Weekend Health Briefs: NFL, Facebook & Bowie, RIP

By Gil Ross — Jan 11, 2016
With no topic beyond reach of his scorn, Donald Trump takes a shot at the NFL, calling the game "too soft" for its attempts to protect players with rule changes. Meanwhile, a big thumbs up to another mogul, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for publicizing the vaccination of his infant daughter; and a sad, early goodbye to legendary rocker David Bowie, a one-time heavy smoker, who died at the age of 69.
courtesy razorgator.com courtesy razorgator.com

Oh no not the NFL too!

Business mogul and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has fearlessly or outrageously, depending on your politics taken on a number of issues that conceivably could have doomed his campaign. Thus far, however, such seemingly-bizarre stances have apparently had the opposite effect: his out-of-the-box positions have only enhanced his poll numbers. Trump has referred to Mexicans as thieves and rapists, tarred all Muslims as terrorists, and demeaned and intimidated women of all ages and occupations. But has he now, at last, by taking on America's most popular and most macho sport, gone a bridge too far?

The Donald attacked the National Football League for being "too soft." While millions of devout NFL fans were glued to the wild-card playoff games, Trump spoke to a rally in Reno, Nevada, insisting that he rarely watches NFL football any longer. Why not?

Because the game, he said, has "gone soft, like the country has become soft." He added that TV-conscious referees "want to all throw flags so their wives see them at home. Oh, there s my husband. [Laughter] It s true."

He said that the rise in penalties for head-to-head collisions doesn t compare with the game when bruising linebackers such as Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Nitschke regularly delivered such tackles. Now they tackle. Oh, head-on-head collision, 15 yards, he said. The whole game is all screwed up.

Mr. Trump is entitled to his opinion, of course, but we here at the American Council believe that the tighter calls on such contact (among other measures) are an important step to reducing the increasing toll of traumatic brain injury from collision-induced contact. Another perspective on this important issue can be gleaned from the new movie, "Concussion," starring Will Smith, as a pioneering doctor investigating the epidemic of NFL players' mental deterioration, which we reviewed here.


Facebook CEO and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg took the seemingly-noncontroversial step of actually getting his infant daughter, 5-week-old Max, vaccinated on Friday, Jan. 8th. His simple announcement via Facebook posting (natch) was, "Doctor's visit--time for vaccines!" It has received wll over 3 million "likes" as of Monday morning, but also a large number of anti-vaxxer comments, many quite uncivil and angry, as they accuse him of putting his baby at risk of various imaginary vaccine-related ailments.

We applaud Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, not just for using common sense and doing the right thing for his child, but also for making the effort to counter the anti-vaccine hysteria that continues to run rampant in a small segment of our society, and especially in California, not far from Facebook's headquarters in Silicon Valley. So his public affirmation of vaccination is very welcome.

We should note that he has taken strongly pro-vaccine positions in the past, having nothing to do with his own family. Last February, for his 2015 book club, A Year Of Books, he chose the book "On Immunity" by Eula Bissas the club's fourth book, which debunked anti-vaxxers unfounded beliefs.


Lastly, we who are fans of music of all types and genres should give a moments' pause to reflect on the life, career and oeuvre of David Bowie, RIP, age 69. Mr. Bowie (born David Jones in January 1947) just released his last album, Blackstar, to great popular and critical acclaim. He will surely be missed.

The obits that are being published state that he died after "an 18-month battle with cancer," without further details. However, we know that he finally kicked a two-and-a-half pack per day smoking habit in 2004, the same year he had a heart attack. Since, sadly, quitting smoking after a long history of the addiction does not eliminate the increased risk of lung (and numerous other types of) cancer; indeed, the risk does go down with time, but slowly.

Many former smokers are blindsided when they are given a diagnosis of cancer some years after they quit, but, in fact, more ex-smokers are now being diagnosed with lung cancer than actual active smokers.

Whatever the specific cause, we are saddened by his loss and do hope that some "don't smoke" lesson can be part of his legacy.