Friday, May 11, 2012

In Praise of Moms Who Crush


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via adventure journal by brendan leonard semi rad on 5/11/12

I showed up to meet my friend Becca at the bouldering gym in Seattle on a Monday afternoon. When we discussed what time to meet, she said something about needing an hour's notice with the baby and all. I figured she meant that she had to arrange things so her husband could watch the baby while she left the house. But then I walked around the corner of one of the walls, and there he was in his car seat on the floor of the climbing gym, all of 3½ months old, chilling and content as the Buddha.

"Bouldering is just easier with him," Becca says, you know, as opposed to roping up and climbing 40-foot routes. If he starts crying, Becca says, she can just downclimb or hop off whatever problem she's on and take care of it. Indeed, I say. Becca and her husband weren't exactly slowed down by the baby's birth back in December, taking him for ski weekends in their travel trailer almost immediately, one watching him while the other went out and got in some turns.

Two women playfully giggled at Becca's son in the car seat as she worked her way up another problem. When she came over to chat, one of them said, "That's so great that you bring him here, all the colors must be great for his development, a lot of mothers would be overwhelmed at the idea of taking a baby somewhere like a climbing gym." Becca just shrugged and said, "Yeah it's not too bad," then ran laps on a bunch of other problems in between feeding her son, changing his diaper, and watching me awkwardly try to keep him from crying as she walked up a slab route.

I don't really know anything about parenting, other than what I see from my friends and family. Besides the fact that it's a big deal, and you know, it completely changes your life. But I have met quite a few women who loved the outdoors before they had their first child and have learned how to raise their children and not lose that connection in the process. Which I think is inspiring.

A week after I started working with my friend Hillary back in 2008, I ran into her at the Twin Owls trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. She and some friends were walking into The Pear to get in a few pitches of climbing before a wedding that afternoon. One of their friends had volunteered to haul in a Pack and Play for her then one-year-old daughter. A year later, Hillary was on a charity climb up Mount Hood, packing nursing pumps to the summit. Then she would bring them to the crag, as we flaked out the rope, saying, "Well guys, I have to go…pump. So I'll be back in a couple minutes." In 2010, she was just finished nursing her second child in time to train for and climb Mt. Rainier in August. The next summer, she and I were racing back into Denver from Eldorado Canyon, late getting down from a climb, and in a rush to pick up the kids from day care.

I have found that early in the morning, when I'm grinding out unmotivated laps on a run around a park in Denver, nothing puts me in my place like getting passed by a lady pushing a running stroller uphill. And it is easy to take more of the group backpacking load when a six-months-pregnant woman (Becca) is trying to cram more food and gear into her backpack at the trailhead. You know what's tough? Carrying a 40-pound pack uphill. You know what's tougher than that? Carrying a 40-pound pack and a developing baby in your belly. Or making time to exercise when you've got one, two, or three kids who need you. Or mountaineering trips when you have to do all the stuff everyone else does, and, oh yeah, pump breast milk every few hours. And never saying things like, "Oh, before I had kids I could _________. But not now."

My friend Amy and I spent a few minutes trying to nail down a photo of both of us jumping in the thin air on the summit of Mt. Whitney a couple weeks ago. It was her fourth big-name summit – in addition to Mt. Shasta (twice), the Grand Teton, and Mt. Rainier – since discovering charity mountain climbs when her two kids were finishing high school and raising more than $18,000 for a nonprofit.

My high school football teammates in my small town used to say, "I saw your mom out running again yesterday, in the rain." I would say, "Yeah, she loves to run." Because I didn't really get it, how inertia takes over a lot of folks in middle age and they stop moving. A few years later, after running 20 to 25 miles a week for 20 years, busted knees forced Mom to stop running. So she just walked. At I think a pace of 4-5 mph, by my best guess when I'm with her. And she went to spin classes and met a group of ladies on the weekends to crush out 25 miles on her commuter bike (she can't ride a road bike due to a broken wrist a few years ago). And started going to the climbing gym an hour away.

