<![CDATA[NBC10 Boston - Health News]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbcboston.com/news/health http://media.nbcboston.com/designimages/clear.gif NBC10 Boston https://www.nbcboston.comen-usThu, 22 Feb 2018 12:03:21 -0500Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:03:21 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Surge in Opioid Overdoses Prompts Warning in Lowell]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 18:55:47 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Hearing_for_New_Bill_to_Fight_Opioid_Addiction.jpg

An increase in opioid overdoses over the last few days has prompted officials in Lowell, Massachusetts to send a warning to area residents.

Fire Chief Jeff Winward told the Lowell Sun that city officials are worried there may be a deadly batch of heroin or fentanyl being sold in the region.

Since Friday, there have been 20 overdoses in the city. None of the overdoses were fatal, although many of the victims were in respiratory arrest when first responders arrived. Fortunately, all of the victims were revived in time due to life-saving Narcan.

Fire officials are reminding residents to call 911 immediately if they see an overdose.

"We're asking people to keep a close eye on things," Winward told the Lowell Sun. "Certainly don't use if you're by yourself, and watch your loved ones if they have an opioid addiction."

<![CDATA[Liposuction to Erase Joint Pain]]> Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:48:27 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Liposuction_to_Erase_Joint_Pain.jpg

A new procedure could provide relief for millions suffering from joint pain from tendon injuries.

<![CDATA[What Mental Health Experts Say to Kids About Shootings]]> Thu, 15 Feb 2018 09:06:47 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/180*120/floridashootingvictims_1200x675.jpg

A community began mourning after a former student went on a deadly rampage and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, at a Florida high school, NBC News reported. 

For many parents, explaining a tragedy such as a school shooting to their own child can be a daunting experience, mental health experts said. Self care is the first step to having this important conversation with children, and children should often take the lead in the conversations.

"It is often best to let your child take the lead in asking questions about difficult situations so that you only share what you feel is necessary to satisfy their inquiries," said Dr. Allison Agliata, a clinical psychologist, head of an independent middle school in Tampa Bay and the mother of three children ages 12 and younger.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Joe Raedle]]>
<![CDATA[Haverhill Highlighting Flu Prevention Following Girl's Death]]> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 19:57:43 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Girl_Dies_From_Flu.jpg

Haverhill, Massachusetts held an emergency clinic offering free flu shots Wednesday following the death of a 6-year-old girl.

The state’s department of public health announced late Tuesday afternoon the first influenza-associated death of a child in Massachusetts this season that had been confirmed by clinical tests and the symptoms shown.

Delilah Lovelace was a first grade student at Golden Hill Elementary. Lovelace was remembered in her obituary as a tom boy in a princess dress, someone who enjoyed pretending to be a fairy and dreamed of one day being a mermaid. 

While the elementary school has been disinfected and grief counselors will be available all week, many parents are still wondering how they can protect their own children from the deadly flu.

"That makes me a nervous wreck because I don't want anything to happen to my kids," said Haverhill parent Donna Lampe.

The school district sent a letter home to parents, outlining steps parents and students can take to protect themselves, saying, "get a flu shot, it's not too late."

"Usually we get the flu shot. This was the first year I didn't get it and I actually did get the flu," said Haverhill parent Andrew Murray.

School officials are taking precautions to prevent other cases, with the the superintendent of the district saying they were going to "throroughly clean and sanitize" all schools as a precaution.

All of the schools in Haverhill will be disinfected over the February winter break.

"I hope we can all join together and keep this beautiful young lady and her family in our thoughts and prayers," James Scully, Haverhill superintendent, said in a statement.

The calling hours for Lovelace are on Friday.

As of Feb. 3, 63 children nationwide had died from the flu this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people," DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a statement. "Every flu season is different, but every flu season is bad. This one arrived early and continues to spread, leading many people throughout the Commonwealth to get sick."

The DPH says there have been more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the flu in Massachusetts so far this year, in what's been a particularly severe season. Officials say 250 to 1,100 people die from complications of the flu in the state every year.

Dr. Alfred Demaria with Mass. DPH said officials don't know why the flu is so bad this year, but they are focused on spreading the word about how to reduce the risk of spreading the virus by reminding people to cough into their sleeve and avoid going to work or school if they're sick.

