If you love exercise, one of the hardest parts of suffering an injury is being sidelined. But if you take the time to heal a sprain or strain correctly, you’ll get back in the game faster. First, understand your injury to treat it appropriately. A sprain affects ligaments, the bands of tissue that connect bones at a joint. A strain is damage to muscle and the fibers that attach it to bone. Both injuries are classified from first-degree (the mildest) to third-degree (the most severe). Resist minimizing your injury. If you’re in a lot of pain or can’t put weight on a limb, call your doctor. Getting the right treatment is essential for a full and healthy recovery. You might need a splint, protective pad or brace, or crutches. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, treatment starts with an approach called PRICE, a variation of RICE, to limit swelling and speed healing. “PRICE” steps include: Protect against any further injury. Restrict activity for 48 to 72 hours. Ice the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 60 to 90 minutes. Compress the area with an elastic bandage or other compression aid. Elevate the injured area to minimize swelling. The next stage usually includes gentle movement of the muscle or joint, mild resistance exercise, and a very gradual return to your favorite activity.…  read on >

A brutal flu season has had people reaching for relief in their medicine cabinet, but a new study warns that overdosing on acetaminophen (Tylenol) is more common when bugs and viruses are circulating. It turns out that the odds of taking more than the recommended 4 grams a day jumps 24 percent during these months, said lead researcher Saul Shiffman. He is senior scientific advisor at the research firm Pinney Associates in Pittsburgh. Why the jump? People battling the flu often take more than one medication for their symptoms — one remedy for headache, another for sniffles, another for backache — not realizing that all of them may contain acetaminophen, Shiffman explained. “If you don’t realize each contains acetaminophen, you might end up exceeding the daily limit inadvertently,” he said. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage, Shiffman said, although he noted that most people in this study who took too much did not hit the high levels that would overload the liver. “The daily limit is set pretty conservatively. There’s no indication that if you go a little over 4 grams, that puts you at risk. The idea is we want people to follow the label directions,” Shiffman added. On the other hand, people at risk for liver damage might be harmed by taking even lower amounts of acetaminophen, and should be particularly…  read on >

While football is frequently blamed for concussions, a new study shows that it’s also the sport in which athletes are most likely to suffer neck injuries. A neck fracture, commonly referred to as a broken neck, is a break in one or more vertebrae in the upper part of the spine. Neck sprains involve injury to the soft tissue surrounding those bones. The neck is referred to medically as the cervical spine. “We expected that American football was the leading cause of cervical spine injury, and it was for overall injuries [fractures and sprains],” said study author Dr. J. Mason DePasse. He’s a trauma fellow in the department of orthopaedics at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I. “Most neck fractures during sports don’t involve paralysis,” DePasse added. “Certainly that can happen, but most people … can have arm weakness.” DePasse and his colleagues combed through data collected by the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2000 to 2015. More than 27,000 patients with neck injuries sustained from sports were identified, including 26,380 neck sprains and 1,166 fractures. Compared to women, men’s injury rates were 1.7 times higher for neck sprains and 3.6 times higher for fractures. Trailing football as the most common cause of neck sprains in men were cycling and weightlifting/aerobics. Women suffered the most neck sprains in weightlifting/aerobics, trampoline and…  read on >

Stem cell clinics are charging big money for knee arthritis “cures” and making extravagant claims about their therapies, a new study contends. A same-day injection for one knee costs thousands of dollars at these centers, according to a consumer survey taken of clinics across the United States. People are paying that kind of cash because two-thirds of stem cell clinics promise that their treatments work 80 to 100 percent of the time, researchers report. But there’s no medical evidence suggesting that any stem cell therapy can provide a lasting cure for knee arthritis, said study lead researcher Dr. George Muschler, an orthopedic surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic. “There are claims made about efficacy [effectiveness] that aren’t supported by the literature,” Muschler said. “There’s a risk of charlatanism, and patients should be aware.” Stem cells have gained a reputation as a miracle treatment and potential cure for many ailments. The cells have the potential to provide replacement cells for any part of the body — blood, brain, bones or organs. As a result, a wave of stem cell centers have opened up around the country, offering cures for a variety of diseases, Muschler said. “It’s very sexy to market yourself as a stem cell center, so there’s been a boom of centers, probably close to 600 now in the United States offering this therapy,” Muschler said.…  read on >

Driver fatigue causes many more car accidents in the United States than previously estimated, a new report suggests. The finding comes from an analysis of several months’ worth of video recordings taken of nearly 3,600 Americans while they were driving. During that time, participating drivers were involved in 700 accidents. All participants’ vehicles had been outfitted with a dash-cam video recorder. That allowed researchers to analyze each driver’s face in the minutes right before crashing. The researchers also had video of the road scene in front of the drivers. Together, the footage suggested that the percentage of accidents involving sleepy drivers was about eight times higher than current federal estimates. The finding was highlighted in a report released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation describes the investigation into drowsy driving as the most in-depth of its kind to date. “Driver drowsiness is a notoriously difficult problem to quantify because it typically doesn’t leave behind evidence that a police officer can observe after the fact when investigating a crash — in contrast to alcohol, for example,” said Brian Tefft, a senior research associate with the foundation in Washington, D.C. “Thus, we expected that our study would find that the problem was substantially bigger than the official statistics from the U.S. DOT [Department of Transportation] suggest,” he said. “But we were still surprised…  read on >

