Back to School Means Back to Sports

August signals the start of the school year and fall sports season for many students. In recognition, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) has focused its annual Neurosurgery Outreach Month on injury prevention in football and cheerleading. In recent years, potentially devastating head and spinal cord injuries have been associated with these all-American sports.

The AANS cited 300,000 football-related concussions annually in the United States, with approximately one-sixth of these injuries serious enough to be treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. Public awareness about head injuries and concussions resulting from playing football has grown over the past few years, as well as being the subject of Congressional hearings. However, there is less public awareness about the neurological injuries associated with cheerleading. While these injuries may be less prevalent, they can be just as devastating.

While the term ‘cheerleading’ was once used to describe the cheering on of athletes, the sport has changed drastically over the last two decades to become a highly acrobatic sport. The majority (96%) of the reported concussions and closed-head injuries were preceded by the cheerleader performing a stunt. Restrictions have been placed on stunts to help ensure cheerleaders’ safety, and experts agree that cheerleaders should be given proper training with supervision provided during all stunts.

For football players, experts recommend several tips to prevent head and neck injuries:

  • All players should receive a pre-season physical exam.
  • Players should receive adequate preconditioning and strengthening of the head and neck muscles.
  • Coaches, physicians, and trainers should ensure the players’ equipment is properly fitted, especially the helmet, and that the straps are always locked.
  • Ball carriers should be taught not to lower their heads when making contact with the tackler to avoid helmet-to-helmet collisions.

Recent studies on the cumulative effects of concussions in high school athletes have shown that even mild concussions can result in serious long-term problems, particularly if an athlete is allowed to return to play too early or if they have a history of concussions or other head injuries. For this reason, it is imperative that student athletes, coaches, and parents take every precaution to ensure the safety of those taking part in the sporting activities.

Keep Your Ears Healthy This Summer

For most people, summertime means it’s time to swim in pools, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. While most of us can enjoy these activities without any problems, some people must deal with what is known as swimmer’s ear, an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear is common, especially among teenagers and young adults, and is occasionally associated with middle ear infections or colds. The problem can be caused by swimming in polluted water or when water becomes trapped in the ear canal, leading to bacteria growth. Here are some tips for preventing swimmer’s ear:

  • Consider wearing ear plugs when swimming
  • Dry your ears with a towel or hair dryer on a low setting after swimming
  • Use isopropyl alcohol-based eardrops – or a 1-to-1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar (as long as ear tubes are not present) – to clear water from the ears
  • Do not use cotton swabs to clean ears, which can scratch the ear canal and create a potential site for infection
  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide in the ear

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear can include ear pain, hearing loss, itching of the ear or ear canal, and drainage from the ear that is yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling. More complicated ear infections can lead to a rupture in the eardrum, which may require medical intervention and, in extreme cases, surgery.

Ear infections can also be caused by an infection in the tonsils, such as strep throat. Individuals who experience repeated or persistent infections of the tonsils or adenoids that interfere with daily life are likely candidates for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (removal of the tonsils and adenoids).

This type of surgery is also known as T&A surgery. The procedure is recommended for individuals who are suffering from these symptoms or are experiencing serious complications such as enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids that cause severe sleep problems, sleep apnea, dental abnormalities, and difficulty swallowing.

Contact an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon at Methodist Hospital for Surgery to learn about treatment options for swimmer’s ear and other conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat.

July is Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Awareness Month

Approximately 294,000 children under the age of 18 are affected by pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions, commonly referred to as juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis – or JA – refers to any form of arthritis or arthritis-related conditions that develop in children or teenagers.

No known cause has been pinpointed for most forms of JA, nor is there evidence to suggest that toxins, foods, or allergies cause children to develop the disease. Some research points toward a genetic predisposition, which means the combination of genes a child receives from their parents, may cause the onset of arthritis when triggered by other factors.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for juvenile arthritis. The goal of treatment for JA is to relieve inflammation, control pain, and improve a child’s quality of life. Most treatment plans involve a combination of medication and healthy eating, with an emphasis on physical activity.