The department is urging people to get flu shots and to seek treatment if they think they have the flu.

Common symptoms of influenza include fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches, headaches, chills and runny noses, the DPH noted.

For those who could not attend Haverhill's emergency clinic at the Citizen’s Center Wednesday but are still interested in receiving the Influenza vaccine, you can do so by calling the city’s Community Health Coordinator, Mary Connolly, at 978-374-2309 x15.

<![CDATA[6-Year-Old Haverhill Girl Dies From Flu]]> Wed, 14 Feb 2018 19:24:52 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/6_year_old_haverhill_girl_dies_from_flu.jpg

A 6-year-old Haverhill, Massachusetts girl has died from influenza, and her school is now taking precautions to prevent other cases.

The state’s department of public health announced late Tuesday afternoon the first influenza-associated death of a child in Massachusetts this season that had been confirmed by clinical tests and the symptoms shown.

Delilah Lovelace was a first grade student at Golden Hill Elementary.

The superintendent of the district said they were informed of the young girl's death earlier this week, and are working to "throroughly clean and sanitize" schools as a precaution.

"I hope we can all join together and keep this beautiful young lady and her family in our thoughts and prayers," James Scully, Haverhill superintendent, said in a statement.

As of Feb. 3, 63 children nationwide had died from the flu this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people," DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a statement. "Every flu season is different, but every flu season is bad. This one arrived early and continues to spread, leading many people throughout the Commonwealth to get sick."

The DPH says 250 to 1,100 people die from complications of the flu in Massachusetts every year. The department is urging people to get flu shots and to seek treatment if they think they have the flu.

Common symptoms of influenza include fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches, headaches, chills and runny noses, the DPH noted.

<![CDATA[Women Twice as Likely as Men to Have Depression, Survey Finds]]> Tue, 13 Feb 2018 10:45:30 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/CDCdepression.jpg

Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed, a new survey finds.

“Women were almost twice as likely as were men to have had depression,” the team at NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote. Between 2013 and 2016, 5.5 percent of men reported having had symptoms of depression, compared to 10.4 percent of women.

There were big variations depending on ethnicity and income. “Overall, non-Hispanic Asian adults had the lowest prevalence of depression (3.1 percent) compared with Hispanic (8.2 percent), non-Hispanic white (7.9 percent), and non-Hispanic black (9.2 percent) adults," the researchers wrote.

People with lower incomes were more likely to report depression. Nearly 16 percent of people living below the federal poverty level reported recent symptoms of depression, compared to 3.5 percent of those living at 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

The least likely to report depression? High-income men. Just 2.3 percent of well-off men reported depression, compared to nearly 20 percent of women living below the poverty level.

Photo Credit: CDC.gov]]>
<![CDATA['The President Saved My Life': Cancer Survivor Meets Trump]]> Sat, 10 Feb 2018 08:23:52 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/pr-2-9-potus-with-shane-in-oval_original.jpg

Don Bouvet wore a suit for the second time in his life Friday, when he visited the White House to meet with the man he credits for saving his life: President Donald Trump.

Last year, Bouvet said he couldn’t afford the chemotherapy he needed to treat his bladder cancer. But more than a year after Trump gave his family $10,000, Bouvet says he’s cancer-free.

“The president saved my life,” Bouvet said during the emotional Oval Office meeting. “And I told him that.”

Bouvet’s son, Shane Bouvet, worked with Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 by day while holding down a job as a delivery man by night.

The Republican reportedly met with president-elect Trump the night before the inauguration and shared his father’s health and financial struggles.

“His father, Donald,” Trump said Friday about what Shane Bouvet told him, “was suffering and really on a pretty final path towards losing his life.”

After his January meeting with Trump, Shane Bouvet returned to his hometown of Stonington, Illinois, with a population of about 930. Then, he got a check in the mail.

It was a personal check worth $10,000 from Trump, he said.

“Shane — You are a great guy — thanks for all of your help,” Trump reportedly wrote on presidential stationery.

Shane Bouvet told NBC4 he gave the entire sum to his father, who used it to pay the deductible on the treatment.

Now cancer-free, Don Bouvet got his own chance Friday to meet Trump, who was impressed that Shane gave all the money to his dad.

