Your Teen

Newer Cars Safer for Teen Drivers


One of the most exciting days in a teen’s life is when he or she gets their driver’s license. It’s also one of the scariest for parents. Parents know that it takes time and experience to become a competent driver. Teens often believe that because they can stop at stop signs, put on their seat belt, Parallel Park and stay in a well-defined lane, they are competent enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), list motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Seven teens –ages 16 to 19- die every day from motor vehicle injuries.  According to a new study, more teens could survive serious auto accidents if they are driving newer cars.

While older cars may be less expensive, newer models are more likely to come with better standard safety features. Larger and heavier cars may also offer more protection.

"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."

Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.

The majority of teens that died (82%) were in cars that were at least 6 years old. A smaller, but significant proportion of teens (31%) were in cars 11 to 15 years old. For comparison, fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as their middle-aged counterparts to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.

Researchers say that they can’t prove that older cars driven by teens actually increase the risk of death if they are in a motor vehicle accident. However, there is good reason to think that teens would be safer in newer cars.

Older cars have older seatbelts that can wear and tear with age. Airbags were not required in cars till 1997 and 1998 for trucks. Today, they are standard equipment. The biggest safety upgrade though, has been the addition of electronic stability control.

Ultimately, McCartt said, though newer model cars tend to have more safety features, protecting your teens is not as straight forward as just steering clear of older vehicles. "We did find older vehicles that met our safety criteria," she said.

Still, it's a rare older vehicle that has electronic stability control — an important safety feature that helps drivers keep control in extreme maneuvers, McCartt said. "That's something that is standard on new cars since it was a requirement starting in 2012," she added.

Extreme maneuvers can quickly happen when something unexpected happens while driving. There are also plenty of distractions that can take your eyes off the road such as reading or replying to a text, eating or drinking while driving, cell phone calls, Changing CDs or radio stations, video watching, looking at or entering data for a GPS, talking to passengers. The list goes on. These distractions are certainly not limited to teens, but they have the least experience behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers that can be found at

They also have a list of recommendations to consider when purchasing a car for a teenager. They are:

•       Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

•       Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no mini-cars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

•       Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.

•       Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Most teens will eventually get their driver’s license – that’s a given.  If a teen is still a minor, it’s up to the parents or responsible guardians to help choose a car that will give them the best chance of survival if an accident should happen. That choice may include a newer model.

The study was published online in the journal, Injury Prevention.

Source: Linda Carroll,

Your Teen

Excessive Gum Chewing May Cause Migraines

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Kids love to chew gum but the smacking, popping and bubble blowing has driven many a parent and teacher to their breaking point.  There’s another side to gum chewing that may be more than just annoying. According to a new study, excessive gum chewing may be giving kids migraines.

Dr. Nathan Watemberg, with Tele Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center, noticed that many patients reporting headaches were excessive gum chewers. After completing his study, Watemberg believes that some migraine patients can be cured of their headaches without further testing or medications simply by eliminating their gum chewing.

"Out of our 30 patients, 26 reported significant improvement, and 19 had complete headache resolution," said Watemberg. "Twenty of the improved patients later agreed to go back to chewing gum, and all of them reported an immediate relapse of symptoms."

The study involved 30 patients, 6 to 19 years old, who had chronic migraine or tension headaches and chewed gum daily. He asked that the participants stop chewing gum for one month. They had chewed gum for at least an hour, some up to more than six hours, per day. After a month without gum, 19 of the 30 patients reported that their headaches went away entirely and seven reported a decrease in the frequency and intensity of headaches. To test the results, 26 of them agreed to resume gum chewing for two weeks. All of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.

Two previous studies linked gum chewing to headaches, but offered different explanations. One study suggested that gum chewing causes stress to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the place where the jaw meets the skull. The other study blamed aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in most popular chewing gums. TMJ dysfunction has been shown to cause headaches, while the evidence is mixed on aspartame.

Watemberg supports the TMJ explanation. People who chew gum excessively put a significant burden on the TMJ, which is already the most constantly used joint on the body, he says.

"Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches," said Watemberg. "I believe this is what's happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively."

Watemberg says his findings can be put to use immediately. By advising teenagers with chronic headaches to simply stop chewing gum, doctors can provide many of them with quick and effective treatment, without the need for expensive diagnostic tests or medications.