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. The goal of the health awareness month is to reach out to families and children affected by JA and highlight various treatment options. Most doctors recommend children with JA regularly engage in moderate physical activity. Exercise keeps joints flexible and strong, while maintaining optimum range of motion and minimizing stiffness.

While exercise may be painful, it is ultimately essential to a successful treatment plan. One way to get children diagnosed with JA exercising is to do activities the entire family can enjoy, so the child does not feel singled out. Activities that are low-impact, fun, and easy on a child’s joints include:

  • Swimming
  • Family walks
  • Bike rides

For more information about Methodist Hospital for Surgery’s orthopedic or imaging program, please click here.

Protecting Against Headaches

Each year, the National Headache Foundation (NHF) recognizes Headache Awareness Week in June in order to bring attention to the nationwide problem of headaches and to encourage sufferers to recognize their headache patterns and seek help. According to the NHF, 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraine pain and associated symptoms, which is equivalent to 13% of the population, with one in every four U.S. households having a migraine sufferer.

Migraines are more than just “bad headaches.” These severe headaches are usually accompanied by a combination of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. While causes differ among sufferers, experts believe the root cause of all migraines can be traced to chemical reactions in the brain. Treatment for migraines may include over-the-counter or prescription medications and self-help techniques such as relaxation training.

Most migraine sufferers report a “trigger” that will lead to a migraine. Triggers include certain physical or environmental factors, such as foods, hormonal changes, and stress. Weather is also considered a trigger among some sufferers, including:

  • A change in climate/weather, altitude, or barometric pressure
  • High winds
  • Traveling
  • Bright or flickering light, including sunlight reflections, glare, fluorescent lighting, TV, or movies
  • Extremes of heat and sound

With summertime upon us, it is important to recognize the impact of the sun’s potential harm. Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes against the sun’s bright rays and glare can help ward off some headache triggers. Additionally, when you know are out in the sun for extend periods of time remember to stay hydrated to keep your core body temperature from rising too rapidly, which can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke in its most severe form.

Headaches are unfortunately a part of many Americans’ lives, but recognizing the factors that cause them may help reduce their frequency and effect on day-to-day activities.

If headaches are interfering with your day-to-day life, click here to find a physician.

Reminding Men to Remember Your Health!

Each year, Men’s Health Week is celebrated as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day (June 19). The purpose of this week is to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Over the years, those in the medical community have recognized a “silent health crisis” in our country where, on average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. In 1920, women lived, on average, one year longer than men. Nowadays men, on average, die almost six years earlier than women. One major reason for this trend is that women are 100 percent more likely to visit their doctor for annual examinations and preventative services than men.

Studies have shown that regular check-ups and age-appropriate screenings can improve your health and help reduce premature death and disability. Consult your health care provider about the benefits of earlier screenings, especially if you are a member of a high-risk group or have a family history of disease. On average, men of any age should have their blood pressure checked annually. Also, men over the age of 50 should see their physician each year for a basic physical exam.

Although men are less likely to seek medical attention for back pain than women, they are more prone to developing back problems, especially if their line of work requires manual labor. While most causes of back pain in men are due to aging and overuse, here are a few simple tips for keeping your back and spine healthy:

  • Be sure your mattress offers plenty of back support.
  • Choose shoes that provide a supportive base that helps the spine and body remain in alignment.
  • Use good posture, especially if you spend long stretches of time in front of a computer or in an office chair.
  • In addition to regular aerobic exercise, focus on strengthening your abdominal and back muscles as well.
  • Always be careful when lifting a heavy item, remembering to lift with your knees and avoid twisting when lifting.

If you are experiencing ongoing back pain, you may benefit from a consultation from one of our pain management specialists. Visit www.methodisthospitalforsurgery.com

Get Moving in May

Arthritis is our country’s most common cause of disability. For this reason, the Arthritis Foundation sponsors an Arthritis Walk each May. This annual nationwide event raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis, which affects 50 million men, women, and children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion annually and result in 44 million outpatient visits.

So why was a walk created for people with arthritis? Most doctors believe movement is one of the best treatment options for arthritis and can help most people prevent the onset of the disease in the first place.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that strong evidence indicates both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits.