“You didn’t have anything,” Trump said to Shane. “And you gave all of it. ... That's an incredible son.”

"It's very emotional because ... one day I wanted to come here, or meet you somewhere, shake your hand, look you in the eye, and say, 'Thank you for saving my life,'" Don Bouvet told the president. "And I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Trump was apparently so impressed that he gave the Bouvets another check for $5,000, Shane told NBC4.

The Bouvets also left with another, possibly priceless, souvenir: a plaque with a note personally signed by Trump that reads, “To Shane, Great Going!”

The Bouvets said that Trump donated his personal money, which campaign finance experts told NBC4 complies with all relevant laws.

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead]]>
<![CDATA[With Flu on the Rise, People Around Children Take Caution]]> Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:16:43 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Taking_Precautions_as_Flu_Season_Intensifies.jpg

Now that the flu is widespread in Massachusetts and throughout the country, places that accommodate a lot of children are taking extra precautions.

At the "Inside Playground" in Watertown, workers are constantly sterilizing the toys, taking them in and out of use, washing the bouncy houses, using Lysol and routinely cleaning the bathrooms several times a day.

Signs tell people to sanitize, and Clorox wipes are everywhere.

"We know what it's like to have a sick child, and it's horrible you can't help them, so we're trying to do everything we can to prevent that," said Julie Wilkins.

Despite the outbreak, Wilkins says customers have been coming in regularly because they know they're taking the steps to keep them safe.

Flu activity is still rising, according to the Centers For Disease Control.

They say nationwide, a reported 10 more kids died this week, bringing the pediatric death total to 63.

Tom Lepore, a youth baseball coach in Arlington, is instructing his players to wash their hands often.

"They all have their own helmets and bats, which cuts down on the cross contamination," he said.

Lepore also says his own team has been affected. Friday night, they were down some kids because they or their siblings have the flu.

<![CDATA[Researchers Hope to Combat Worsening Flu Epidemic]]> Fri, 09 Feb 2018 20:52:18 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/UMass+Flu+Research.png

We all know this year's flu season has been severe. But now the Centers for Disease Control says in the U.S., we've reached levels that rival the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Across Massachusetts, there have been more than 8,000 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza, and the Department of Public Health says flu-like illness numbers rose again over the past week.

"What we're trying to do is learn as much about this so people don't get as sick," said Dr. Jennifer Wang, an associate professor of infectious diseases and immunology at UMass Medical School in Worcester.

A team of researchers at the medical school is studying how flu evolves to try to improve prevention and treatment of the virus.

"We look at mutations in the virus itself and we look at how drugs, like anti-viral drugs, may influence the virus," said Dr. Wang.

That includes finding innovative ways to treat the flu with multiple drugs or intravenous infusions.

"We have concerns that in a future epidemic or pandemic, that the virus might become resistant to Tamiflu, thus we want to have alternative treatments available," she explained.

Dr. Wang says clinical studies being done here at UMass Medical School involving hospitalized flu patients are promising.

"Seeing if treatment with a plasma from somebody who's been boosted against influenza in advance, if transfusion of this plasma can help curb the symptoms of the flu," said Dr. Wang.

The goal is to reduce the number of people infected, as well as the length and severity of the flu, and to prevent deaths.

<![CDATA[Is This the Worst Bed Bug Infestation Ever?]]> Fri, 09 Feb 2018 17:47:43 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/DIT+NAT+BED+BUGS+HOUSE.+THUMB.jpg

A New Jersey house may be home to one of the worst bed bug infestations ever seen. Pest control found thousands of the tiny bloodsuckers all over the house and it took three months to get rid of them all.

<![CDATA[Libraries: A Surprising New Home for Bed Bugs]]> Fri, 09 Feb 2018 17:44:02 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/DIT+NAT+BED+BUGS+LIBRARY+THUMB.jpg

It may surprise you to learn that libraries have become a hotspot for picking up bed bugs. So as you turn the pages on the latest teen vampire novel, there may be an actual bloodsucker living inside.

<![CDATA[Study of Rats Reveals Cellphone Radiation Risk Is Low]]> Mon, 05 Feb 2018 13:53:23 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/NC_cellstudy0202_1920x1080.jpg

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found low risk of radiations affecting human bodies, according to a new study that exposed rats and mice to high levels of radio frequency radiation nine hours a day for more than two years.