If your child suffers from nagging headaches and is a daily gum chewer, you might want to conduct your own study. Explain that the gum chewing may be contributing to his or her headaches and ask them to quit for a month. If the headaches stop- you’ve probably found the problem. If they continue, have your pediatrician or family doctor check your child for other causes.

Dr. Watemberg’s findings were published in the online journal, Pediatric Neurology.

Source: Science Daily,

Your Teen

Teen Drug Use On The Rise, Again

Teen drug use is on the rise and parents need to take note.After nearly 10 years of declining numbers, teen drug use has reversed course and is rising among 9th-12th graders.

A  joint study published by the Partnership for a Drug Free America and the MetLife Foundation revealed the following: *teen alcohol use grew to 39% from 28% in 2008 * yearly and monthly marijuana us increased to 38% and 25%, respectively *75% of teenagers say they have friends who get high at parties, a 9% increase from 2008 The study revealed several reasons for the increase including less federal funding for drug-prevention programs in schools and the media. Inhalants like glue, nails polish remover, spray paints, and cleaning fluids pose a growing risk among teens.  These items are cheap readily available in a home and are used by younger teens to get a “quick high”. Over the past several years, studies have revealed that teen access to drugs, especially prescription medicines, is easier than ever. So what can parents do?  Be aware of any mood swings or behavior changes in your teen.  Make an effort to get know your child’s friends.  Eat dinner as a family.  Studies continue to prove that children who sit down to a family dinner do better in school and are less likely to get involved with risky behaviors.

Your Teen

Study: Obese Young Men Likely to Die Prematurely

Teenager boys who were obese at the age of 18 are one-third more likely to die prematurely compared to their normal weight peers.Teenager boys who were obese at the age of 18 are one-third more likely to die prematurely compared to their normal weight peers announced Swedish researchers on Wednesday. A study of more than 45,000 men underlines the dangers of being overweight and the need to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity. The study also found that teens (both boys and girls) who were obese at the age of 18 are twice as likely to die prematurely.

Currently, the World Health Organization classifies more than 400 million people worldwide as obese, including 20 million children under the age of five. "Obesity and overweight were as hazardous as heavy and light smoking," Martin Neovius of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and his colleagues wrote in the British Medical Journal. "The obesity pandemic seems to affect children and adolescents more than adults."

Your Teen

Teen Athletes Leading the Nation in Tommy John Surgeries


Teen athletes accounted for more than half of the Tommy John surgeries performed in the U.S. from 2007 to 2011 according to a new study. The surgery is actually an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR) graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. Tommy John was the first Major League baseball pitcher to have the surgery and the nickname has now become common use.

 “Our results showed that 15- to 19-year-olds accounted for 56.7 percent of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR) or Tommy John surgeries performed in the US between 2007 to 2011," said lead study author Brandon Erickson, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in a press release. "This is a significant increase over time with an average increase of 9.12 percent per year.”

Once a player has the surgery, he or she needs a good 12 to 15 months of recovery time before they are able to return to a high level of sport activity. Oftentimes, a second surgery may be required as the athlete continues to strain the ligament.

Baseball pitchers are the athletes that most often require the surgery because of the way they pitch; overhanded instead of underhanded. Many believe that the problems start in the teenage years with players who throw harder than ever and don't ever take a month off.

Dr. Erickson and his team looked at a private insurance database to identify patients who received UCLR surgeries throughout the US.

About 4 out of every 100,000 patients who had surgery between 2007 and 2011 had a UCLR surgery. These patients were overwhelmingly male, with 32 percent coming from the 15- to 17-year-old age group and 22 percent coming from the 20- to 24-year-old age group.

These surgeries grew at a rate of 4.2 percent each year between 2007 and 2011. And more than half were performed in the southern region of the US.

Another reason many teen athletes are susceptible to injury is that they play only one sport and play year-round, never giving their immature bodies enough time to rest and repair.

According to Dr. Erickson, more attention should be given to prevention because overuse injuries tend to occur in intensive training and high-performance games.

"The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only 1 in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB," Dr. Erickson said. "This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise."

Some teens simply play through the pain without considering the possible long-term physical problems that could quickly end the career they worked so hard to attain. It’s up to the adults in their lives to watch over and give them the guidance they need to stay healthy. Parents and coaches need to make sure that their kids and students are following the safety rules established by the sport associations and organizations.

