Shallow Evdence for Swimming

I do not doubt that the author of "Into the Deep End" [Sept. 6] enjoys and benefits from her new activity, but you allow her experience to stand without at least a sidebar on the experiences of others.

I have, while injured, done a great deal of swimming, and -- although I'm pretty good at it -- have not not observed the health benefits I gained from running. I have spoken with others (on the road and at the pool) who share my conclusions. A much-publicized study comparing the benefits from running, bicycling and swimming revealed that only swimmers, consuming and burning the same calories as runners and cyclists, did not lose weight. (It's either the fault of the water or post-swimming appetite!)

George Salamon

Arlington

Four Reasons to Avoid Plan B

"Is Plan B 'Unsafe'? [Sept. 6] includes the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists in its listing of groups against over-the-counter status for that "emergency contraceptive" medication. But the story neglected to mention our reason for opposing that status. Our reasons are not political, but practical, medical and with the woman patient's best interest in mind.

Reason one: The two major studies done in the past year showed that in a real-world setting, when women are given the emergency contraceptive to take home for immediate use, there is no difference in the abortion rate or the unintended pregnancy rate when compared with women who had to go to their doctor to get the pill. Strange, but nobody seems to mention that part of the study. It simply doesn't work very well, even when available at the moment of need.

Reason two: If emergency contraceptives were OTC, many, perhaps most, of these women, especially teens, would bypass medical exams for screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The most common bacterial STI, chlamydia, is epidemic among sexually active teens. In most cases, it does not produce symptoms. They will never know they have it. It will just silently burn out their fallopian tubes. And many will be sterile when, a short few years later, they marry and wish to have a child.

Reason three: The most common viral STI, HPV, is also seen in epidemic numbers among women with multiple partners (or if their male partner had multiple partners). HPV is associated with 98 percent of cervical cancer. A woman bypassing regular Pap smears will be more at risk for developing cervical precancer (usually curable, but a real nuisance to the woman) and cervical invasive cancer (often not curable).

Reason four: A post-surveillance study done in Great Britain in the past year or so showed that women who took the emergency contraceptive but conceived anyway had three times the rate of tubal pregnancies as seen in the usual population. The British government Web site sounds a warning note to its physicians regarding this tubal pregnancy increase. Ruptured tubal pregnancy is the leading cause of first-trimester maternal mortality in America today. It is not a trifling matter.

Joseph L DeCook, MD, FACOG

Vice President

American Association

of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Bullying Can Be Thwarted Early

"Bully for Them" [Aug. 23] offered many valuable insights, including how social acceptability of bullying stems from needs, such as adult approval, and that the media help children rehearse their anger.

The last thing a parent should wait for is the call from the principal or another parent to tell them that their child is the bully. Recognizing problems early and taking action before someone gets hurt (physically and emotionally) is key. Parents should be on the lookout in their children for precursors to bullying, including a tendency to blame others for their own difficulties, attacking people rather than solving problems and lacking empathy for others. When schools wrongly commit kids to homebound tutoring, they simply rehearse their anger in isolation.

Educators and parents ought to build skills instead, having children write out a situation from the other child's perspective, and offer a solution to any impasse. The key is to not ignore or fear working with the child with anger issues.

Bullying may unfortunately be common, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable. We advocate that parents draw a clear line that says: It's sometimes okay to be angry, but never okay to be mean.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.)

Washington

Loriann Hoff Oberlin

North Potomac

The Education of a Klutz

"Physical Education, for Life" [The Moving Crew, Aug. 30] was a great piece. This is the direction all physical education should take, but it is not new. Unfortunately, our schools are way too resistant to change, and today's kids need this focus on physical education, fitness and wellness more than ever.

If you check the archives of LIFE magazine (about 1960-63), you will find a feature on La Sierra High School, Carmichael, Calif. There, every kid had fitness goals, and Coach Stan Leprotti (I believe that was his name) had worked out a system where even a klutz like me could earn the right to wear ever more prestigious gym shorts (progressing from white to red to blue, and on to satin gold) by meeting fitness goals. I never played a sport in high school or college, but I did get into a fitness mind-set that has me doing 100-kilometer and 100-mile bike rides nowadays -- at age 59.

Norm Gold

Sacramento

Sticking With the Steroid Game Plan

Thank you for a timely article on steroid abuse ["What About the Kids?" Aug. 30]. As students head back to school and athletic programs begin, it is a good time to remind everyone of the dangers caused by anabolic steroids.

Several years ago, NIDA launched a Web site, www.steroidabuse.gov, and created a national public service campaign to educate 13- to 18-year-olds about the severe and sometimes irreversible health consequences of steroid abuse. We recently redistributed our "Game Plan" announcements to television stations nationwide.

We will continue our efforts to support research related to steroid abuse and to inform parents, coaches, teens and others about the dangers that abusing steroids pose.

Nora D. Volkow, MD

Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse

Rockville