If you think your battle against obesity ends on the operating table, you’re mistaken. “Exercise and eating smaller portions have to be part of your lifestyle change in order to be successful” after weight-loss surgery, said Dr. Ann Rogers, director of Surgical Weight Loss at Penn State Medical Center, in Hershey, Pa. It’s also important to keep a detailed food journal, she added. “It’s unbelievably helpful at getting people back on track because it forces them to be accountable,” Rogers said in a Penn State news release. Patients must also keep all follow-up appointments with their doctor. “There’s a lot of evidence that people who see their doctor regularly after surgery do better,” Rogers said. Some people are afraid of potential complications from weight-loss surgery, but for most, Rogers said, “it’s safer than choosing to live their lives as obese.” Doctors usually recommend patients try different types of diet and exercise for at least five years before considering weight-loss surgery. They should also have at least one serious weight-related health problem, such as diabetes, or a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater. BMI is a rough estimate of a person’s body fat based on height and weight. “Most of our patients have tried diet and exercise for their whole lives,” Rogers said. “Yet a lot of them have still been overweight or obese…  read on >

Many of us make choices about whether to eat healthy or not-so-healthy foods based on whether we’re in a good or not-so-good mood. When a bad mood strikes, we often tend to reach for junk food. And that can be a recipe for disaster when you’re trying to lose weight. Here’s how to keep your emotions from ruining your diet resolve. First, it helps to think about the future rather than just that moment. Refocus on the long-term health benefits of good nutrition, and remind yourself how much more important they are than any short-lived comfort from food. Next, look for ways to brighten your mood that don’t involve eating at all. If you’re blue, call a diet buddy who knows how to motivate you. Or turn on a favorite movie. If you’re nervous or angry, release your emotions by working out to your favorite music mix or taking a short run. Healthy lifestyle habits help insulate you from bad moods and the emotional eating that often follows. Boost your mood on a daily basis with regular exercise and with a few minutes of relaxation, like taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading a book. Using a food journal can help you look for causes of a bad mood, like stress, and show patterns you can then take steps to change. For example, if giving…  read on >

If you’ve just shed a lot of pounds, you might want to hold off on buying a new wardrobe full of “thin” clothes. That’s because new research finds that lost weight starts creeping back almost immediately after a diet stops. “We noticed that individuals transitioned from a weight loss intervention immediately to weight gain,” said Kathryn Ross, of the University of Florida, Gainesville, College of Public Health and Health Professions. As to why weight started to come back so quickly, Ross said, “There are a lot of different reasons. There’s not an easy answer.” It may be that people need a specific maintenance intervention where the focus shifts from how to lose weight to how to maintain that loss. Ross said people also need to understand how challenging the environment is, and how it’s geared to weight gain because of the easy and seemingly endless access to high-calorie foods. People also get a lot of positive reinforcement when they’re losing weight. Family and friends probably comment on what a great job the dieter’s doing. Once weight loss is done, however, no one pats you on the back and says, “Hey, great job maintaining your weight!” said Ross, an assistant professor in the clinical and health psychology department. There are also physiologic and metabolic changes that may make it easier to regain weight if you’re not…  read on >

The growing popularity of snowboarding and skiing has meant more injuries on the slopes, a new review shows. In 2015, more than 140,000 people were treated in U.S. hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for skiing and snowboarding-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Snowboarders are three times more likely than skiers to be injured. In 1989, snowboarding injuries accounted for 4 percent of all snow sport-related injuries, before rising to 56 percent by 1999, according to the review. The review was published this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Skiing and snowboarding are associated with a large number of injuries, with specific patterns and anatomic areas affected,” said study author and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Brett Owens. “While some injuries are unavoidable, many are caused by skiers and snowboarders exceeding their comfort zone in either speed or technical challenges on the mountain,” Owens said in a journal news release. “It is critical to stay in control and be prepared to slow and stop to avoid contact with another person on the slope.” The most common skiing and snowboarding injuries are to the spine, pelvis, shoulders, wrists, hands, knees, feet and ankles. “Snow sport athletes can best prepare for their sport with a general preseason conditioning program, as well as familiarity and maintenance of equipment,” said Owens, who’s…  read on >

With a severe flu season now widespread across 46 states, do symptoms you or a loved one have point to the dreaded illness? Amid the sniffles, coughing and fever, “it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether you have the common cold or the flu,” said Dr. Boris Khodorkovsky. He’s associate chair of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. But it’s an important question, he said, because while colds and flu share some symptoms, flu can become severe enough to land you in the hospital. Certain symptoms — runny nose, congestion, sneezing, minor body aches and fever — are common to both maladies. But “your alarm should go off when you start experiencing high fever and chills” — that’s most probably the flu, Khodorkovsky said. He said “high fever” is typically thought of in this context as 101 degrees or above, but lower fevers can sometimes occur in otherwise severe flu. Dr. Len Horovitz, an emergency physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, agreed. He added that one thing to watch for is how quickly the illness escalates. “The common cold can come on slowly — sore throat, sneezing, cough, fever — while the flu is rapid in onset,” Horovitz said. “The onset of flu is also often “accompanied by severe body aches, weakness and sometimes skin sensitivity,” he added. If…  read on >