This study was presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's annual meeting. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer- reviewed.

Source: Beth Greenwood,





Your Teen

Chronic Pain in Teenagers on the Rise

1.45 to read

If your teenager tells you that he or she has a stomach ache it might be more than just an excuse to get out of doing something you’ve asked them to do.  A new study looks at chronic pain in teenagers and finds that hospital admissions for these youngsters has risen nine-fold between the years 2004 and 2010.

Researchers reported that 23% of the cases analyzed showed that the most common chronic pain teenagers experience is in the abdomen.

Other conditions included reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (when an injury – such as an ankle sprain - does not heal properly and sends constant pain signals to the brain), chronic pain syndrome (pain lasting more than 3 months), headaches, migraines, limb pain and back pain.

"We are seeing a lot more young patients with chronic pain syndrome" said study author Dr. Thomas A. Coffelt, assistant professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "It is quite alarming to us."

For the study, researchers gathered information on 3,752 children admitted to 43 pediatric hospitals throughout the United States.

Teenage girls led the demographics with the average age being fourteen. The average hospital stay was 7.32 days.

The majority of hospitalized kids received additional diagnoses. The average was 10 diagnoses per child.  Children were also diagnosed with conditions such as abdominal pain, mood disorders, constipation and nausea. Altogether, 65 percent of patients received a gastrointestinal diagnosis, and 44 percent received a psychiatric diagnosis.

The results also showed that even after being hospitalized, many youngsters continued to have pain. Coffelt said that 12.5 percent of the children were back in the hospital within a year — 9.9 percent were readmitted at least once, and 2.6 percent more than once.

So what’s causing all this chronic pain? Experts aren’t really sure.  Coffelt says some secondary conditions could be playing a role. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. A small percent of the young pain sufferers (2.1%) report physical, emotional and sexual abuse or assault.

"We can't identify the underlying [cause] of pain, which is why we struggle with it," Coffelt said. "We need to find a better way to treat these patients."

Gary A. Walco, director of pain medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the study, says chronic pain may not be as well understood by the medical community as it should be and that the condition is quite common in many children. 

"The chronic pain field now recognizes that a good deal of chronic pain has to do with a change in how the brain and spinal cord are processing the stimuli coming into the body," Walco said. "This study shines a light on how poorly understood and mismanaged recurrent and chronic pain syndromes are."  

The multiple diagnostic procedures and readmissions cited in the study underscore the need to do better when it comes to dealing with pain in youngsters, Walco said. Instead of treating chronic pain as an acute problem, physicians need to focus on rehabilitation, he explained.

And "rather than continuing to see pain as a symptom of another illness, parents need to recognize pain is the illness, and seek out a pain expert for treatment," Walco said.

If your child suffers from chronic pain, you can check with your local hospitals to see if there is access to a pediatric pain management specialist.

Living with chronic pain can cause kids to miss out on a lot of the joys of childhood. These children tend to drop out of sports programs and other extracurricular activities and sleep poorly. It also affects the rest of the family oftentimes adding extra tension and stress to the household.

Pain is complex and individualized. Pediatric pain is even more complex and difficult to manage, but it should not be ignored.

The study appeared in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics.


