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Study: Youth football participation doesn’t impact concussion recovery later

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Sept. 9 (UPI) — Starting tackle football at a younger age may not affect a player’s ability to recover from a concussion as they age, a study published Wednesday by the journal Neurology found.

In a study involving more than 600 NCAA college football players, no evidence emerged that those who started playing tackle football at an earlier age took longer to recover from a concussion or had worse performance on thinking and memory tests after sustaining a head injury, the researchers said.

Concussions also did not negatively impact players’ balance or put them at increased risk for psychological problems.

“Because football is a very physical game, and concussions can occur, it has been hypothesized that playing at an early age may … increase a person’s vulnerability to neurological problems later in life,” study author Thomas A. Buckley said in a press release.

“Our study in NCAA football players, some who started playing tackle football as early as age 5, found no link between playing football earlier in life and worse recovery from concussion,” said Buckley, an associate professor of kinesiology and applied physiology at the University of Delaware.

Earlier research into the potential effects of early exposure to tackle football and long-term brain health produced mixed results. While some studies showed worse performance on memory and mental health screening tests or changes in the brain, others showed no effect of playing football at a younger age, Buckley said.

For this study, Buckley assessed 621 NCAA football players from 30 schools as part of the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium.

Athletes in the study reported that they started playing tackle football at an average age of 10, and 46% of them had experienced concussions previously.

All athletes in the study experienced a recent concussion and all had baseline testing before suffering their injuries, Buckley said. All athletes were evaluated within six hours of their latest concussion, he said.

Overall, 294 were evaluated for symptom severity one to two days after their concussions and 327 were evaluated once their symptoms resolved.

Testing included assessments for concussion severity and recovery, including measures of memory, reaction time and speed of eye movements. In addition, the players underwent a balance test, and a survey in which athletes rank the severity of their symptoms, Buckley said.

Still, larger studies are needed to evaluate recovery from multiple concussions as athletes age, he said.

“It’s encouraging that our study found no link between earlier exposure to playing tackle football in childhood and adolescence and worse outcomes after concussion while still in college,” Buckley said.

“Our results may be reassuring for players and parents, but it is important to note that we were looking at one concussion at one point in time and current testing may not be sensitive enough to detect subtle changes.”



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Depressed teens may struggle in school

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By about age 16, teens diagnosed with depression have substantially lower educational attainment, a new British study finds.

Targeted educational support might be of particular benefit to teens from poor backgrounds and boys, but all children with depression can benefit from such help, the study authors suggested.

For the study, the researchers used British health and education records to identify nearly 1,500 kids under 18 years of age with depression. Typically, their depression was diagnosed around age 15. Their educational attainment was compared with a group of young people who were not depressed.

Among students with a diagnosis of depression, 83% reached expected educational attainment at ages 6 to 7, but only 45% hit more advanced thresholds in English and math by age 15 to 16. Researchers said that’s much lower than the 53% who met the threshold locally and nationwide.

“Previous research has found that, in general, depression in childhood is linked to lower school performance,” said researcher Alice Wickersham, a doctoral student at NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre of King’s College London.

But young people who developed depression in secondary school typically showed a performance decline on the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams. The exams — taken by most pupils at about age 15 to 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — dovetailed with the time of diagnosis for many young people.

The pattern appeared to be consistent across different genders, ethnicities and economic groups, Wickersham said in a research center news release.

“While it’s important to emphasize that this won’t be the case for all teenagers with depression, it does mean that many may find themselves at a disadvantage for this pivotal educational milestone,” Wickersham said.

“It highlights the need to pay close attention to teenagers who are showing early signs of depression. For example, by offering them extra educational support in the lead up to their GCSEs, and working with them to develop a plan for completing their compulsory education,” she added.

Researcher Dr. Johnny Downs, senior lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London, said the findings have two key policy implications.

“It demonstrates just how powerful depression can be in reducing young people’s chances at fulfilling their potential, and provides a strong justification for how mental health and educational services need to work to detect and support young people prior to critical academic milestones,” he said.

The findings were published online Oct. 8 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

For more about teens and depression, head to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: New bedside test means faster diagnosis, treatment of COVID-19

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Oct. 8 (UPI) — A rapid, bedside test for COVID-19 delivers results in less than two hours, meaning that appropriate treatment can be initiated earlier for those already hospitalized because of their symptoms, according to a study published Thursday by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The standard COVID-19 test uses polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, technology, which amplifies small samples of DNA in order to identify the presence of virus in samples taken from an infected person’s nose or throat.