<![CDATA[Do Cellphones Cause Cancer? Maybe, in Some Rats, Anyway]]> Mon, 05 Feb 2018 11:21:58 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/cellphone_stock.jpg

The latest federal studies of cellphone radiation show that it might — in the highest doses for the longest period of time — cause a certain type of cancer in rats, NBC News reported.

But experts agree that the National Toxicology Program's finding, from reports released Friday, probably doesn't translate to people.

Male rats given high doses of cellphone radiation had a higher risk of schwannoma cancer in the nerves near the heart, but rats exposed to cellphone signals also lived longer, and were especially less prone to one kind of kidney disease.

“These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact they won't change what I tell people: the evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak, and so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people," said Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society. "If there is a harm, it's minimal."

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock]]>
<![CDATA[Flu Worsens and It's Still Bad Almost Everywhere: CDC]]> Fri, 02 Feb 2018 13:08:50 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-2806690.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu season is still underway with reports of additional child and adult deaths in the last week, adding that it had seen higher numbers of hospitalizations than before and that the flu season could continue into the next several weeks, NBC News reported.

The CDC said the 16 additional pediatric deaths bring the total fatalities to 53 this flu season. There have been a higher number of hospitalizations, and the CDC saw higher than ever numbers in senior adults and children under the age of 5.

The agency said this flu season has lasted for 10 weeks and could last as long as 20 weeks.

"We continue to recommend the flu vaccine," CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat said. Flu vaccines on the market protect against three or four strains of influenza, and all four strains are circulating. The most common virus putting people into the hospital is the H3N2 strain and the vaccine is not terribly effective against that strain, but it works better against H1N1, which is also circulating, and the two influenza B strains Schuchat said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Mario Villafuerte
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<![CDATA[NFL Players Warn Parents of Tackle Football Dangers, CTE]]> Fri, 02 Feb 2018 16:34:41 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/FootballFlagFootball.jpg

Just in time for the Super Bowl, three retired NFL linebackers are pleading with parents to keep younger children out of tackle football to avoid traumatic brain injuries.

The retired players, Nick Buoniconti, Harry Carson and Phil Villapiano, are recommending flag football for children under 14 as a way to protect their brains at a time when they are undergoing enormous growth.

They made their appeal as a new study found evidence of degenerative brain disease in four teenagers who had suffered sports-related head injuries before they died. Autopsies of their brains showed early evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the disease increasingly being diagnosed in football players, even without signs of a concussion, according to the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Lee Goldstein. 


“It’s not about concussions,” said Goldstein, an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University’s School of Medicine and a researcher at the university’s CTE Center. “It’s about hits to the head causing CTE and the only way to prevent CTE is to prevent the hits.”

The linebackers appeared with Goldstein to launch the “Flag Football Under 14” campaign on behalf of the Concussion Legacy Foundation at a news conference in New York two weeks ago.

“There are benefits to tackle football, but you could learn those benefits in four years of high school football,” said Chris Nowinski, a co-founder of the foundation and Boston University’s CTE Center. “You don’t need 13 years of banging your head before you’re 18.”

The Pop Warner youth football league and the NFL, which had long denied a link between football and CTE, responded by stressing what they have done to try to make the game safer. Pop Warner objected to what it called a ban on tackle football.

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“While we certainly appreciate the work of researchers looking to advance the conversation on player safety we do not agree banning football for young people is the answer,” a spokesman, Brian Heffron, said in a statement. “Millions of young people have played Pop Warner football for nearly 90 years and have grown up to be healthy, successful adults contributing to society in so many ways. We think the life lessons, experiences and memories from playing this great team sport far outweigh the risks.”

Parents are worried about brain injuries. In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll just released Friday morning, 48 percent of Americans said that they would encourage their child to play a different sport than football, up 8 percentage points from four years ago.

An earlier poll, done by the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Center for Public Opinion in July 2106, found that four out of five American adults do not believe tackle football is appropriate for children under age 14. That included 72 percent of the men surveyed.