Your Teen

Parenting Style And Teen Drinking

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Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. A new study suggests that your child could become a binge drinker depending on your parenting style. For teenagers, friends play a big role in the decision to take that first drink. And by the 12th grade, more than 65 percent of teens have at least experimented with alcohol. But what parents do during the high school years can also influence whether teens go on to binge drink or abuse alcohol. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. "While parents didn't have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking," says Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at BYU, and the author of the study that was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. As part of the survey of 5,000 teenagers, Bahr and his colleagues asked 7th- to 12th-grade students a series of questions about their alcohol use. "We asked how many had taken five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks," says Bahr. That's the typical definition of binge drinking. They also asked the kids about their parents: What kinds of rules did they have? Did their parents know where they were on weekends? Did their parents check up on their whereabouts and set curfews? How much oversight and monitoring was typical? The teens who were being raised by so-called indulgent parents who tend to give their children lots of praise and warmth — but offer little in the way of consequences or monitoring of bad behavior — were among the biggest abusers of alcohol. "They were about three times more likely to participate in heavy drinking," says Bahr. The same was true for kids whose parents were so strict that no decision was left to the teenager's own judgment. "Kids in that environment tend not to internalize the values and understand why they shouldn't drink," says Bahr. They were more than twice as likely to binge drink. Striking The Right Balance The parenting style that led to the lowest levels of problem drinking borrowed something from each of the extremes. From the strict parents: accountability and consequences for bad behavior. From the indulgent parents: warmth and support Bahr says these parents tend to be more balanced. "They recognize their kids when they do good things and praise them, but they offer direction and correction when they get off a little bit," he says. Lots of factors contribute to teenagers' experimentation with alcohol and drugs. Genes play a significant role, as do peer relationships. And the teenage years can be adversarial. "Parents get really frustrated with teenagers," says Aimee Stern, who has written “Delaying That First Drink: A Parents’ Guide.”  “I have two of them — and you can't tell them anything they don't already know." That's why it's important to start talking to kids about alcohol when they're young — as early as fourth grade, recommends Stern. Her free book, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is intended as a teaching tool for parents and contains plenty of evidence-based information on drinking and addiction. It explains the science of alcohol, both in terms of what it does to the body and the developing brain. The guide can be used as a companion to a series of Science Inside Alcohol lessons developed by AAAS or as a stand-alone tool that parents can use in talking with their children. More information about Aimee Stern’s free book “Delaying That First Drink: A Parent’s Guide”  is at

Your Teen

Internet May Be Newest Area for Teen Tobacco Exposure

No matter how much control you exercise over your teen's TV and movie watching, they may still be receiving positive tobacco messages via the Internet.No matter how much control you exercise over your teen’s TV and movie watching, they may still be receiving positive tobacco messages via the Internet. In particular that exposure could come from popular social networking sites like MySpace and Xanga.

A new study shows the Internet is the newest place for kids to get exposure to positive messages on tobacco use. Although tobacco content was found on less than 1 percent of the pages that teens view, there were more pro-tobacco pages than anti-tobacco pages. The study appears in the July 20, 2009 online issue of Pediatrics. "We found that only a small proportion of Internet sites visited by adolescents contained tobacco messages. The significance of these messages in social networking and their impact on adolescent tobacco attitudes and use remain unclear," wrote the study's authors. According to the American Lung Association, 90 percent of smokers start smoking by their 21st birthday. Every day in the U.S., about 3,600 kids between 12 and 17 try their first cigarette and about one-third of those will become regular smokers. For the study, researchers randomly selected 346 teenagers with home Internet access. The teens allowed the study authors to track all of their page views for a 30-day period. The researchers then searched those pages for tobacco-related content. In all, the study volunteers viewed 1.2 million Web pages. Of those, 8,702 (0.72 percent) contained tobacco or smoking content. Pro-tobacco messages were found on 1,916 pages and anti-tobacco content was included on 1,572 pages. The authors said the tobacco messages were "complex or unclear" on 5,055 pages. More than half of the tobacco-related page views, 53 percent, came from social networking sites. "That kids are being exposed to tobacco products in all facets of their lives is not a surprise," said Erika Sward, director of national advocacy for the lung association. "And I'm not surprised that the tobacco companies are on the cutting edge. They're always creative in finding new ways to target and prey on kids." Sward said the good news was that the study found that not all of the content teens were viewing was pro-tobacco, but the study highlights the need for legislation regarding how tobacco products are promoted online, and that tobacco-control programs should design counter-marketing methods for the Internet.

Your Teen

Teen Pregnancies Tied to Watching Sexy TV Shows

A new study released suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of television with sexual dialogue and behavior.A new study released suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of television with sexual dialogue and behavior than among teenagers who watch less mature television shows. The study, published in the November 2008 issue of Pediatrics is the first to link viewing habits with teen pregnancy said lead author Anita Chandra, a Rand Corp. behavioral scientist. The study found that teens that watched the raciest shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years as those who watched few such programs.

Earlier research by some of the same scientists involved in the current study found that watching lots of sex on television can influence teens to have sex at earlier ages. Shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex "before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions," said Chandra. The study, which involved over 2,000 teens, asked the participants how often they watched more than 20 popular TV shows which were found to have lots of sexual content. Those programs included Sex and the City, That 70's Show, and Friends. Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly than those teens that said they hardly ever saw them.



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