The PCR test requires samples to be sent to a centralized lab within the hospital for processing, typically takes more than 20 hours to produce results, the researchers said.

The enhanced speed of the bedside, or “point-of-care” tests, also means patients infected with the new coronavirus can be isolated earlier, reducing the risk for transmission to other patients and healthcare workers.

“Our findings are the first to suggest the clinical benefits of molecular point-of-care COVID-19 testing in hospitals, demonstrating reduced delays, bed moves and time in assessment areas, which all lead to better infection control,” study co-author Dr. Tristan William Clark, of Southampton General Hospital in England, said in a statement.

“We believe that [these] molecular [tests] should be urgently integrated … to reduce coronavirus transmission within hospitals to prevent the next wave of the pandemic overwhelming health services around the world,” Clark said.

Since the start of the global pandemic in March, healthcare systems worldwide have relied on PCR testing of patient samples in centralized hospital laboratories, an approach that is accurate, but also lengthy and resource intensive, according to Clark and his colleagues.

The longer time it takes to generate results with PCR testing means that patients often wait in mixed assessment rooms to be admitted to the correct COVID-19 or non-COVID ward, increasing the possibility of transmission, the researchers said.

However, with point-of-care tests, nasal and throat swab samples are collected and placed into small cartridges for analysis. Unlike PCR tests, which require specially trained lab personnel, the bedside tests can be performed by healthcare workers in the emergency room or other assessment area, they said.

For this study, Clark and his colleagues evaluated the QIA-stat-Dx point-of-care testing platform, manufactured by Dutch firm Qiagen, in 1,054 adults with COVID-19 symptoms being assessed in the acute medical unit and emergency department of Southampton General Hospital between March 20 and April 29.

Nose and throat swabs were taken from all patients and tested for COVID-19 infection, with 499 patients evaluated using the QIA-stat-Dx, while the rest were assessed using only PCR testing. All test results were confirmed using the standard PCR approach as well, the researchers said.

Among those tested with QIA-stat-Dx, 197, or 39%, were found to be positive for COVID-19, while 155, or 28%, of those evaluated by only PCR were positive for the virus, the data showed.

The point-of-care test produced results in roughly 1.7 hours on average, while PCR evaluation took approximately 21.3 hours per patient, according to the researchers.

After testing, patients were transferred to definitive COVID-positive or negative wards, a process that took eight hours in the QIA-stat-Dx group and 28.8 hours in the PCR-only group, the researchers said.

With the bedside testing, approximately 14% of patients were transferred directly to the correct ward immediately and bypassed the assessment area, they said.

In addition, the point-of-care test was found to be more than 99% accurate at correctly identifying those positive for the virus, according to the researchers.

Most of the patients found to have COVID-19 in the study were recruited into a separate clinical trial evaluating treatments for the virus, with those evaluated with QIA-stat-Dx enrolled in the second study two days faster, on average, than those assessed by PCR only, the researchers said.

“Recruiting patients into clinical trials remains an international priority throughout this pandemic and is vital to accelerating the search for effective treatments,” Clark said.

“This is especially true when researchers are investigating the potential of antivirals, which have to be administered at early disease stages to have the greatest benefit,” he said.



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Many using cannabis for pain still take opioids, study finds

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People using cannabis for pain may still be taking opioid painkillers, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at cannabis and nonprescription opioid use among 211 individuals in the New York City area. Over 90 days, the investigators found that opioid use was at least as high when cannabis was used as when it wasn’t, regardless of participants’ pain levels.

“Our study is among the first to test opioid substitution directly, suggesting that cannabis seldom serves as a substitute for nonmedical opioids among opioid-using adults, even among those who report experiencing moderate or more severe pain,” said researcher Deborah Hasin. She’s a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City.

“In other words, our study suggests that cannabis is not an effective way to limit nonmedical opioid use,” Hasin added in a news release from the Society for the Study of Addiction.

In 2017, more than 2 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction, and more than 70,000 died from the painkillers, the researchers pointed out in background notes.

Opioid use — including nonmedical use of prescription opioids, synthetic opioids and heroin — is the main cause of overdose deaths. How cannabis may change nonmedical opioid use is critical to understanding how cannabis-based interventions can affect the opioid crisis, the researchers said.

The report was published Oct. 8 in the journal Addiction.

More information

For more on drug addiction, head to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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