Buoniconti, a Hall of Fame middle linebacker and a two-time Super Bowl winner in 14 seasons with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, has been diagnosed with dementia and likely has CTE. He said he regretted starting youth tackle football at age 9, which he called all risk with no reward. Now in a wheelchair, he struggled to express himself.

“I used to be eloquent as a speaker,” he said. “I can’t even tell you how I feel now.”

He and Villapiano, a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, plan to donate their brains for research. Buoniconti’s son, Marc, paralyzed while playing football more than 30 years ago, asked during an interview with The Miami Herald last year, “How do you field a team of kids under 18 years old, knowing there is a liability out there, and not feel responsible?”

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Carson said he would not allow his 8-year-old grandson, Kellen Carson-Gurley, to play tackle football. His 11-year-old nephew, Brandon Dowling, decided on his own to forgo the sport, he said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. surgeon general should issue warnings to parents before they consent to their children participating, he said.

“Whenever I spend time with my grandkids we play, we have fun but it’s about golf, it’s about swimming, it’s about non-contact sports,” he said.

Carson, a Hall of Fame inside linebacker who played 13 seasons for the New York Giants, has depression and migraines and says he does not think as clearly as he used to. He would not have played football had he known about brain injuries, he said.

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Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Committee, argued that there was no scientific proof that tackle football was more dangerous than other activities. No cases of CTE have been discovered in someone who played only youth football, he said, and in the study of the 202 deceased football players, the two who played only youth football did not show signs of it.

“If you don’t have kids at football games or practice, they are not necessarily doing risk-aversive other activities,” he said.

The Concussion Legacy Foundation, which has been researching brain trauma since 2007, picked 14 as a cutoff for tackle football because of the dramatic changes children’s brains undergo between 8 and 13. Critics charge the age is arbitrary.

Dr. Robert Cantu, who created with foundation with Nowinski, responded: “Some of my colleagues quibble that the science has not determined which age is the right age, but they don’t seem to realize that health experts set age minimums for all sorts of activities like drinking, smoking and driving, and the science is never purely black and white.”

Nowinski also noted that not only are children’s brains maturing, but that their heads grow much faster than the rest of their bodies.

“Even though it looks like a pillow fight with children, the reality is when you put a center in a helmet, they’re hitting each other in the head just as hard as college football players,” he said. “It’s not how much energy they’re bringing to the hit, it’s that their head goes flying when you tap it.”

To press home its point that youth tackle football is not only dangerous but unnecessary, the foundation put together a roster of top players who did not play until high school, a list that included Carson. According to the foundation, that list includes Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor and Tom Brady.

Limiting children to flag football is among the responses to the increasing number of football players diagnosed with CTE, with such symptoms as depression, memory loss and dementia. Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was found to have had CTE after his suicide in 2012. New England Patriots  tight end Aaron Hernandez, who last year at 27 killed himself in prison as he was serving a life sentence for murder, had the most severe case of CTE ever found in someone his age, according to Dr. Ann McKee, a director at Boston University's CTE Center.

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Previously seen in boxers, CTE was first identified in football players by Dr. Bennet Omalu, beginning with former Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster in 2002. Omalu says children who play tackle football are damaging their brains.

“It's just a fact,” he said.

Some lawmakers are trying to ban tackle football for children altogether. Last week in Illinois, Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente proposed prohibiting children younger than 12 from playing. New York Democratic Assemblyman Michael Benedetto has been trying to get a similar measure passed.

The new study, which was published in the journal Brain, examined the brains of four teenage athletes who had received closed head injuries one, two, 10 and 128 days before their deaths. Two died of suicide. Damage to the brain of one of the teenagers, a 17-year-old, qualified as early-stage CTE. Two of the brains had an abnormal accumulation of tau protein, which in CTE, forms clumps that spread slowly through the brain and kill brain cells.

“This is really, very profoundly disturbing,” Goldstein said.

The brains of four athletes of the same age who had not had recent head injuries did not show the same pathological changes, the research found.

The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said of the study: ”As highlighted in this recent study, repetitive hits to the head have been consistently implicated as a cause of CTE by this research group. How and why exactly this manifests, who is at risk, and why—these are questions that we as researchers and clinicians are working to answer.”

Earlier, McKee found CTE in the brains of 177 of 202 football players at all levels, and in 110 of 111 men who played in the NFL before they died. They ranged in age from 23 to 89 and had played in every position, from linemen to punters.