There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis. This chronic disease is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which causes stiffness and pain. Common causes of osteoarthritis include musculoskeletal defects, genetic defects, obesity, or injury and overuse.

Nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. are living with juvenile arthritis, making it one of the most common chronic childhood conditions. Additionally, arthritis is more common among women (24.9%) than men (18.1%), and girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.

There are several ways to project your joints and help prevent osteoarthritis, including:

  • Maintain your ideal body weight – the more you weigh, the more stress you are putting on your joints, especially your hips, knees, back, and feet.
  • Move your body – exercise protects joints by strengthening the muscles around them.
  • Stand up straight – good posture protects the joints in your neck, back, hips, and knees.
  • Use the big joints – when lifting or carrying, use the largest and strongest joints and muscles to help avoid injury and strain on your smaller joints.
  • Listen to your body – don’t ignore pain after an activity or exercise because it can be an indication you have over-stressed your joints.

While arthritis can mean chronic pain and discomfort for some, many sufferers have learned techniques to live with their condition and continue to lead healthy and productive lives. Methodist Hospital For Surgery’s joint program may benefit you or someone you know. To learn more,visit www.methodisthospitalforsurgery.com

The Importance of Knowing Your Numbers

Chances are if you have been to the doctor recently, you’ve had your blood pressure taken. After removing the Velcro cuff from your arm, the nurse will tell you two numbers before jotting them down. Regardless of how familiar this process is to most Americans, many of us do not understand what those numbers mean to our overall health.

Put simply, blood pressure (BP) is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of the blood vessels. During each heartbeat, BP varies between maximum and minimum pressure. For this reason, a BP reading consists of two numbers: the higher one is the systolic (or maximum) pressure and the lower one is the diastolic (or minimum) pressure.

Blood pressure is considered to be high if the higher number exceeds 140 or the lower number exceeds 90. Generally, a lower reading is better. As you get older, your BP is likely to go up because blood vessels become stiffer with each passing year. High blood pressure – also called hypertension – increases your chance of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and sometimes early death.

There are no symptoms of high blood pressure, but early detection is absolutely crucial because high blood pressure can be effectively treated. Since 1984, May has been proclaimed as National Blood Pressure Awareness Month, with the official motto of this initiative being, “know your numbers.” More than one out of every 10 Americans has high BP, and many do not even know it, making it a uniquely silent disease.

Being overweight and out of shape increases the risk of high BP. Other factors affecting blood pressure include:

  • Your level of stress or anxiety.
  • The amount of salt in your diet.
  • A family history of high blood pressure.
  • If you smoke.
  • If you have diabetes.

The most effective way to prevent and treat high blood pressure is a healthy diet and regular physical activity. A good rule of thumb is the higher your weight, the higher your blood pressure is likely to be. Decreasing the salt, fat, and cholesterol in your diet and increasing the potassium and calcium in your diet helps to lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease.

So, what are your numbers?

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  But is this statement really true?  With April designated as National Humor Month, we look at the benefits of a cheerier outlook and if it really does make for good medicine.

What exactly happens physically when we laugh?  Some researchers believe the effects of laugher and exercise is very similar, from stretching muscles throughout your face and body to increasing your breathing, which sends more oxygen and nutrients into your blood stream.  Additionally, laughter increases the hormones beta-endorphins (which elevate mood) and human growth hormone (which boosts immunity) while reducing three stress hormones – cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac.  High levels of these three hormones have been linked to compromised immune systems.

So what are some other effects of laughter?  Here are a few:

  • Fights depression
  • Increases respiration
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Reduces pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves stamina

Just because you have a laughter-filled life, however, does not mean you should abandon a healthy diet and exercise regime.  In fact, some researchers are divided on how laughter is so beneficial.  While laughter certainly has an effect on the physical body, as mentioned above, perhaps it is the why behind the laughter that is the most important.  For example, if someone is sharing a laugh with family or friends, it means they are in contact with other human beings that they love and with whom they share a close bond.  Some researchers believe that it is these relationships that lead to better or improved health, and not the laughter itself.

