Most Stated Dental Injury

Science Bureau #2
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“The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players” (SLEEP, 2011)

One of the dangerous things about the presentation of modern college sports as for-profit live entertainment is making us forget that the players are college students. And one of the defining characteristics of the college student lifestyle is incredibly fucked-up sleep patterns, habits that defy all known laws of circadian rhythms and normal business hours. Stanford researchers chose their own student-athletes as the perfect population in which to observe the real-world effects of sleep extension, which has produced mixed results using the artificial types of tests done in laboratories. Eleven members of the men’s basketball team volunteered to increase their “minimum bed time” (sounds more fun than it is) from a baseline of 6.5 hours to 10 hours a night during the 2005–06 season, with supplemental naps when road trips made it hard to meet those chillaxed standards. The extra Zs proved to safe and legal performance enhancers, shaving a full second off those godawful basketball court sprints and increasing free-throw and three-point percentages by roughly 10 percent in practice drills. But before coaches cancel all those 8:00 a.m. kinesiology classes or early-morning conditioning sessions, consider the net result for the well-rested ‘05–06 Cardinal: a middling 16–14 record and a second-round NIT exit. (RM)

“A question of honor: Chief Wahoo and American Indian stereotype activation among a university based sample” (Journal of Social Psychology, 2011)

I was excited when I first saw this article because I thought it was a psychological assessment of actual mascots. It was a huge downer when I realized it was actually about mascots’ effect on ethnic prejudice. Native American mascots are one of the last relics of “acceptable” racism in the United States. The Tomahawk Chop is alive and well. Redskins logos are prominently displayed every Fall Sunday. For some reason, we willingly turn the other way or change the subject—all in the name of “tradition”—when the eradication of these emblems comes up for discussion. Now, new evidence supports the idea that not only are these mascots just generally shitty, but also they are shitty in a way that negatively affects Native Americans. In this study, participants were unconsciously presented with the logo of the Yankees, Pirates, or Indians—Chief Wahoo—for a mere 17 milliseconds and then were asked to identify strings of letters as being words or not. Critically, the letter strings that were actually words were either words that held either positive associations with Native Americans (e.g., “noble,” “faithful,” “proud”) or words that held negative associations (e.g., “primitive,” “savages,” “drunk”). Compared to being presented with the Pirates logo or the Yankees logo, when participants were presented with Chief Wahoo outside of conscious awareness, they were faster to identify the negative stereotypic words. This suggests that mere exposure to the Indians mascot facilitates negative associations with Native Americans. Tradition has ugly consequences. (Dr. LIC)

Horrific Sports Injury of the Week: “Water polo is a sporting activity which has a medium risk of causing dental trauma … Of the 415 interviewees, 185 (44.6 percent) had witnessed a dental injury in water polo. Eighty-seven (21.0 percent) players reported having suffered a tooth injury when playing water polo. Tooth fracture was the most stated dental injury [86 (16.4 percent)].” (“Dental injuries in water polo, a survey of players in Switzerland,” Dental Traumatology, November 2011)

“Training-Induced Neural Plasticity in Golf Novices (Journal of Neuroscience, 2011)

The motor training tasks that neuroscientists ask subjects perform in a laboratory setting tend to be tedious, repetitive, frustrating, and ultimately futile. So when a team of Swiss and German researchers wanted a leisure activity outside of the lab to look at how training changes the brain, they turned to the obvious sports analogue: golf. Ten middle-aged (40–60 years old) golf virgins were asked to practice the sport for 40 hours, and MRI images taken before and after their training were compared to MRIs from ten control subjects asked to do anything but take up golf. The trainees required an average of nearly 150 days to play 40 hours of golf, because it is an awful, terrible sport. But even with this rather low-intensity training schedule, the researchers found increases in grey matter volume in areas of the brain associated with sensorimotor processing, including areas “involved in perceiving one's own body” and an area previously shown to be sensitive to juggling. Subjects who finished their 40-hour assignment in fewer days exhibited stronger changes relative to their lazier counterparts in a region called the parietal-occipital junction, previously associated with the very golf-swing-appropriate functions of visual control and correction of arm movements. The study shows that significant changes in brain structure can occur throughout life—and that golf can leave a divot on the brain. (RM)

“Tax Avoidance : How Income Tax Rates Affect the Labor Migration Decisions of NBA Free Agents” (Journal of Sports Economics, 2011)

As often as we hear about NBA players and other professional athletes going bankrupt, it turns out they are not as financially unintelligent as some suspect. It turns out that surreptitiously, players take state income tax rates into account when deciding where to sign as free agents. As much as we talk about chasing rings, getting max contracts, positional fit, chemistry with coaches, big market versus small market endorsement deals, and weather, it appears there are other rational factors at play in these decisions. Economist Nolan Kopkin looked at NBA free agency from 2001 to 2008 and found that even after accounting for a host of relevant factors such as team wins, player position, or crime rate and student-teacher ratio in a particular city, increases in income tax rates during this time period equaled lower-quality free agents. This data helps explain ”The Decision.“  LeBron James’ selection of the Heat allowed him to purchase $12.34 million worth of purple gingham shirts by relocating to tax-free Miami versus the tax load that would have resulted in New York. Whether agents, players, or some other invisible hand is responsible for this remarkable effect of income tax on free agency is unknown, but perhaps we should take this information into account when formulating our opinions on next summer’s signing period. (Dr. LIC)


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