Family Health News: Football Dangers, Childhood Injury, Measles

An assortment of health news impacting children and families.

Overhead American football player one handed touchdownProfessional football players reflect on the game’s merit for youth

With another NFL season well under way, current and former players continue to weigh in on this question: Would you let your son play football?

Asked about Frontline’s documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which aired in October on PBS, Troy Aikman (Dallas Cowboys, 1989‒2000) commented on, “I do not have a son; if I had a son, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage him from playing football, but I don’t know that I would encourage him to play either. … I don’t know what the data show, but I haven’t sensed there’s been a reduction in head injuries. With that in mind, that’s concerning. As long as we’re having contact and as long as there are collisions, there are going to be head injuries.”

The New York Times recently published an essay titled “Would I Let My Son Play Football?” written by former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita. He wants to tell concerned parents about “every new study drawing a correlation between head injuries and postcareer brain disease.” Fujita writes with appreciation about what the game of football has given him, but says he hates hearing of former players falling prey to issues related to repeated head trauma.

His telling answer to the question? “I’m just glad I have three daughters and will never have that conversation.”

The aftereffects of childhood injury

Are there long-term effects for children and their parents after children are healed from serious illness or injury? A research review published online in October in JAMA Pediatrics indicates that “one in every six children and a similar percentage of parents experience significant, persistent symptoms” of posttraumatic stress, Dr. Perri Klass reports for The New York Times. Lead report author Nancy Kassam-Adams, Ph.D., a psychologist and the director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says symptoms may include:

•    Disturbing and invasive memories and dreams
•    Evasion of people and places that evoke recollections of the injury or illness
•    Mood issues such as depression

Klass also cites results from a study published in the journal Pediatrics in October that may help children and parents suffering from these symptoms. Stanford doctors showed that mothers of premature infants who received trauma-focused treatments — including cognitive behavioral therapy and coping techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and creating their own personal trauma story — experienced a greater reduction in trauma symptoms and depression than the control group.

The takeaway from both studies: If you, your partner or your child is still suffering effects of a resolved injury or illness, it may help to seek out mental health services that focus on easing trauma-related stress.

vaccinemeasles2013 on track to be worst year for measles since 1996

Check your child’s measles vaccination record — especially if you plan to travel outside of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 2013 is on its way to being the worst year for measles in the United States since 1996.

“Travel outside the U.S. poses the highest risk for measles exposure, and therefore children should be protected prior to travel outside the U.S. with two doses,” says Hayley Gans, M.D., an infectious-disease specialist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “Protection after receiving the vaccine occurs about two weeks later, so this timeframe needs to be considered in the travel planning.”

The current vaccine schedule recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls for two doses of MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine given at 12‒15 months and 4‒6 years of age. “Having said that, there is no biologic reason to space the doses for MMR in this manner; the second dose is given for those individuals who do not respond to the initial dose, [and] it can be given at any time after one month,” Dr. Gans says.

nancy-altonWriter, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of her memoir about the beginning of her dyslexic daughter’s learning journey. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words .

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