People ask me, "What's your mom like," and I tell them that she's a ball of energy, running on caffeine and chocolate, kind of like…me sometimes. She's a stubborn lady. I remember her saying one time when we were out for a four mph walk, Oh, I wish I could still run. She never makes excuses, never stopped moving because of this injury or that injury, Oh I have a bad back/bad knees/don't have time. She just makes time.

So when she says she wants to go down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon sometime, I know she'll be fine, and I can plan a two-day trip, one day down, one night at the Bright Angel Campground, and one day to walk back up the eight miles and 4,400 feet of elevation to the South Rim. I told her a couple weeks ago, Let's plan on that next year, in October, for your 63rd birthday. And she said, Oh good, that will give me something to train for.

Brendan Leonard is Semi-Rad.



Things you can do from here:


Monday, May 07, 2012

Park Ranger Pays the Price for Whistleblowing

It's truly insane how organizations, governments & private alike, consistently penalize the whistleblower.


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via adventure journal by andrea lankford high country news on 5/7/12

Dan Snyder's $10 millon mansion

When a woman ran to the front door of Yellowstone Park Ranger Robert M. Danno with a small bundle in her arms and a panicked look on her face, he grabbed the medical kit the National Park Service had issued to him. Danno, whose duties included emergency medicine as well as law enforcement, carried the kit with him constantly, even bringing it to his own home. It was fortunate that it was available when the young mother laid her blue and unconscious infant on the ranger's kitchen table and begged him to do something.

That was in 1994, and Danno had worked with the Park Service long enough to know that during the course of every park ranger's career, bad things can and will happen. But he never imagined that one day, over 10 years later, he would find himself handcuffed and held at gunpoint by his peers.  He had no idea that he would end up facing a courtroom trial, or that his testimony about what occurred that day on his kitchen table inside Yellowstone National Park would play a role during it.

In 2003, after working in several Western parks, Danno accepted the position of chief ranger at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park near Washington, D.C. Many rich and powerful people live near the C&O Canal, which parallels the Potomac River. For decades, park officials aggressively protected the historic and natural integrity of the C&O Canal through scenic easements prohibiting landowners from cutting mature trees on lands bordering the park. So, in 2004, when Dan Snyder, the billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins, clear-cut 130 protected trees, it was Rob Danno's duty as the park's chief law enforcement ranger to initiate an investigation.

Some facts surrounding the Snyder tree-cutting scandal remain sketchy because the high-level government officials involved "don't recall" anything. According to an Office of Inspector General report, it appears that Fran Mainella, Park Service director at the time, and several others "from the Bush administration" attended a Washington Redskins game. Soon after, Dan Snyder was given unprecedented permission by C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt to cut down 130 protected trees.

The clear-cut improved the view from Snyder's mansion and increased his property value significantly. It also left behind an unsightly gash in an eroding hillside. Snyder's neighbors were furious, the Audubon Society was horrified, and Rob Danno blew the whistle on the park superintendent.

Eventually, the Inspector General found the Park Service guilty of "wrongdoing," and the case was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office. But instead of following up on the Inspector General¹s report, the U.S. Attorney's Office focused its attention on a case the Park Service had begun building against Danno himself.

In 2007, federal officers raided Danno's home and indicted the ranger for theft of government property. Among the seized items were a gag-gift necklace made of obsolete government keys, retired Park Service signs and an emergency medical trauma kit.

Danno tells all the sordid details in his new book, "Worth Fighting For: A Park Ranger's Unexpected Battle Against Federal Bureaucrats and the Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder." In this cautionary tale for all whistleblowers, the stubborn vindictiveness behind the Park Service's retaliation against this ranger is stunning. Incredibly, a U.S. attorney had the audacity to bring the theft case against Danno to trial.

