TIME public health

Even More Bad News For Young Football Players

helmet football concussion
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Former NFL players performed below expectations for their age groups on cognitive assessments

Professional football players who began playing tackle football before age 12 experienced more dramatic cognitive decline as adults than their counterparts who begin playing later in life, found a new study in the journal Neurology. Overall, former NFL players in the study performed below expectations for their age groups on cognitive assessments.

“As a society we need to question whether we should sanction and condone allowing our children at a young age to having their brains be jostled about inside their skulls hundreds of times per season,” says study author Robert A. Stern, a professor at Boston University.

The study tested 42 former NFL players who were experiencing brain function issues on their ability to remember a list of words, solve problems requiring mental flexibility and read and pronounce uncommon words. Athletes who began playing before age 12 performed significantly worse than their late-starting counterparts on all measures.

MORE: The Tragic Risks of American Football

The results challenge a common misconception that young people are likely fine if they aren’t experiencing full-blown concussions or dramatic injuries. Repeated hits sustained by children under 12, even if they’re not traumatic, may also affect the brain’s structure and function, the study suggests.

“For me, the biggest concern in long-term consequences is not concussion, but rather sub-concussive exposure,” says Stern. “We need to continue anything and everything possible to reduce the number of hits.”

Stern describes the findings as “robust” but noted the study’s limitations. For one, focusing solely on NFL players makes it impossible to generalize the findings to all athletes, or even all football players. Still, he says, the notion that tackle football poses the risk of brain damage just makes “logical sense.”

MORE: Football Head Impacts Can Cause Brain Changes Even Without Concussion

The study, released just days before the Super Bowl, adds to a growing body of evidence on the dangers of the sport, particularly for young people. A 2012 Virginia Tech study, for instance, tracked accelerometers in the helmets of youth football players ages 7 and 8 and found that the average player received 107 impacts throughout the course of the season, some at speeds equivalent to a car accident. Parents have responded to the mounting research by questioning whether their kids should play the sport at all. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of children ages 6 to 12 playing tackle football declined by more than 25%.

TIME public health

Paying People Could Help Them Quit Smoking

Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Researchers offered women more than $1,000 to get them to stop smoking

Paying people to quit their bad health habits may be a powerful way to address public health issues like smoking, according to a new study in the BMJ. In the study, pregnant women were more than twice as likely to quit smoking when offered financial incentives than when they were given regular counseling.

“If financial incentives are effective and cost effective they may well have the future potential to sit with vaccines as an important preventive healthcare intervention strategy,” the study says.

The research, which looked at more than 600 pregnant women in the United Kingdom, offered women up to $1,200 dollars in shopping vouchers for following steps to quit smoking. Nearly a quarter of women who were offered the money successfully quit smoking. In the control group, a separate group of women received free nicotine therapy and were counseled on how to quit. Less than 9% of those women were able to kick the habit.

Read More: What I Learned From My $190,000 Surgery

That success gap remained when researchers followed up a year with the women in both groups who had quit. Fifteen percent of the women who had been paid to quit had stayed away from cigarettes, while only 4% of the counseling group quitters had done the same.

Using financial incentives to encourage better health behavior has been explored in depth in recent years by public health experts, but many remain skeptical due to underlying ethical concerns. Some have argued that such incentives are coercive and diminish a person’s sense of personal responsibility. But the researchers in this study argue that it can help in more ways than one; getting additional funds before a child’s birth helps the people who need financial assistance the most at the time they need help.

“In the developed world there is now a clear socioeconomic gradient in smoking, with tobacco use concentrated among the poorest in society,” the study says. “Receipt of financial incentives can contribute to needed household income in advance of the arrival of a baby in low income households.”

TIME public health

Medical Pot May Have a Place for Very Ill Kids, Says Pediatric Group

Medical Marijuana
Colin Brynn—Getty Images

'The Academy recognizes some exceptions should be made for compassionate use'

In an update to its 2004 policy statement on marijuana legalization, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says that in some cases, children with certain debilitating illnesses should be allowed derivatives of marijuana to ease their suffering.

