Still a grunt: Seahawks LB K.J. Wirght beat a nasty bout of food poisoning to lead Seattle to 21-12 win over Dallas

I hate it – and hate is a strong word – when athletes or musicians talk.

Yes, you have a voice, but can it be better than, “Uh, yeah, we gave it 110 per cent out there, just trying to win one for the team.”

In addition to all the pucks I took to the head playing goalie since 1967 (the last time the Leafs won a Cup), I played four years of linebacker, receiver and kickoff/punt returner for my high school team.

I was a grunt.

Go get ‘em, said coach, head first, with shitty helmets.

So my head’s been knocked around a lot in ways it probably wasn’t designed for.

I’m reading Ken Dryden’s book on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and will report on that later.

Still, it’s a little scary, not to know what’s going on all the time, feeling distant and distracted, and knowing there will be no diagnosis until I’m dead.

Whatevs, I got great support.

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright recovered from a concussion that forced him to miss last week’s game against the Rams, only to get felled by a bout of food poisoning the day before Seattle’s eventual 21-12 win over Dallas.

Wright said he ate some lasagna on the team’s Delta Airlines charter flight from Seattle to Dallas on Friday, and felt ill immediately afterward.

“I think it was the lasagna,” Wright said. “As soon as I had my last bite, about five minutes later, my stomach got tore up, and, uh, it ws all over from there. … It was coming out both ends.”

Food poising usually doesn’t happen within 5 minutes, unless it’s chemical contamination.

Microbes, even the toxin-producing ones, take a few hours.

Wright said he did not leave his hotel room on Saturday, and that the Seahawks’ doctors came in to give him IVs and some nausea medicine.

“He was in bed all day yesterday,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Those guys played like crazy to hold (Dallas) down.”

Wright said he felt better by Sunday morning and was able to start against Dallas. He came up big for the Seahawks twice, tallying six tackles, picking off Dallas quarterback, Dak Prescott once and recovering two fumbles.

“Shout out to our doctors and trainers,” Wright said. “They’re tremendous and they took good care of me.”

(that’s the equipment I has circa 1972; the puck hurt, a lot, especially on the head)

Our church: 4 years of Sunday practice (and games) will get most improved

After four years as an atom minor hockey player — there aren’t enough kids in Australia playing hockey to have different divisions between 5-and-9-year olds, although it used to be 5-11-year-olds, which was dangerous, so we’re growing — Sorenne was selected as most improved player for her team.

I love how Mason, the player-voted MVP, is always smiling and supportive of his teammates (he’s grinning in the background).

On to atom majors next year, if she wants.

‘Goalie/poet’ Gord Downie dies

It was Sept. 1989, when this 26-year-old first heard the opening chords of Blow at High Dough on a kitchen radio at 5 a.m. in Galt (Cambridge, Ontario), featuring the vocals of 24-year-old Gord Downie.

I was hooked.

The 1980s were a wash-out for rock-and-roll inventiveness, and when the five friends from Kingston Ontario, The Tragically Hip, splashed onto the national scene with their first full album, Up to Here, it felt like something special.

Up to Here became my running companion for the next six years.

I saw the Hip many times over the years, but the best was in a small bar in Waterloo, Ontario, about April 1990, with my ex who was about 7 months pregnant with Canadian daughter 2-of-4.

I remember every moment of that concert.

Gord died yesterday of complications from glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer.

We humans know so little about the brain.

PTSD, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), cancer, addiction, bad wiring, and yet we continue to bash our heads around, in sports as little kids, in cycling and falls around home construction sites. The three concussions I’ve had in the past three months, along with a lifetime of pucks to the head, have made me slow down, be more careful, and try to take care of my brain a bit better.

The best we can do, as Gord said, is try to lift up those around us.

Two of my favorite videos are below.

The first is from a song about North America, although the video was shot near Melbourne in Australia while the band was on tour.

May Ry Cooder sing your eulogy.

A gift from down under.

The second, here’s hoping for peace on Fiddler’s Green.

Hockey and asparagus

My cousin Tim and I would play road hockey up in the upper level of the barn, during the two weeks I would spend at their farm while my parents goofed around.

Tim is about 6 months older than me, he grows asparagus, I write about asparagus, and we both ended up coaching hockey.

Tim wrote on his facebook page tonight that, hockey season starts for our Ayr Cens and is about to start for my son Will’s Midget Flames. For some reason (other than i am obsessed with #4) i started thinking about the time i met my hero Bobby Orr at a camp Will won an invitation for. We had a pre-camp reception for the kids and parents and there was a question/answer period with Bobby. Obviously i was 1st to raise my hand for questions LOL. My question to Bobby was “when you were a kid and were so much better than everyone else what did you do on the ice?” Bobby’s answer was simple…”My Dad always told me to make sure i passed the puck to a player that hadn’t scored a goal”. Hope this makes all of us think as we head into hockey season. Best of luck to all kids of all skill levels for an enjoyable and most importantly FUN season

My cousin embraces the values that I and anyone else who coaches should embrace.

I’m proud to call him my cousin (except when we talk about genetic engineering or he does his Bob and Doug SCTV impersonation).

