction.  When cutting, males cut with both feet along with having a bend in their knees whereas females cut on one foot and in an upright position.  In addition, the majority of female athletes naturally have their knees rotated inward when cutting and landing.  When females do land on their feet, they often do so with their feet completely flat on the ground in comparison to men who land on the balls of the feet.

So now knowing that female athletes may be at a higher risk of sustaining an ACL tear, should they take precautionary measures against a possible tear by participating in ACL prevention programs?  The purpose of ACL prevention programs is to strengthen the muscles around the knee and also enhance the form of athletes when running, cutting, and landing considering the fact that many ACL injuries are non-contact.  While the programs do do that, there is not enough research to conclude that these prevention programs actually decrease the risk of a tear.  However, if there is a possibility that prevention programs do decrease the risk of an ACL tear, I believe it would be well worth it to partake in the 20 minute programs before each practice rather than going through six months of physical therapy like I had to after I tore my ACL.

The differences in body types and the way men and females cut and land when changing directions has an impact on why females may be more likely to sustain an ACL tear, however gender may not be the only risk.  I have come to the conclusion myself that being a female did increase my chances of tearing my ACL and was played a role in it, however it may not have been the only factor that contributed to my injury.


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Science Is Not My Thing

Hi everyone, my name is Sydney Brougher and I am a freshman.  I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania but I live closer to Hershey which is where Hershey’s Chocolate is made and the amusement park Hershey Park is located.  I am currently in the Division of Undergraduate Studies but I plan to study either business finance or accounting.  Although I enjoy math I have no interest in science at all and do not plan on becoming a science major.  In high school I hated going to science class because the topics of biology and chemistry did not interest me which caused me to struggle.  I did not enjoy doing labs because I never knew what I was doing, and learning about animals and the body in general was not appealing to me.  I would prefer to stick to the business side of math rather than the science aspect of it.

At orientation my advisor recommended that I take a science class and specifically recommended this class to meet my general education requirements.  She said she had heard from many students that they enjoyed this class and when I read the class description stating that this was a class for people who don’t like science I knew this was the right class for me.  I like that this class is target more towards teaching us about topics we want to learn about and information that would not be covered in other science classes. The topics that we have covered so far in class have already been more interesting to me than any other science class I have taken and I am looking forward to learning more while challenging myself at the same time.    spongebob image