The intellectual downhiller

This story about professional mountain biker Neven Steinmetz, caught my eye for sure.  I have a special place in my heart for downhill mountain bikers, people who survive smashing into things, intellectual pursuits and stories about physical therapy.  This one has it all! An inspiring tale of what a driven person can accomplish.  I’m so inspired, I’m going to start commuting to work on my downhill bike!

Steinmetz has been nominated to represent the United States at the upcoming 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, Sept. 3-9.  I will be watching her results for sure!

As an interesting note, this woman suffered a head injury that went undiagnosed, a very popular story in the media right now as it relates to injured troops.

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Some good science reading

The LA Times is in the third installment of a series entitled, "Chasing Memory."  I have enjoyed the stories, although a bit length.  They chronicle neuroscientist Gary Lynch at UC Irvine.  Here is my favorite Lynch quote so far:

"If you’re good, if you’re any good at all, you put yourself in a situation where reality could come around and — WHACK! — knock you down. That’s what you really are afraid of. If you don’t have that, you’re not playing science,"


Spotted Owls, Take II

Famously in 1990, the Spotted Owl was declared an endangered species. It is generally assumed by some that this ruling and the subsequent ban on logging old growth public forests contributed to a decline of the entire northwest logging industry.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to reduce the size of protected land by 22%. While the issue of opening ANY old growth forest up to logging bothers me, I’m not an expert. I know nothing about forests, logging, or owl habitat and so my opinion matters little. Here is a commentary of the issue that I liked.
But, this follow-up article, which outlines the questionably close relationship between Fish and Wildlife Officials and logging powerhouse Weyerhaeuser, made me angry enough to blog about it.
Apparently, the US officials let the logging company edit their proposal to reduce the ban on logging. Why didn’t they let the environmental groups edit the proposal as well? This quote from the article sums up the way that Weyerhaeuser conducts business:
"In the mid-1990s, Weyerhaeuser told federal officials it would create a "habitat conservation plan" to guide its Southwest Washington logging. Because of that, the state did not take special efforts to protect owls there, as it did elsewhere. But Weyerhaeuser never produced the promised plan."
As annoying as environmental groups can be sometimes, I think instances like this are exactly what they exist for. Ironically, the Spotted Owl might be on the verge of extinction, but a large part of that has to do with the fact that it is "hybridizing" with the very closely related and thriving Barred Owls. In other words, perhaps the logging isn’t the biggest threat to the species. Maybe nature is.
"The barred owl either eats [spotted owls], kicks them out of their habitat, or mates with them—and sometimes the offspring are fertile…"
Sparred Owls???

6/27/07:  Update:  Today’s CSM has a great article on this issue.  They obviously read my blog and considered it big news!

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Unfortunate Weekend News Roundup

Browsing through my various news feeds this weekend lead me to the following two instances of Physical Therapists making news headlines:


This is about a new facility in Summit County, CO now offering Primal Reflex Release Technique. Click here for a somewhat disturbing video and an opportunity to sign up for a home study course in this technique.

Three individuals, including two Physical Therapists, were arrested and charged with health care fraud, allegedly billing for services not performed and billing for Physical Therapy performed by a massage therapist. At least the FBI knows all about our profession. That’s good, right?

How are we doing policing ourselves as a profession? When instances like these happen, the concept of professional autonomy is undermined as the trust we demand from society is eroded. These are fairly extreme instances (and in one case, criminal,) but how do we do in situations that are not so obviously concerning? Such as: Treating too many people simultaneously to bolster a bottom line, over or misuse of modalities, not keeping up with current evidence on a particular condition or patient type? Do Physical Therapists, or any health care profession for that matter, really have a good system in place to help police the rank and file?

Anyway, perhaps that is too much philosophy. All I really want is some Good Press!

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A Sports Cream Fatality

The sad case of Arielle Newman proves that anything taken in excess can be bad.  I have never seen the benefit of sports creams, instead using self-remedies such as stretching and relaxation, maybe an ibuprofen here and there.  I could never imagine that sports creams’ active ingredient could ever cause some one’s death!

In other news, check out my shared items section of the sidebar. I marked a number of New York Times Health articles about healthcare: spending, reform, and risk-benefit calculations.  If your reading this blog via e-mail, this means that you need to click the link at the top of this page and go to the NPA Think Tank website.

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Serendipitous Science is my Favorite

This week, the Mar Rover had a wheel lock up. In the process the wheel slid along the ground in a scraping manner. What it turned up appears to be the best evidence yet of the former existence of water on our red neighbor.
I always appreciate new research, but I find myself continually fascinated when apparent strokes of luck lead to exciting new discoveries. Incidentally, Silica is rather expensive here on Earth. Maybe we could begin trucking it in from Mars and lower the cost, which is the largest single barrier to a worldwide move towards solar energy.
As an after-thought: Isn’t it amazing that we can talk about this, skipping right over the amazing achievements of the Mars Rovers. I mean, the regular pictures of Mars and the x-ray spectrometry occurring millions of miles away from any human is pretty profound!

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Move Over Swiss Ball, There's a New Desk In Town!

A new research study by James Levine describes the effects of implementing an upright, treadmill desk for office workers. The desk is designed so that workers can stand up and walk on the treadmill as they do their work. The goal of this is to increase calorie expenditure throughout the year, thus minimizing worker obesity. In the study, workers walked 35 minutes out of each hour, burning about 100 calories an hour more than usual. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog asked Dr. Levine some questions about this.

I encourage you to read some of the highly amusing comments to the WSJ blog on this topic. People are just insanely enthusiastic about it. My favorite comment was by one Marc, who suggested a Green twist to the treadmill desk as he would like to route the output back into the “grid” to save the firm on utility bills! HA! Output! A treadmill is an absolute energy hog, Marc.
I’m sure the real cost of this desk is well above the $2000 list price when you factor in energy costs, a whole new onslaught of worker overuse injuries, and the resulting high insurance premiums “the firm” would then face.
This seems like a perfect example of the media getting hold of a piece of science, overstating it, creating a furor and an instant fad. An excerpt from the interview:
“Q: These desks cost about $2,000 each. Is anyone besides you using them now?
A: Several Fortune 20 companies are involved. One has 20 units, others are being delivered. We’re turning away large companies. The level of interest is far beyond what it is possible for us to respond to. There are several thousand people doing this around the country. I get — at least every day — requests of where can I buy these?”
In James Levine’s defense, I guess his logic is solid. The treadmill project was born after he performed a previous investigation which found obese people spent 2 hours longer a day sitting compared to non-obese people. And to be honest, we should all find more ways to walk in a day.
I’m going to begin calling the companies purchasing these treadmills and offer to provide them on-site clinics to treat sore knees, shins, and feet.

There's a Fungus Among Us!

I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but this article provided a nice overview of the events surrounding the emergence of a potentially fatal fungus in the Pacific Northwest.

A quote from the article:

“An alien fungus took root on Vancouver Island eight years ago and has since killed eight people and infected at least 163 others, as well as many animals.”