Going public: Embrace it; supermarket x’ and the ethics of food risk disclosure

I figured out about 45 years ago that going public was the best way to handle conflict.

I was throwing stones at the grill of a car in an abandoned lot in Brantford, Ontario (that’s in Canada), trying out cigarettes for the first time, and we got caught.

When I was 18-years-old, and went to jail, I had nothing to hide.

All incoming inmates had to strip naked in front of some deliberately inattentive guard, as part of admission.

There was nothing left to hide, and there isn’t now.

I know lots of people who hide behind their vanity; I know few whom are truly public, warts and all.

Whether it’s some academic institution or a local hockey club, bring it on; your rumors only ferment your own failures.

Julia Glotz of The Grocer in the UK writes that in the hepatitis E outbreak, supermarket X is Tesco.

Julia is referring to explosive claims that, as initially reported by the Sunday Times, hepatitis E is sickening Brits at an alarming rate.

But that didn’t stop Public Health England from sticking its fingers in its ears and loudly singing ‘la la la’ for the best part of a week. It didn’t want to name ‘supermarket x’ because the findings of its hepatitis E study do ‘not infer blame on the supermarket’.

Oh okay. Fair enough. I see the strategy here. So instead of some uncomfortable articles about a possible link between hep E infections and retail pork products, we’re going for a week of near-hysterical coverage shouting Silence On Banger Virus, and insinuating an agency tasked with protecting public health is refusing to drop a big supermarket in it. What must these brutes at Tesco be doing to poor PHE to force it into silence? Round of applause, everyone.

Anyway, the kitty is now firmly out of the bag, so it’s time to reflect on some lessons from the whole saga. After all, hepatitis E is far from the only food scandal in town right now. And, in PHE’s defence, this is really tricky territory. Risk communication is notoriously hard, and informing the public about risks related to food can be especially thorny. Food regulators and agencies across the globe struggle with it.

Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety who runs the wonderfully named BarfBlog (yes, it’s about people getting sick from dodgy food), has an entire section on his website called ‘Going public’. In it, he chronicles example after example of public disclosure foul-ups from food regulators around the world: vague press releases rushed out after hours; vital information made available too late for the sake of double, triple and quadruple checking; and bare facts and stats dumped on the public without context to help them make sense of risk.

Powell is also the co-author of a fascinating article published in the Journal of Environmental Health earlier this year, which examines how regulators approach public comms during food scares. It concludes there is widespread confusion – and hugely varying standards – largely because there is little concrete guidance on food risk disclosure. Too many decisions are made ad hoc; what little guidance there is is couched in flabby, unhelpful language like ‘timely release of information’, without defining what ‘timely’ means.

So does that mean PHE should have named Tesco right from the start? Not necessarily. Its study did not establish that Tesco products were the direct cause of hepatitis infections; it was a statistical analysis only. There are valid concerns about the potential for premature information to mislead consumers and do significant harm (though it’s worth pointing out Powell’s report found no evidence to support a paternalistic approach where members of the public are protected from ‘too much’ information). ‘Naming and shaming’ of individual companies could potentially distract consumers from other, more important information about how they can protect themselves. Might a shopper who doesn’t buy ham and sausages at Tesco, for example, tune out and not pay attention to cooking advice to minimise the risk of hepatitis E infections?

It’s a fair question. So by all means don’t name names in your scientific paper. But accept that a paper like it will very likely get media pick-up – and once it’s out in the public domain, the game is up. You have to come clean. “To support consumer decision making, available information must support what consumers want and need to know, which might or might not be what information authorities want to relay,” Powell writes in his JEH article. And in this case, consumers wanted to know who ‘supermarket x’ was.

“While PHE may have reasons for not going public – whether legislative or bureaucratic – whoever is involved will eventually be found out,” Powell added when I caught up with him about the case this week. “Trust is earned, not given, and consumers have a right to know – especially if it’s a public health issue like hepatitis E in pork.”

 It’s not all down to the regulators, though. Industry, too, has a part to play in this. If there’s any risk to public health, information disclosure must be led by the relevant agencies, says Chris Elliott of the Institute for Global Food Security. But when there is no (or a very remote chance) of a food safety problem, “then I think supermarket x should take the lead in the comms,” he adds. “But this should be agreed with the regulator, so no contradiction or confusion should result.”

It’s undoubtedly a difficult balance to get right. In Powell’s article, the killer line comes from epidemiologist Paul Mead: “Food safety recalls are always either too early or too late. If you’re right, it’s always too late. If you’re wrong, it’s always too early.”

So yes, it can be a poisoned chalice. But regulators can’t dodge it – and they have to start dealing with it more assuredly than they often do at the moment. 

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

I will survive, even hockey

I survived 90 minutes of pickup hockey today, first time I’ve played goal in a year.

If the pavement is going to rise up and bash me on a bicycle, I might as well let people shoot a hard rubber disk at me and get told by a 15-year-old that my technique sucks (paraphrased).

It ain’t Guelph, I was the oldest on the ice, but it doesn’t suck to go to the arena in shorts year round, at noon.