It is a pleasure to read how the prosecutor squirmed while the ranger tells the jury about the day he laid a blue infant on his kitchen table in Yellowstone and resuscitated her until she started breathing again. The baby turned from blue to pink with the help of an oxygen tent Danno created with items pulled from the Park Service medical kit he always brought home when off duty — the same emergency trauma kit the federal agency later charged him with stealing.

The jury had no clue that Danno was a government whistleblower, but even without the benefit of this knowledge, the deliberations lasted only 20 minutes. Their verdict: Not guilty, acquitted on all charges.

Yet Danno's ordeal with the Park Service is far from over. He remains demoted, stripped of his gun and badge, exiled to a lonely office and shunned by his colleagues.

Was it worth it? The ruin of his reputation? The lawyers' fees? Were a hundred or so trees really worth fighting for? Amazingly, Danno still thinks so. "In spite of everything that has happened," he says, "I am still loyal to the national parks."

Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit In affiliation with High Country News.



Things you can do from here:


Saturday, May 05, 2012



Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via by Aaron Cohen on 5/5/12

I was away from the computer for most of yesterday, which is a good thing, because I don't think I would have been able to handle people on Twitter even lightheartedly joking about MCA passing away yesterday. I don't know if that happened, and I doubt I'll go look for it. (PS, this is Aaron writing.)

My connection to the Beastie Boys hasn't been as strong in the last...ten years or so, but before that, I cared about them as much as any band I've loved, I'm talking top 5 ever. My fandom path was out of order: Licensed to Ill to Check Yo Head to Paul's Boutique, because PB was over my head when it came out. I remember 7 of us leaving high school early, squeezing into one of those boxy Volvo sedans, to go to Newbury Comics to buy Ill Communication. The 7 of us each buying our own CD. I remember being in charge of getting tickets for friends to the Beastie Boys/Roots show in Worcester in 10th Grade, not getting a ticket for Ally, and Ally not speaking to me for 2 full years. I remember sitting up in the stands for that show until pretty much everyone jumped down onto the floor past the helpless guards. I remember being super angry at a friend whose puppy bit a hole in my Check Yo Head shirt in 8th grade, thinking I wouldn't be able to wear it anymore. I remember this shirt being my first tshirt ever to fall apart, to literally wear out, from being worn too much 15 years later.

The thing that always fascinated me about the Beastie Boys was their transformation from punk rockers to party rappers to the less easily described, but amazing, place where they ended up.

Here are some other remembrances from around the web:

-A very good Sasha Frere-Jones in the New Yorker:

And this is the Yauch people remember: a man who could say he was sorry and not feel lessened by it; a man living within the principles of Buddhism and committed to broadening awareness of the political situation in Tibet; and a genuinely quiet person who had become more likely to make a joke at his own expense than anyone else's. Yauch's is one of the voices that can signify hip-hop within three syllables--rough, low, and strained. He got a lot done with that voice.

-Amos Barshad in Grantland:

Yauch was the leader. A small part of that was aesthetics; the premature graying hair, the permanent rasp. But it was also evident that the morality tale of the Beastie Boys -- three genius New York City smartasses who grew out of Budweiser-crushing caricatures into three endlessly curious, wholeheartedly decent adults -- was best represented by Yauch.

-The obituary on does a good job rounding up the Beasties myriad credits:

With fellow members Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Adrock" Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four #1 albums-including the first hip hop album ever to top the Billboard 200, the band's 1986 debut full length, Licensed To Ill-win three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award. Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.

-Molly Ringwald: "Being on tour with the Beastie Boys & Run DMC in the 80s. Guys were all stand-up gentlemen, tho I'm sure they feared I was the band's Yoko."

-MCA in a 2008 interview about his film company, Oscilloscope Pictures: "Yeah, I could see doing this for a long time."

-All of Twitter's trending topics were Beastie Boys related for a time yesterday.

-From a good round up of musicians responding to the news, Chuck D:

Last night, I took a 14 hour flight to Sydney, Australia from LA, embarking on PE's 80th tour in 25 years. I just landed to 65 texts with the news. Adam and the Boys put us on out first tour 25 years and 79 tours ago. They were essential to our beginning, middle and today. Adam especially was unbelievable in our support from then 'til now, even allowing me to induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I consider myself a strong man and my father says be prepared to lose many in your post-50 path of life. Still, I'm a bit teary-eyed leaving this plane.