Either way, who really needs a reason to laugh?  So even if laughter cannot actually improve your physical health, at the very least it does improve your quality of life, which is reason enough for most people!

Imaging, At Your Service

Methodist Hospital for Surgery, the newest hospital in the Dallas, Texas, area, offers patients a multifaceted imaging department featuring the latest state-of-the-art technology as well as a superior clinical staff.  The hospital prides itself on providing unparalleled service to patients and physicians.

“If a patient needs to undergo an imaging procedure at 9 p.m., we’ll make it happen,” says Bobby Himel, BS, RT(R) (MR) (CT), imaging manager at Methodist Hospital for Surgery. “We strive to offer exceptional clinical and customer service.”

Intraoperative Surgical Tool

The hospital specializes in orthopedic care, ranging from hip and knee replacements to treatment of spinal injuries. The multi-dimensional imaging capabilities offered at the hospital are rare in facilities across the United States and complement the hospital’s orthopedic capabilities.

“Our pride and joy at the hospital is the first Medtronic O-Arm® System in North Texas,” Himel says. “It’s a navigation device that allows us to place stabilizing devices into a patient’s spine while still operating. We can perform a computed tomography [CT] scan during an operation to ensure that the cages or screws that have been secured in the patient are in the correct places.”

The hospital utilizes other tools geared toward spinal calculations and hip and knee projections.

Community Response

At Methodist Hospital for Surgery, the staff and the leadership team have substantial expertise in all of the imaging modalities.

“We not only provide the latest imaging technology, but our nurses, technologists, and hospital staff have the highest levels of clinical expertise in their fields,” Himel says. “Our hospital offers a full range of services by experts who have received additional certifications to provide knowledge that empowers patients.”

Located off the Dallas North Tollway in Addison, Texas, the hospital is easily accessible for patients, offers valet parking, and accommodates patients by providing multiple handicap ramps.

“The hospital is beautiful,” Himel says. “The hardwood floors, marble sinks, and high-definition televisions help make the hospital experience more comfortable and homey.”

To learn more about the imaging department at Methodist Hospital for Surgery, visit www.methodisthospitalforsurgery.com or call (469) 248-3900.

Building Healthy Habits

There is no doubt that healthy habits start at a young age, from eating a balanced diet to exercising regularly. However, children do not automatically or intuitively have these habits, so it is important that parents to teach their children how to choose healthy foods and to be physically active. The Centers for Disease Control report that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese, so developing lasting habits that lead to a long, healthy life is more important than ever.

In observance of the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day 2011 (April 17), we wanted to share with you some ideas and strategies for getting your kids moving and teaching that exercise really can be fun. As the weather warms up outside, it is a great time to be enjoying the outdoors as a family. Experts recommend children above the age of 6 need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of that hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity with children participating in muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

A major obstacle parents have to overcome with their children is the lure of TV, video games, and the Internet. These sedentary activities do not promote good health, so parents need to provide an alternative that children will find fun and appealing. One thing to keep in mind is that parents are a powerful example for children, so taking part in physical activity with your child can be an effective way to draw your children away from the living room and into the backyard.

Get Moving Ideas

  • Plan a game night: in good weather, these games can be outdoors in the backyard, a local park, or in a swimming pool. Classic games like Tag or Simon Says get kids moving. However, an indoor game like Charades can provide a means to activity when it is cold or raining.
  • Get in the game: playing a sport with your child is a great way to teach them a new skill while also being active. Kid-friendly sports include soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis.
  • Provide active toys: having jump ropes, a basketball or a soccer ball on hand encourages kids to use them. On the weekends, consider putting up a volleyball or badminton net and inviting the neighbors to join in on a tournament.
  • Explore the neighborhood: biking or walking through your neighborhood provides a different sensory experience than just driving through in the car. Take the time to point out trees and flowers to your kids. You can also make this a treasure hunt for smaller children, collecting leaves, rocks, and bird feathers along the way.

Exercising with your children does not have to time-consuming or expensive, but it should be fun. Taking the time to discover what works for your family and learning which activities your kids prefer will deepen your bond as a family as you learn to laugh and play together.