Vital Signs

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PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS are careless when it comes to protecting themselves from injury. Almost half do not bother to wear shin pads over the ankle during matches and most do not wear pads of any kind during training. Fewer than half take carbohydrates after a match or before or after training, despite being given advice to do so.

The authors of a study of 146 professional footballers, who publish their results in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, say the findings indicate that "football clubs are not meeting their legal requirement ... of providing adequate information and training on injury prevention."

PATIENTS UNDERGOING surgery can set the limits of the operation in advance, but few realise that they have the power to do so.

A survey conducted for the Royal College of Surgeons found that half of all patients did not know that they had the right to insist the surgeon perform only the specified operation and nothing more. More than 80 per cent did not know that they could add something to the consent form in writing before signing it.

The survey, published in Quality in Health Care, was commissioned because of concern about a rise in medical litigation. The authors say the informal way in which consent has been handled has favoured uncommunicative doctors and undemanding patients; that must change.

THE CAUSES of depression in men and women are mirror images of one another. Four out of ten women cite stress at home, while four out of ten men cite stress at work, according to a survey by the Depression Alliance. Oddly, financial worries and unemployment, often seen as key factors in depression, were hardly mentioned.

A ROW has broken out among dentists about whether the British Dental Association's decision to give its stamp of approval to Ribena Toothkind, a drink for children, will improve the nation's teeth or make them worse. Supporters of the move say the drink, which uses a calcium system to reduce acidity and hence the erosive effect on enamel, hope it will encourage other manufacturers to follow suit. They point out that milk, which is considered safe for teeth, contains 4 per cent sugar compared with 0.7 per cent in Ribena Toothkind. Opponents argue that the stamp of approval from the BDA has not only rehabilitated the Ribena brand, but will encourage consumption of soft drinks across the range.

SOME AIDS sufferers have found themselves with disfiguring extra layers of fat in unexpected parts of their bodies as their face and limbs shrink to skin and bones - possibly as a result of taking the Aids drugs called protease inhibitors.

Three women looked like "apples on a stick" from the mound of stomach and breast fat above birdlike legs. A man developed a large hump on the nape of his neck. Another woman jumped four sizes as her waist expanded and her legs shrank.

The US Food and Drug Administration is worried that the fat deposits are more than a cosmetic problem: some patients have raised cholesterol levels, increasing their risk of heart disease. The FDA, Aids researchers and drug companies are scrambling for answers.

A spokesman for the FDA said: "We don't want to alarm people, because we think the benefits of protease inhibitors still outweigh the risks. But we're concerned."

MEN WITH prostate problems face a difficult decision over what treatment, if any, to have. Surgical treatment carries a risk of side-effects - including impotence and incontinence - which may be worse than the disease. The alternative to surgery is to learn to cope with the symptoms - such as a frequent need to urinate. To help men to make the right decision, the Royal College of Surgeons has produced a CD-Rom, "Urinary Disorder and Male Health". For details, call 0171-405 3474.