-Plus Andrew WK, "MCA PARTY HARD FOREVER." and Ghostface Killah, "My condolences to Adam "MCA" Yauch Family & the Beastie Boys. My brothers & I felt that pain before as well. Sad Day."

-170 Beastie Boys references explained.

-A memory from David Jacobs:

I drove a lot of famous musicians and speakers to & from the Cleveland airport over my college career, but I literally lost my head driving Adam Yauch down 480 back to Oberlin. The rented minivan we were driving was swerving in traffic so much that Adam reached from the back seat and put his hands on my shoulders: "It's OK! Drive man, drive!"

-Anil Dash, "One of the most profound things the Beasties and MCA did was show us how people can evolve, from silly boys to serious artists."


The Beastie Boys were kind enough to spread the love to us on their second go round in 95. (86?s license to ill was brilliant albeit perceived novelty masterpiece, their followups 89?s paul's boutique & 91?s check your head were necessary sacrifice/build destroy exercises that RARELY work in entertainment (they traded in quick fast teen bop stardom in for rebuilding a credible fan base that would prove loyal til the very end). so once again they defied the odds in 94 with ill communication and wound up back where they started from: Stadiums.

This could go on and on, but this is what I read this morning, via most of the folks I follow on Stellar.

Tags: Adam Yauch   Beastie Boys   MCA


Things you can do from here:


Friday, April 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fw: The White Line

From: Kevin W <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2012 01:23:05 +0000
To: Lachlan Holmes<>; Scott Manktelow<>; Nigel Wallis<>; Paul Scafel<>; Sylvia Watson<>
Subject: The White Line


Sent to you by Kevin W via Google Reader:


via Fat Cyclist by fatty on 1/10/12

When I am mountain biking, I am — unfortunately — easily distracted from the task at hand. When I should be paying attention to the fifteen to fifty feet ahead of me (depending on visibility of what's ahead as well as how technical the trail is), I will sometimes make the crucial and possibly unforgivable error of looking off to one side or another.

I will, instead of attending to the trail, look at the mountain. Or at a pretty tree. Or the sky. Or at animals and bugs.

Sometimes, I will completely lose my head, stop altogether, and start talking with the people on the ride.

I should know better. Eyes on the trail, man; feet on the pedals. Focus. Focus! This ain't no time for jibber-jabber!

I can't help myself. When I'm mountain biking, I want to look around.

Fortunately, I generally am much better-behaved when I ride my road bike. When I'm riding on the road, I pay attention to the thing I ought to be paying attention to.

IMG_0446 - Version 2.jpgThe white line.

What's Strange

When I am off the road bike, I sometimes wonder what is so special about that white line. All it signifies, when I'm off the bike, is where the shoulder begins. When I'm in a car, for example, I will glance at it and think nothing more than, "I should probably not cross that line, since I don't like the sounds of rumble strips, and The Hammer will think I've fallen asleep at the wheel again."

And then I won't think about it again until I fall asleep at the wheel (again).

Indeed, when I am not riding my road bike, hours and hours and hours might elapse with me giving the white line nary a thought. And I'll bet that you're no different. I'll bet, in fact, that if you haven't been out road riding today, you haven't dwelt on the white line for more than 0.2 seconds (excluding, of course, the time you've been thinking about it while reading this post).

But if you have been riding today, I'll bet you've spent a considerable amount of quality time with the white line. As in, I'll bet you've spent more time looking at the white line than any other object today.

Which is, when you think about it, quite weird.

Now, don't get your hackles up. I'm not saying you're weird. No. I'm saying we're weird, because I don't even know how much time I've spent staring at that white line in my road-riding, cycling lifetime. I am, however, happy to make a number up out of thin air. Over fifteen years of riding, I'll bet more than two thousand hours. Conservatively.