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And another study released by researchers at the CTE Center in September found an association between participation in youth tackle football before the age of 12 and impaired mood and behavior later in life. Those who played tackle football before age 12 had twice the risk of apathy or acting out and three times the risk of depression, according to the study. The higher risk was independent of how long the 214 participants had played football, the number of concussions they had or whether they played through high school, college or professionally. The researchers said they chose age 12 as the cutoff because in boys, the brain undergoes key maturation between 10 and 12.

Researchers are still trying to determine how prevalent CTE is. They can detect it now only through autopsies — though they are working on identifying it in the living — and the brains donated for research did not represent a random sample. McKee has said that although researchers do not know the incidence among football players, that they could find as many cases as they have shows it is much more common than previously realized.

Dr. Robert Stern, the director of clinical research at the CTE Center, said that it was important to understand concussions, to diagnose them and keep children off the field when they have them. But if the disease is associated not with the big hits to the head, but to the routine sub-concussive hits, that is not enough, he said. 

“Reducing concussions, or changing how tackling is done to avoid the big hits, is not going to get rid of the fundamental part of the game — which is getting your head hit, either directly with the helmet across the line of scrimmage or falling on the ground or getting by hit by a tackle and falling on the ground,”  he said.

All of those things are part of every play, they are the nature of tackle football, he said.

The NFL and USA Football, the governing body of youth football, promote a NFL-funded program called Heads Up Football, which aims to reduce concussions by teaching safer tackling drills. The organizations said in July 2016 that the program had reduced concussions by about 30 percent and injuries by 76 percent, though a review by The New York Times found no demonstrable effect on concussions and less effect on injuries overall. USA Football responded that it had relied on preliminary data that had not been updated but later issued a statement standing behind the program.

The Pop Warner football league also has eliminated kickoffs, reduced the amount of contact time to 25 percent of practices, banned full-speed, head-on blocking or tacking drills where players are lined up more than three yards apart and removes players with head injuries or suspected concussions from the field. Its Hill Country Pop Warner League in Texas participated in a USA Football pilot program called Rookie Tackle, a transitional program between flag football and 11-player tackle football.

USA Football announced last year that it was introducing the new format, with smaller teams and smaller fields, among other changes.

Whether a child plays youth tackle football should be an individual choice, said Bailes of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Committee. What would it take to convince him otherwise? In particular, evidence that safety measures that Pop Warner has implemented are not effective and the discovery of CTE in someone who had played only youth football, he said.

“There’s no convincing science that says kids shouldn’t play football if they want to,” he said.

Pop Warner is facing a lawsuit brought by two California mothers, Kimberly Archie and Jo Cornell, whose sons played football as children. After their deaths, their brains were donated to Boston University’s CTE Center and both were found to have CTE. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California in 2016, accuses the Pop Warner of negligence and fraud.

Children playing organized tackle football is a relatively new phenomenon, Stern and others said. According to the Pop Warner football website, teams exploded across the United States in the 1960s, so that there were 3,000 teams by the end of the decade. Today, there are more than 5,000 teams. It started a flag football program in 1983, originally designed for teams on a tight budget.

Another flag football program was begun by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who did not play tackle football until high school and whose sons play flag football. He and his marketing agent Chris Stuart, introduced a co-ed league called “Football ’N’ America,” in New Orleans, Carmel Valley, California, Nashville, Tennessee, and three other cities. It expects to expand to 20 to 25 markets, Stuart said.

Brees told The Times Picayune that not only was he uncomfortable with his children playing tackle football until middle school or older but he saw the flag football league as a chance to save the game.

The existence of flag football leagues is important if advocates expect to move more children into flag football, public health experts say.

“We know that even under the best of circumstances, our capacity to make a difference in changing behavior is relatively limited,” said Sandro Galea, the dean of the Boston University School of Public Health.

“If we’re serious about people having less exposure to head injury in the context of football, frankly what we need to do is not tell people to do something different, we need to change the danger itself and the danger itself is football and head injury,” he said.

Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, notes that American society has upended its behavior as far as smoking, wearing seat belts and driving while drinking. He said he thought the United States was on the cusp of transformation again.

