Untreated Scoliosis Not Harmful, Study Finds

Many adolescents with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, can skip braces, surgery or other treatments without developing debilitating physical impairments later in life, a 50-year study suggests. Previous research presented a grim prognosis and led to mandatory school screening programs in 26 states, based on the misperception that spinal deformities inevitably led to severe or even life-threatening disabilities.

Untreated patients did have more back pain and more body-image concerns than study participants with normal spines, and three deaths were considered possibly linked to the deformity, but untreated patients had similar death rates and were just as functional and likely to lead productive lives 50 years after diagnosis as people with normal spines.

"The bottom line is, most patients are doing very well," said lead author Stuart Weinstein, an orthopedic surgery professor at the University of Iowa. The findings are based on 50 years of follow-up information on 117 patients whose conditions were diagnosed between 1932 and 1948. They were published in yesterday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Safety Measures Help Reduce Baseball Injury

Face guards and softer balls can reduce the number of injuries in youth baseball, according to a study by researchers with the University of North Carolina and Little League Baseball Inc.

The study, published in yesterday's Journal of the American Medical Association, links face guards with a 35 percent reduced risk of facial injuries and "safety balls" with a 23 percent reduced risk of ball-related injuries. Safety balls include tennis balls, rubber baseballs and reduced-impact balls, which have softer cores than standard baseballs.

The study evaluated injuries that resulted in claims compensated under Little League's insurance policy. A total of 4,233 claims from 1997-99 were evaluated, including 1,890 for ball-related injuries.

Moderate Drinking May Lower Risk of Stroke

Two alcoholic drinks a day may reduce the risk of the most common kind of stroke by nearly 30 percent, but five drinks or more daily raise the risk by about 70 percent, according to a study published in yesterday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings, from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, were based on an analysis of 35 studies published between 1966 and 2002. The researchers said their study showed that people who consumed more than 60 grams of alcohol per day -- about five or more drinks -- had a 69 percent higher risk of ischemic stroke than nondrinkers, and a 50 percent higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot interrupts the brain's blood supply; they account for about 80 percent of all strokes. The rest are hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Consumption of less than 12 grams of alcohol daily -- one drink -- reduced the risk of ischemic stroke by 20 percent, the study said. Drinking 12 to 24 grams daily was associated with a reduced risk of 28 percent compared with not drinking.

-- From News Services