Yes, that's right. Having made this number up, I'm now quite confident that I've spent more than two thousand hours staring at the white line painted on a road.

What's Even Stranger

What's even stranger than how much time I've spent staring at the white line, though, is what I've been staring at the white line instead of.

When, for example, last year Kenny, Heather, The Hammer and I relay raced from Moab to St. George — 500 miles in one day, across some of the most stunning desert landscape you could ever hope to take in — guess what my predominant memory of the course is?

The white line.

Or how about my most vivid memory of Mt. Nebo, my favorite local training century ride, due to the obscene amount of climbing, the staggering mountain vistas, and the intense paceline return trip?

The white line.

Or — and this hurts me to say it, because it's pretty embarrassing — what about that trip-of-a-lifetime cycling vacation The Hammer and I took to France last summer? My very first biking trip in Europe?

Well, I saw a lot of beautiful things, that's for sure. But when I was on the bike, I saw more white line than everything else put together.

If you want to blow the minds of a roomful of cyclists sometime, pose the question: "How much time, in the history of modern cycling, do you think the sum total of cyclists have spent staring at a white line?"

The number, I assure you, is staggering, and probably has "to the power of" in it somewhere.

The Strangest Thing of All

But you know what's really, truly strange? This: I am not even a tiny bit ashamed or regretful of all that time I've spent staring at the white line.

Really. I'm not.

Because I think that staring at the white line is indicative of the biggest difference between road and mountain biking. And, in fact, it's part of why I love road biking.

See, when you're staring at the white line, your eyes are fully occupied. And since you're on a road bike with your body performing a demanding-but-repetitive action, your body is fully occupied, too.

This leaves your mind free to wander a bit.

While staring at the white line, I've had my best blog post ideas just pop into my head (in fact, a good road ride is the one surefire way I can be guaranteed to come up with a usable post idea; ask The Hammer how many times I've said, while we're riding together, "Hey, I just realized what I'm writing about tomorrow."). I've resolved difficult work problems, without being aware that I was even thinking of them.

And, occasionally, while staring at the white line, I've experienced tranquility. I've been riding along, pedaling away, trying to turn less squarey circles, and then . . . something happens.

Or maybe it's more honest to say something stops happening. Regardless, time (I don't know how much) passes, and I become aware again. I've gone some distance, but I don't really remember it. I don't remember what I was thinking, but I do know I feel good. Peaceful. Happy.

And all I was doing was riding my bike and staring at the white line.


Things you can do from here:


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It’s the Holidays. Be a Sucker for the Planet


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via adventure journal by michael frank on 12/23/11

We couldn't have made this ad any better. Well, maybe with some skiers and surfers and mountain bikers and climbers we could have, save that this two-minute spot from the BBC, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, is filled with athletes of every stripe, all more amazing and talented than any human could ever hope to be. It's sentimental and gooey and anthropomorphizes the animal world. So what. And so what that it's an ad, one that followed the final run of Attenborough with the Beeb and its six-episode Frozen Planet series (he's 85 and has worked with the network for 60 whopping years!), or that he's reciting Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World, itself plenty schmaltzy.

Cynics (humbugs?) will argue that Attenborough and the BBC are glossing a bunch of controversy about the series. There's the U.S. scandal that went down earlier this month when Discovery Channel said it would not air the final episode, which acknowledged that our frozen planet is warming, thanks to climate change, and then reversed course after an online petition reamed them for caving to climate-change deniers.

And in the U.K. the backlash came when it was unearthed that some of Attenborough's narration was not of activity at the North Pole, but that the footage of a polar caring for her young was from a zoo, and the BBC, rather than apologize, explained that lots of nature shows have to do this to capture difficult footage. Unlike the British tabloids, we are not shocked that reality TV, even in the animal kingdom, is staged, just like on the Jersey Shore.