The group of pediatricians announced the change in position today in a statement reaffirming its opposition to the legalization of marijuana. It now includes several exceptions for “compassionate use” in children dealing with debilitating or life-limiting conditions. Compounds found in pot, known as cannabinoids, have become a method of stopping seizures for children suffering from epilepsy.

“Given that some children who may benefit from cannabinoids cannot wait for a meticulous and lengthy research process, the Academy recognizes some exceptions should be made for compassionate use in children,” the organization said in a press release.

Read More: Pot Kids: Inside the Quasi-Legal, Science-Free World of Medical Marijuana for Children

The organization stopped short of explicitly endorsing the practice and called for further research into its effectiveness.

“While cannabinoids may have potential as a therapy for a number of medical conditions, dispensing marijuana raises concerns regarding purity, dosing and formulation, all of which are of heightened importance in children,” said policy statement co-author William P. Adelman in the press release.

The organization maintained its steadfast opposition to recreational marijuana use, arguing that allowing its use for adults is more likely to lead to increased use among teenagers.

“Just the campaigns to legalize marijuana can have the effect of persuading adolescents that marijuana is not dangerous, which can have a devastating impact on their lifelong health and development,” said Seth D. Ammerman, another author of the statement, in the release.

TIME weather

Millions Dig in as ‘Crippling’ Winter Blizzard Slams Northeast

"This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before"

A long awaited blizzard of potentially historic proportions began inundating the American northeast on Monday night — turning cities across the region into virtual ghost towns as residents hunkered down indoors.

As the first storm bands moved across the East Coast, snow fell at a rate of 2 to 4 inches an hour at times, according to CNN. Meanwhile, winds exceeding 70 mph lashed the New England coastline.

Cities from Pennsylvania to Maine prepared for snowfalls in excess of two feet. Airlines canceled thousands of flights, public-transportation systems wound down, governors declared states of emergency, and officials said they would institute far-reaching travel bans to keep people off the roads.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said subways and buses in New York City would stop running at 11 p.m. and warned that the situation would be “exponentially worse” by Tuesday morning. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered drivers to be off the roads by 11 p.m.

“This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City,” de Blasio said.

Boston was bracing for the worst, expecting as much as three feet of snow, compared with about two feet in New York and more than a foot in Philadelphia. By early Monday evening more than 5,000 flights had been canceled in preparation for the storm, including all flights out of Boston Logan Airport starting as early as 7 p.m. Monday.

“This is a top-five historic storm, and we should treat it as such,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said. “This is clearly going to be a really big deal.”

The governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York each declared states of emergency. Travel restrictions in each state were set to begin Monday evening, when the heaviest snowfall was expected to start.

MORE: Here’s Who Decides if Your Flight Takes Off This Week

The National Weather Service described the storm as “crippling and potentially historic,” and warned of “life-threatening conditions” on roadways. Officials from New York to Boston warned residents to remain indoors if possible.

In New York City, thousands of city workers scrambled to prepare 6,000 miles of roads to operate during the storm. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that travel would be “hazardous” on Monday and Tuesday, and commuter-rail lines were expected to halt service overnight. Cuomo asked city residents to expedite their schedules to avoid evening delays.

All Broadway theater performances scheduled for Monday were canceled, according to an afternoon statement from Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the Broadway League.

MORE: Why Blizzards Turn Us Into Irrational Hoarders at the Grocery Store

In Massachusetts, Baker warned of power outages and a frozen transportation system in his state, where forecasters predicted winds of up to 75 m.p.h.

“People across Massachusetts should presume that roads … will be very hard, if not impossible, to navigate, that power outages are a distinct possibility, and that most forms of public transportation may not be available,” he said.

TIME Television

Larry David Once Pulled a George Costanza

2013 Summer TCA Tour - Day 2
Larry David onstage at the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour on July 25, 2013 in Beverly Hills. Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images

'You think you're an important man?! You are a laughing stock!'

Comedian Larry David once quit his job as a writer on Saturday Night Live only to return as if nothing had happened. Years later the story would inspire a Seinfeld bit where George Costanza did the same, according to a new profile of David in New York magazine.

These clips of Costanza quitting, already favorites for Seinfeld lovers, become so much funnier when you imagine David actually doing it.