“The intensity of discussion, the breadth of the discussion, the increased awareness, all of which has happened all in the last five years,” he said. “You can never predict where things are going but we are in the early stages of something that shows every sign of a fundamental change.”

An article in USA Today last year noted that while there has been a steady drop overall in participation, in some areas of the country, in the South in particular, it is holding steady or even growing. Florida added 1,252 more boys playing 11-man football this year than last, the newspaper noted.

Daniel Durbin, a professor at the Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society at the University of Southern California, said that the NFL has been most concerned with protecting its brand. The talk around the NFL used to be about the Super Bowl, now it is about concussions and brain damage, he said.

“Regardless of the state of research, it just seems to me it is common sense to not drop a young kid off at a field and have them put a big helmet and face mask on that makes them a bobble head and not feel pain when they hit their head, and say, 'Go at it,'” Stern said.

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Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Family Raises Concerns About Tamiflu After Teen's Suicide]]> Thu, 01 Feb 2018 20:59:59 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/tamiflu2.jpg

Tamiflu is a prescription medication that can ease flu symptoms and stop them from getting worse, and it's seen shortages this year amid a fierce outbreak that's killed at least 37 children.

But "Today" reports that a family in Indiana fears that Tamiflu's effects may have led to the suicide of 16-year-old Charlie Harp. A legal guardian of Harp's told NBC affiliate WTHR that he was happy until he got the flu.

Tamiflu has some rare side effects, including seizures, hallucinations and self-injury in children who take it. Both its manufacturer and the FDA advise that patients sick with influenza being treated with Tamiflu should be monitored "for signs of abnormal behavior."

But Tamiflu is also considered key in treating the flu in some people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that it be given to a range of people at risk of complications from the flu, including people under 2 years of age or over 65.

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Photo Credit: WTHR]]>
<![CDATA[Sick? Virtual Doctors Offer Diagnoses to Your Smartphone]]> Wed, 31 Jan 2018 12:50:23 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/NC_virtualdoctor0130_1500x845.jpg

A severe flu season blanketing the United States is overburdening hospitals and emergency rooms across the country. Many doctors are urging people to make virtual appointments instead, where patients can be diagnosed through video sessions.

<![CDATA[Richard Engel Shares Heartbreaking Story of Son's Medical Journey]]> Tue, 30 Jan 2018 12:16:59 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/engel-family.jpg

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was with U.S. troops when his toddler's doctor told him the results of a genetic scan, "Today" reported.

"'We found something. It’s very, very severe. It’s life long, not treatable,'" Engel recalled the doctor said. "I was in a state of shock. I got back into this convoy, shaking. It was the worst day of my life."

Engel and his wife, Mary Forrest, knew that something wasn't right with their son Henry, who at nearly 2 years old couldn't talk or clap his hands.

Henry has a genetic brain disorder, a variation of Rett syndrome. Doctors have said that Henry will probably never walk, talk or dress himself. His mental capacity will likely remain at the toddler level. His parents also have been warned to expect future health problems, such as seizures and rigidity.

Forrest and Engel are hoping for scientific progress, and are trying to make Henry’s life as normal as possible despite daily physiotherapy and hospital visits, according to "Today."

“It's made our relationship stronger actually. We're all we've got,” Engel said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Richard Engel
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<![CDATA[Doctor in Boston: Keep Calm During the Upcoming Super Bowl]]> Mon, 29 Jan 2018 21:19:03 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000012359524.JPG

Health experts advise football fans to remain calm during the upcoming Super Bowl in order to keep their heart rate in check.

Research over the years has shown there is a link between major sporting events and cardiovascular incidents. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found the heart rate of ice hockey fans increased by 75-percent when viewing the sport on television. It was even higher in person.

“I see it all the time. People are coming in, especially when the playoffs start, very stressed,” said Dr. Ellen Slawsby, director of pain services at the Benson-Henry Institute in Boston.

In between games and tailgate parties, Slawsby finds her patients are often losing sleep and gaining anxiety over whether their beloved Patriots fans will win.

Videos from YouTube shows football fans all across the country often lose their cool, leading to viral videos of their meltdowns.

However, Slawsby is well accustomed to the stressors thanks to her husband, a former Patriots player.

“People don’t like watching the game with me because I might hit them,” said Jim Boudreaux with a laugh.