C'mon people. It is STILL a wonderful world, and nothing is faked about how a polar bear gives birth and raises her cubs, and nothing is faked about what these animals actually are and how complex this earth actually is. And yes, it's all a big muddle and nothing is as pure and perfect as we wish it were.

But in the midst of the holiday season we're happy to proclaim awe and wonder for this world. We dig it and every natural thing in it. If you love the outdoors, we think that's the just-right attitude. Be a sap and a sucker. For once, fall for it. It's the holidays, after all. Peace.


Things you can do from here:


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Active in Aus


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via Lucky Lockie by Lachlan Holmes on 12/25/11

I'm getting some good shirtless time here in Australia over Christmas. It's been a few weeks since I last did a hard ride, but I really wanted to stretch the legs on Melbourne's renowned Beach Road. I headed out with a local racer and got my suffer on as we racked up 170 scenic bay-side kilometres.

The next day my decathlete brother took me to one of his track meets, where I had a really fun time with the welcoming Collingwood Harriers athletics club. First, Tim defied physics in a huge triple jump. Then I tried my hand at shotput, before the real reason for attending, the 5km. I started running a bit at the end of the cycling race season, but pulled my calf and spent time rehabbing under the knowledgeable guidance of Amanda at the Wellness Connection. Point being, I thought trying to get inside 20 minutes was a reasonable goal. So I was pretty stoked to run 18:08!


Things you can do from here:


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 videos worth re-watching from 2011


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via blogTO by Derek Flack on 12/21/11

Viral Videos TorontoThe term "viral" is thrown around a bit too loosely nowadays, especially when it comes to videos related to a specific city. So I'm going to avoid using that tag for the offerings below, even if in some cases you could make the argument that they deserve it. Most of these would be more like local viruses that spread within a given community, in this case Toronto.

For folks from Toronto, then, these are all worth re-watching as we begin to wrap up 2011. Sure, there are others that could have made it — most notably the recent phenomenon that is Shit Girls Say, but despite being set in Toronto, the super-popular original episode just doesn't seem to fit with the rest of this little list. And besides, it kind of already made it in that I'm mentioning and linking to it.

Here's five of my favourites from 2011. If you've got others, I'll embed the good ones that I've missed (there's got to be a few).

Lightning TO

Not to take away from any of the superb lightning storm videos of year's past — here's looking at you Sam Javanrouh — but Jon Simonassi's coverage of the wild electrical storm we got in late August went about as berserk as local videos go, racking up almost 740,000 views since it was posted the morning after the storm. Despite all the fantastic still photography devoted to the event, Simo's video did the best job of capturing just how bizarre and awesome the storm was.

401 Truck Crash

This one stretches the local tag a bit far, but this video of a driver almost getting fed a tractor trailer on the 401 near Guelph is just too good to pass up. Originally posted on CP24, the story was eventually picked up by CNN, which gave it some international traction. How did the driver get the video? Apparently, he once had problems with his insurance company and thus decided to record all of his car trips. Serendipity! Oh, and his verbal reaction is priceless.

Toronto Tempo

Of the timelapse sequences we've posted on the site — and there's been a few — none have been quite so well received as Ryan Emond's Toronto Tempo, which features that perfect mix of stunning visuals and a slick soundtrack. When we first posted it, I called it a love letter to Toronto, and I still like to think of it that way. Who could forget that SkyDome sequence?

Time Travel

The second most popular timelapse to capture Toronto in 2011, Ben Lean's Time Travel ain't no slouch. In fact, even though it didn't generate quite the traffic that the above video did, it wouldn't be hard to make the argument that it's every bit as good. Some people think these sequences are pointless and cheesy, but that's to miss the point. As far as pure eye-candy goes, this is great stuff.

Sex on the TTC!!!!
Sex on TTCAnd the last video is also the most recent. Just over a week ago a couple were filmed getting their hump on at Spadina Station. The video itself actually isn't altogether, hmmm, stimulating — but the mere idea that one could get so wrecked and horny on a Sunday afternoon is remarkable in and of itself. Watch the NSFW video here.