The profile, timed with the opening of David’s new Broadway show Fish in the Dark, contains a number of other memorable anecdotes about the famous grouch. For instance, David once returned a Porsche two weeks after purchasing it.

“It was like a bad suit,” he said. “It didn’t fit. It was a bad fit for me. I felt very self-­conscious.”

Read more at New York

TIME Cancer

Many Breast Cancer Patients Don’t Understand Their Condition, Study Says

The disparity is particularly pronounced for minority women

Many breast cancer patients don’t understand the details of their disease, according to a new study. While many believed they understood the grade, stage and type of tumor, only 20% to 58% identified those characteristics correctly.

The study, published Monday in the journal Cancer, found that minority women fared particularly poorly in identifying their tumor characteristics, a finding that remained true even as researchers controlled for factors like education. The lack of understanding about their own disease makes it difficult for patients to make informed medical decisions and to follow prescribed treatments, said study author and Harvard Medical School professor Rachel Freedman.

“Our results illustrate the lack of understanding many patients have about their cancers and have identified a critical need for improved patient education and provider awareness of this issue,” Freedman said.

TIME animals

Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be Released in Florida

Jason Garcia
Jason Garcia, a field inspector with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, tests a sprayer that could be used in the future to spray pesticides to control mosquitos in Key West, Fla., on Oct. 4, 2012 Wilfredo Lee—AP

"This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease"

Scientists could release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in an attempt to kill off insects that spread the diseases dengue and chikungunya — if their proposal wins regulatory approval.

The male mosquitoes, created by British biotech firm Oxitec, are engineered to keep their partners from producing offspring when they mate in the wild, the Sun Sentinel reports. The number of mosquitoes capable of spreading the diseases would be reduced if enough wild mosquitoes mate with the genetically modified population.

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told the Sun Sentinel.

Despite the benefits of reducing incidences of dengue and chikungunya, two viral diseases that cause a number of uncomfortable conditions, many are wary about releasing genetically modified organisms into the wild. More than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition opposing the release of the mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.

[Sun Sentinel]

TIME White House

Obama Moves to Protect 12 Million Acres of Alaskan Wildlife

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Polar bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Getty Images

It would be the largest such designation in more than 50 years

The Obama Administration will ask Congress to protect millions of acres of land in Alaska from a range of human activity including drilling and road construction, officials said Sunday.

If approved by Congress, the move would designate more than 12 million acres as wilderness, the highest level of federal protection, and protect native wildlife including caribou, polar bears and wolves. It would be the largest such designation in more than 50 years.

“Designating vast areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Just like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of our nation’s crown jewels and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come.”

The proposal will undoubtedly meet opposition in Congress. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski condemned the move immediately as an act of federal overreach.

“It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” she said in a statement. “The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them.”

TIME faith

Balloons Replace Doves as the Vatican Symbol of Peace

Vatican Pope
Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Jan. 25, 2015. Greogrio Borgia—AP

After doves released last year were attacked

Children visiting the Vatican released balloons instead of doves Sunday in a ritual that serves as a gesture of peace.

The change follows an incident last year when doves released together by children and Pope Francis were attacked by two other birds, a crow and a seagull, the Associated Press reports. The episode created unwanted attention for the Pope, who is named for animal lover Francis of Assisi.

“Here’s the balloons that mean, ‘peace,'” Pope Francis said Sunday as children released the balloons. Pope John Paul II began the tradition of releasing doves to acknowledge efforts for peace worldwide.

[AP]

TIME Bizarre

Parents Can’t Name Their Child ‘Nutella,’ French Court Says

A judge noted that Nutella "is the trade name of a spread"

A recently-born baby named Nutella was renamed by a court in the French city of Valenciennes after a judge ruled that the parents’ decision to the name the child after a food was against the child’s interest, according to a new report in the newspaper La Voix Du Nord.

“The name ‘Nutella’ given to the child is the trade name of a spread,” the court’s decision read, according to a translation. “And it is contrary to the child’s interest to be wearing a name like that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.”

The judge renamed the child Ella after the parents failed to show up at a court appointed day in November. The baby was born in September.

[La Voix Du Nord]

Read next: The Definitive Ranking of Nutella Alternatives

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