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White Blood Count Rises in Runners

February 03, 1987|ALLAN PARACHINI | Times Staff Writer

Distance running--ranging from 2,000 meters on a regular basis to truly committed regimens of 65 miles a week--jogs blood chemistry enough that white cell counts zoom upward, emulating what happens when the body is challenged by such things as infections and inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

This isn't a newly discovered phenomenon, but finally it's acquired a name--Jogger's Leukocytes, after the white blood cell type that increases in distance running and other intense aerobic exercise.

The term was coined recently in the New England Journal of Medicine by German researchers who measured the phenomenon in 10 male distance runners.

Quick Return to Normal

Dr. Ronald Lawrence, president of the North Hollywood-based American Medical Athletic Exercise Assn.--organized by physician-runners--said the new term adds emphasis to the multifaceted changes in chemistry that occur when the body is challenged in exercise.

In most cases, Lawrence said, the changes quickly return to normal, but in some highly trained, obsessive runners, such problems as aching knee joints (the result of inflammation), swollen feet and even red blood cells accumulating in the urine can remain for a week or two. The chemistry, though, may also have a protective effect--at least according to provocative animal studies already completed and human research now under way.

"What does it mean for those of us who run for fun? It means to me that if you run without (going to the same lengths) a gold medalist does, running actually protects you from disease and injury," Lawrence said. "When you overdo it, you go into an area where you do get into difficulty." For Lawrence, that means: If you can complete a marathon in five hours or less, your weekly optimum distance is about 20 miles; four hours, 35 to 40 miles a week; 3 1/2 hours, 60 to 65 miles. Beyond 65, the apparent benefits are lost. "Over that," he said, "and you have to ask why."

Child Artwork Alert

Adults who have frequent contact with children are being urged to note anatomic detail in drawings by 3- to 7-year-olds because a new study indicates children who include genitalia in their sketches may be more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than those who don't.

Researchers who drew the conclusion cautioned emphatically that inclusion of genitalia in children's sketches is not a foolproof test; some child-abuse victims don't include graphic detail in their drawings and some children who are not abused do. But as a screening technique, the research team argued, genital detail in drawings should prompt further, careful, inquiry.

The conclusions were reported by researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The team published its findings, based on a study of 112 children, ages 3 to 7, in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings were first presented last year at a medical meeting. The team noted the presence, absence and extent of genital detail in the drawings of 57 young children who had been identified as sexually abused and 55 others who had not been abused. Abused children were 6.8 times more likely to include genitalia in their drawings than nonabused children.

But the findings were cloaked in disclaimers intended to avoid the unfair branding of a child as "abused," as well as failure to detect an abused child because he or she does not put genitalia in artwork. "Although a child's drawing that includes genitalia may alert one to the possibility of sexual abuse, it does not prove it," the team cautioned. "What the child says about the drawing . . . is often more pertinent than the drawing itself."

Treatment by Oven?

Treatment of people who have undergone the severe temperature loss of acute hypothermia may be on the verge of a new development roughly equivalent to putting very cold victims in jumbo-sized microwave ovens.

That's something of an oversimplification, in one sense, but an accurate comparison in other ways, according to the Georgetown University Medical Center researcher who has tested the principle on animals. Dr. J. Douglas White believes large-sized radio wave-operated warming machines may someday be the treatment of choice in many isolated hospitals and clinics--even aboard Navy and Coast Guard ships--often the front line of treatment in such cases.

White's hospital microwave would not--now, anyway--be recognizable in your kitchen, but it is based on essentially the same principles. It uses different radiation frequencies, but it does the same as what's on the counter--it quickly generates heat that is absorbed to the core of a frigid body. Prototypes don't look much like what's on your counter, either. Experimental versions consist of a large coil-like device. The patient lies in the middle of the coil and is bombarded by radio wave-generated heat from all directions.

The prototype tested on anesthetized dogs, White reported in Annals of Emergency Medicine, was more successful than any other treatment in quickly eliminating the effects of severe cold.

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