A defensive end for the team in the 1960s, Boudreaux said he never imagined the Patriots would be so dominant today. It has made following their success both stressful and rewarding.

“It’s different when you’re a player because that’s a total focus. It takes over your life,” he explained. “But when you’re a fan and you’re an ex-player it’s pretty exciting.”

But his wife does encourage he and other fans keep their emotions in check. She recommends walking off any steam during or after the game to avoid getting too emotional.

“If you need to get physical, you should be doing a run in the morning to get that energy out,” Slawsby said, “Whether we win or lose it’s not going to fully change our lives. Have fun with it.”

<![CDATA[Colleges Taking Precautions Against Flu]]> Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:36:25 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/mueren-dos-ninos-gripe-florida.jpg

The severe and deadly flu season is still getting worse with people being hospitalized at a high rate for influenza-related illnesses.

According the the CDC, the influenza virus is now widespread in every state.

As a result, Boston-area colleges are taking steps to make sure their students aren't spreading the flu throughout their campuses.

"It's pretty gnarly," says Stevie Gordon, a student at Berkeley.

You definitely don't want it, and most are hoping they don't get exposed to it.

"I know one person and they didn’t leave their room for like three days," Berkeley student Clifford Matt said.

"I bought a bottle of sanitizer so that’s step one I guess," said Kevin Kelleher, a Berkeley music student who just recovered from the flu.

But sometimes all the sanitzier in the world can't help you as college students think twice about their health in order to keep up with their packed schedules.

"The thing that makes it so contagious at berklee is sharing practice rooms and instruments and microphones," Kelleher said.

It's a hard virus to dodge when you're shuffling in and out of classrooms used by hundreds per day.

"College is like a Petri dish for a lot of things and when flu season comes around you know.

Some campuses like Bentley are stepping up the cleanining on campus.

They recently sent this email to their students:

“The facilities have worked many hours to make sure all common areas railings and door handles as well as shared furniture surfaces are cleaned with Virex, a solution which KILLS influenza.”

Dr. Al DeMAria with the Department of Public Health says this flu season started in November, which was way earlier than they've seen in the past.

And there's a significant uptick in the flu after the holidays.

Dr. DeMaria says it could be that students are headed back to school at that time.

"I think what we are seeing is people coming back together and opportunity for the transmission of the disease."

So wash your hands, get your flu shot and hope your classmates are kind enough to stay home from class if they get sick.

"My mom had always told me to wash my hands and I do that."

"I got it super late in the season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed."

"I never actually had the flu so knock on wood."

Experts say not only this season but every season people should be concerned with the flu.

At Mass General alone, they have treated 581 cases of the flu.

The Department of Public Health is encouraging people to still get their flu shot if they haven't yet this season.

Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Virus That Acts Like Flu Needs Civilian Vaccine: Researcher]]> Mon, 29 Jan 2018 09:16:44 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/169*120/colorized-TEM-image-of-adenovirus_CDC-Dr.-G.-William-Gary-Jr.-1981_10010_lores-500x356.jpeg

A virus could be adding to the seasonal misery brought on by influenza, but it's not being identified, an infectious disease specialist told NBC News.

Adenovirus can cause severe flu-like symptoms, and the U.S. military already vaccinates recruits against two of its 52 strains.

But most people don't get the vaccine and aren't tested for it at doctor's offices, according to Adriana Kajon, the specialist at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque.

"We are seeing severe adult infections," Kajon said. "That's a big deal, especially for a disease that by all means is vaccine preventable. But this vaccine is not licensed to be used in civilians." 

Photo Credit: CDC
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<![CDATA[Weight Loss Apps That Help Put You in Control]]> Thu, 25 Jan 2018 14:06:08 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/NC_weightapps0124_1920x1080.jpg

Obesity medicine expert says apps designed to help you count calories and monitor nutrition can be a big help when losing weight. KPRC's Haley Hernandez reports.

Photo Credit: KPRC]]>
<![CDATA[Avoiding 'Text Neck']]> Thu, 25 Jan 2018 14:03:51 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/NC_textneck0124_1920x1080.jpg

Looking at your phone for hours each day could be taking a toll on your health. WETM's Emily Burkhard reports.

Photo Credit: WETM]]>