Photos by picturenarrative and Alex Luyckx, respectively.


Things you can do from here:


Monday, December 19, 2011

The Year in Pictures: Part I


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via The Big Picture on 12/19/11

Any "best of" list must surely be subjective. This one is no different. Choosing the best photographs of the year is an enormously difficult task, with many terrific photographs slipping through the cracks. But with major news events as a guide, and with single images I fell in love with throughout the year forcing their way into the edit, I look at my favorite pictures from the first four months of the year. Two main stories dominated headlines in the first part of the year: the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the rising of the Arab Spring. The protests in the Middle East would spread to Greece, Spain, and eventually inspire the Occupy movement in Western nations. Other stories included a historic wave of tornados in the U.S., a Royal wedding in London, and the creation of the world's newest nation in South Sudan. Images from the rest of the year will follow in posts later this week. -- Lane Turner (36 photos total)

A wave caused by a tsunami flows into the city of Miyako from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck Japan March 11, 2011. (Mainichi Shimbun /Reuters)

Add to Facebook Add to Twitter Add to digg Add to StumbleUpon Add to Reddit Add to Email this Article


Things you can do from here:


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Soccer, Once Thought to Be One of the Safest Sports, Turns Deadly


Sent to you by Nigel via Google Reader:


via Health : The Atlantic by Michael J. Gertner on 12/18/11

Using an advanced MRI technique, a new study shows that heading in soccer damages the nerve cells and axonal tracts in the brain


Soccer has increased its popularity among American sports players in recent years, but the practice of heading -- directing the ball with one's head -- has been a cause for concern.

Awareness of the risks of sports-related concussions is rising in light of problems among professional American football and hockey players. Now, a new study suggests that repeated "heading" of soccer balls among amateur and professional players can result in brain damage and a gradual decline in thinking and coordination skills.

It also has the brain images to prove it. The study was the first to image the brains of soccer players using an advanced MRI technique, called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). DTI measures the rate of water diffusion within neural tissues to produce three-dimensional images of the brain and its tracts and connections.

Using DTI, the researchers, based at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, were able to report that amateur soccer players who headed the ball over 1,500 times a year suffered from damage to their nerve cells, specifically the axonal tracts that link neurons together and are essential for cellular communication throughout the brain.

The study was conducted using 32 amateur soccer players with an average age of 30.8 years. All of the subjects played soccer since childhood. The participants filled out surveys estimating how often they headed the ball on a yearly basis and the researchers ranked the players based on heading frequency. All of the subjects then underwent DTI and the investigators compared the brain images from those with the highest heading frequency and looked for differences with images from the remaining players.

In the brains of players with the highest frequency of headers, the investigators found axonal damage in five separate regions of the brain. These areas are critical for attention, memory, executive functioning, and higher-order visual functions.

The researchers also found an inverse statistical correlation between the frequency of headers and the rate of water diffusion throughout the axons. In players who headed the ball more frequently, the rate of diffusion was lower, indicative of damaged white matter in the brain.

"What we've shown here is compelling evidence that there are brain changes that look like traumatic brain injury as a result of heading a soccer ball with high frequency," Michael Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and leader of the study told The Doctor. "Given that soccer is the most popular sport worldwide and is played extensively by children, these are findings that should be taken into consideration in order to protect soccer players."

The areas of the brain damage signified that soccer players with excessive headers may eventually lose some of their cognitive abilities. The results, while a blow to a sport played by millions worldwide and once thought to be one of the safest sports available, can serve to make the sport safer, as has happened with the addition of warm-up exercises before playing.

These results are beginning to motivate coaches and players to take a closer look at possible methods of protection -- including the possibility of players wearing helmets.

The study was presented in November at the Radiological Society of North American annual meeting in Chicago. It has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Image: Ronen/Shutterstock.

This article originally appeared on, an Atlantic partner site.

Email this Article Add to digg Add to Reddit Add to Twitter Add to Add to StumbleUpon Add to Facebook


Things you can do from here: