New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

It is pretty easy to gain weight as you grow older. Metabolisms slow, hormones shift, and people become generally less physically active more sedentary as they age. But inevitability doesn’t mean getting fatter doesn’t come with serious risks. Besides the increased likelihood of heart disease (the number one killer of men and women in America) gaining weight can do some serious damage to another arguably more essential organ — your brain. As bodies get bigger, a new study finds, brains actually shrink.


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Cortical thinning, the phenomenon named in the study, refers to atrophy of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain where almost all information processing occurs. The thinner the cortex, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Scientists have understood that there is a link between healthy body weight and optimal brain health, but few studies have looked at the direct role weight might play. Based on what is already known about the cerebral cortex, study author and neurologist Dr. Tatjana Rundek believed that obesity could be connected to cortical thinning and overall brain atrophy.

Also read: Gain (or regain) warrior status in just 8 weeks with this fitness plan

To test this, Rundek and her team recruited 1,289 people to compare their bodies and brains over time. At the start of the study, their BMI and waist circumference were measured and six years later, the participants’ brains were scanned using an MRI, in order to measure the thickness of the cortex and brain volume. Out of everyone, 571 people had BMIs in the 25 to 30 range, which is considered overweight, and 371 people were considered obese with BMIs 30 and higher. The higher the BMI, the thinner the cortex, results revealed. Even after Rundek controlled for variables that could change the cortex such as high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking, every unit increase in BMI was linked with a 0.098 millimeter thinner cortex for overweight individuals and a 0.207 mm thinner cortex for obese ones.

“These associations were especially strong in those who were younger than 65, which adds weight to the theory that having poor health indicators in mid-life may increase the risk for brain aging and problems with memory and thinking skills in later life,” she warned. Having a larger waist was similarly associated with a thinner cortex, strengthening the link. To put it in perspective, in normal aging adults the overall thinning rate of the cortical mantle is between 0.01 and 0.10 mm per decade, but these findings indicate that being overweight or obese might speed up this process by another 10 years at least.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

It is worth noting that the study demonstrates a correlation between weight and cortical thinning, but scientists are not at the point where they can confidently say putting on pounds causes brain thinning directly, or Alzheimer’s for that matter. The study also focused primarily on older participants with an average age of 64, but the data does give the younger man another reason to start and maintain healthy habits early on. It’s not just about looking good, it’s about having a big beautiful brain too.

“These results are exciting because they raise the possibility that by losing weight, people may be able to stave off aging of their brains and potentially the memory and thinking problems that can come along with brain aging,” Rundek said. “However, with the rising number of people globally who are overweight or obese and the difficulty many experiences with losing weight, obviously this is a concern for public health in the future as these people age.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why I started my own GORUCK club

I have a secret to confess: I started a GORUCK club for selfish reasons.

There’s a perfectly good GORUCK club at GRHQ, only 4 miles from my home, and yet earlier this year I founded the GORUCK Mother Ruckers to serve my needs. And by needs I mean not getting into a car with my children unless I have to while maximizing time spent moving outdoors, with the option to bring my wards.


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

As luck would have it, turns out that my needs are also the needs of others in my community. And by community I mean local moms in my neighborhood.

This is where we meet up, on a street corner that’s a stone’s throw from everyone’s homes. Easy, convenient, just ruck up and step out your front door.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Another thing that’s really great about our GORUCK club – and all GORUCK clubs for that matter – is that you only need a party of 2. Sure, it’s better with more folks and we take the more the merrier approach when it comes to people. We call it GORUCK Mother Ruckers not to be exclusive but because our GORUCK club is run by moms. It’s also cool to bring your kids, pets, and significant others (in no particular order) or just yourself if you happen to have lucked into some free alone time. Nothing reminds you how grateful you are to have a few moments of peace from your children than being next to another parent’s screaming kid.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Before kids, we used to workout more, sleep in more, and do less with that free time we never fully appreciated. Time is our most valuable resource, then and even more so now. We don’t have time to waste by stress-driving to make that gym or pilates class whenever the stars align for all kids to be healthy or cooperative. Somewhere floating in cyberspace is a graveyard of forgotten or unredeemed exercise classes that moms like me have decided just aren’t worth the hassle.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

And yet we know deep down that we as moms and as humans need to prioritize our physical and mental health. My friend Amy said it best the other day, that “women tend to have a lot of pulls and tugs on their time.” In her career as a cardiologist, she sees that “the health of women, in terms of the time to go do physical activity and exercise, gets deprioritized to the very end of the list, after checking off everything else we need to do for everyone else. There is also a social isolation, that you end up being so busy caring for folks around you and having your nose to the grindstone, that the idea that you’re gonna just kinda go hammer it out in the gym or on an exercise machine at home, sometimes just can be lonely.”

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

This is the not so lonely hearts club. After some sniffing and snack stealing attempts, we ruck south on our weekly pilgrimage in search of smoothies, fresh air, and cute pups of course.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

There once was a time when I ran a lot, in high school and in college and even for years after that, my favorite runs were with others or on my own to keep the cardio streak going. I still love running but dislike how fast my base erodes from an inconsistent life schedule. I also have a harder time finding someone to run with me when those unpredictable moments of freedom pop up. For some reason, probably having to do with that erodible base, when I ask my friends to go on a run with me, I don’t get a great response.

When I say, let’s go for a ruck and you can bring whoever you want and you pick the weight, I get more yesses. With rucking, the barrier for entry is lower and more accessible on many levels. On the level of not requiring a babysitter and also on being a scalable workout. We might move at kid pace but there are plenty of extra coupon carry opportunities along the way.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

And so we ruck on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or just to the last street for a missing shoe.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

At last we reach the halfway point and it’s time to refuel the restless natives. These are before smoothie faces.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health
New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

And these are post smoothie smiles.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health
New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Sometimes the term selfish gets a bad rap, especially if by being selfish you really are trying to set yourself up for success to take care of others who need you, day after day, to be your best or close to it. It’s pretty empowering to prioritize yourself to the top of the list and then watch your fellow moms do the same: we can do it, better together, as neighbors and friends and parents and people.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

So what’s stopping you from joining a GORUCK club or starting your own?

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Instagram.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This famous midshipman was the inspiration for the ‘Hail Mary’ pass

It’s probably the most exciting moment of any football game — and it doesn’t matter if the game is on a Friday, Saturday, or a Sunday. One team is down six or seven points and they’re making the drive across the field in the fourth quarter with just seconds left on the clock. Stopped just short of a first down or goal, the quarterback drops back and chucks the ball as fast and far as he can, along with a prayer for a receiver — any receiver — to catch the ball in the endzone.


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Sometimes, they get a little help from less divine sources.

(National Football League)

Sure, it’s a supreme letdown when the pass fails, but when it succeeds, the crowds go wild. It’s the “Hail Mary” Pass, and it was made famous by that name with a little help from the Naval Academy’s famous alumnus and Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach.

The desperation pass existed well back into the 1930s. Football is a very old sport and desperation in football dates back to the beginning of the game itself. Referring to a pass as a “Hail Mary,” however, was generally restricted to desperate plays made by Catholic schools, like Notre Dame — until 1975, that is.

A 1975 divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Roger Staubach-led Dallas Cowboys saw the Cowboys down 14-10, 85 yards from the endzone, on 4th down and 16 with just 24 seconds left in the game. There was no other call Staubach, the former Naval Academy cadet, could make in that situation. The ball snapped, Staubach dropped back and threw the ball as far as he could.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

The original “Hail Mary.”

(National Football League)

The ball found its way into the arms of wide receiver Drew Pearson, who ran it in for a last-second touchdown. The Cowboys won the game 17-14. Staubach would lead the Cowboys all the way to Super Bowl X, where they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17. The pass earned its name when an elated Staubach talked the press after the game his victory over the Vikings.

“I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” said Staubach. “I couldn’t see whether or not Drew had caught it. I didn’t know we had the touchdown until I saw the official raise his arms.”

Staubach was a devout Catholic all his life, from his early days in Cincinnati through his Midshipman years at Annapolis. It just so happened that a Hail Mary is the prayer that went through his mind. The play could just as easily be known as the “Our Father” Pass.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Or if you’re a Mormon, “Bless that we will travel home in safety” Pass

(NCAA)

“I could have said the ‘Our Father’ or ‘The Glory Be.’ It could be the ‘Glory Be Pass,'” Staubach later said.

So how rare is a successful Hail Mary Pass? One statistician broke down the likelihood of a successful pass on the last play of a game, more than 30 yards from the goal, with the offense tied or down by 8 or fewer points to ensure the team on offense either wins or forces an overtime.

Only 5.5 percent of games since 2005 have a play that fits these criteria. Of the games that do fit, most of the passes thrown were too far away from the goal line, out of range of the quarterback. Of the remaining, eligible passes, only 2.5 percent resulted in a touchdown. The stats also show that the further away the quarterback is from the goal line, the more likely the ball is to be intercepted — and the ball is eight times more likely to be intercepted than to score a touchdown.

Truly blessed are thou among passes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the group of veterans making the best NFL teams better

Every professional athlete will tell you there’s a science behind elite performance. Every coach will tell you there’s one for team dynamics as well. And, every military leader will say their best performing units are men and women who understand the importance of not just bettering themselves, but constantly working toward improving the group as a whole.


One Green Beret has cracked the code on understanding the battlefield and translating it to the professional playing field.

Jason Van Camp is the founder of Mission Six Zero, a leadership development company focused on taking teams and corporate clients to the next level. “We have some of the best military leaders you’ve ever seen,” said VanCamp. From Medal of Honor recipients Flo Groberg and Leroy Petry, Green Beret turned Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, to plenty of Marines, Delta Force, Rangers and Navy SEALs, their team is stacked with experience.

But that’s not where it ends. Van Camp has put research behind performance mechanisms with an equally impressive team of scientists to qualify their data and translate it into something teams can implement. One of the key factors to their success? “Deliberate discomfort,” said Van Camp. “Once you deliberately and voluntarily choose the harder path, good things will happen for you and for your team. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The reviews of the program speak for itself. “I thought I knew where I stood in the football world,” said Marcel Reese, former NFL player. “But after my experience with Mission Six Zero, along with my team, I learned more than I could have ever imagined… mostly about myself as a teammate, leader and a man in general. I would strongly encourage all teams to work with these guys.”

Van Camp shared a story about one of the teams he worked with. A player asked him if the workshop was really going to make him a better player. He responded, “It’s not about making you a better player, it’s making the guy to your left and to your right a better player.” Van Camp took his lessons and parlayed them into a book with the title reflecting their greatest theory: “Deliberate Discomfort.”

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Van Camp and 11 other decorated veterans take you through their experiences – intense, traumatic battles they fought and won, sharing the lessons learned from those incredible challenges. Jason and his cadre of scientists further break down those experiences, translating them into digestible and relatable action items, showing the average person how they can apply them to their own lives and businesses.

The book is “gripping. Authentic. Engaging… prodigiously researched, carefully argued and gracefully written,” said Frank Abagnale, Jr., world-renowned authority on forgery (and also the author of Catch Me If You Can). It’s a heart-pounding read that will keep you turning the pages and wanting to immediately apply the lessons to your own life.

In addition to writing books, running a company and being just a badass in general, Van Camp also has a soft spot in his heart for the veteran community. He founded Warrior Rising, a nonprofit that empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans, and earn their future.

From the battlefield to the football field to the boardroom, with such an elite mission, it’s easy to see why Mission Six Zero is such an elite organization.

MIGHTY SPORTS

These 4 veteran only hockey teams are playing in the NHL Showcase

This Saturday, the NHL will host its annual Stadium Series Games at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy, but there’s an even more special part of the weekend. The NHL has partnered with USA Hockey and Navy Federal Credit Union to put on a tournament that will showcase some amazing veteran hockey players. The tournament will be held in Lakewood, Colorado, and will feature four teams made up entirely of veterans.


Dozens of teams applied to be part of the tournament, but the four that were picked were chosen based on not just their hockey skills, but how they use their service to give back to the communities in which they live. The teams make up veterans of all five branches, and one team consists of only Coast Guard vets.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

The teams competing are:

Dallas Warriors
Tampa Warriors
USA Warriors (out of Rockville, MD)
Coast Guard Hockey Organization (out of Boston, MA)

The tournament will be a round-robin format that will be played the morning of the Stadium Series game at Foothills Ice Area in Lakewood. All the tournament participants will then be taken to Colorado Springs, where they will get to be spectators for the Avalanche-Kings game at Falcon Stadium. The next morning the vets will partake in a skills challenge at Falcons Stadium before being bussed back to Denver to finish out their tournament Sunday afternoon.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

When asked about Navy Fed’s role in this event, Pam Piligian, Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, said, “Partnering with the NHL gives us the opportunity to engage with hockey fans and create meaningful, lasting relationships in the spirit of military appreciation. We’re proud to honor those who serve by making military appreciation a priority in everything we do, including this partnership.” Navy Fed became the official Military Appreciation Partner of the NHL in 2018.

Colorado Avalanche General Manager and hockey legend Joe Sakic said, “We are grateful for the chance to honor our military and our local U.S. service academy with a special event.”

In addition to being a presenting sponsor for the Stadium Series game, Navy Fed is also using its pregame fanfest to do something really special for veterans. Known as “Stick Tap for Service” fans will get to shout out military members of their families and also nominate those who have served and are doing even more to serve their communities as veterans. In April, judges will review those nominations and a deserving veteran will get tickets to the Stanley Cup Finals and a ,000 donation made to the charity of their choice!

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

If you want to nominate a veteran, information can be found here.

For more information about the Stadium Series game at Falcon Stadium, click here.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here’s why China and the NBA are coming to blows over a tweet

The NBA and China are locked in an escalating feud sparked by a tweet that voiced support for protests in Hong Kong.

For over 18 weeks, millions of people in Hong Kong have taken to the streets for increasingly violent protests. Initially, protests centered around a proposed bill that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to China to face trial. Now, demonstrations have ballooned into a fight against police brutality and Chinese encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.

Though the bill has since been withdrawn, protests continue and have recently seen a spike in violent clashes between police and protesters as China marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2019. The topic of Hong Kong protests remains a sensitive issue for China, and China has been known to take harsh action against companies that so much as reference its domestic affairs or appear to threaten its authority.


As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans. According to CNBC, more than 640 million people in China watched the 2017-2018 NBA season.

On Oct. 11, 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted out an image which voiced support for protests in Hong Kong. In the days following, Chinese leagues, streaming services, sponsors, and partners, have cut ties with the Rockets and the NBA.

Here’s everything you need to know about the feud, from the initial tweet to the escalating backlash.

On Oct. 4, 2019, Morey tweeted out an image that voiced support for a protest group in Hong Kong.

In the since-deleted tweet, Morey posted the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong.

The tweet immediately prompted backlash from Chinese social-media users, who targeted his account with angry messages and calls for his firing.

In response to the backlash, Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, addressed the controversy on Oct. 5, 2019.

Seeking to do damage control, Fertitta distanced the team and its shareholders from Morey’s statement.

“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets,” he wrote.

He later defended Morey on ESPN, saying that he had “best general manager in the league” but that Rockets had “no political position.”

On Oct. 6, 2019, the Chinese Basketball Association, which represents China in the International Basketball Federation, announced it was halting cooperation with the Rockets in response to the tweet.

The CBA’s president is Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star who played for the Rockets from 2002 to 2011.

“The Chinese Basketball Association strongly disagrees with the improper remarks by Daryl Morey, and has decided to suspend exchanges and cooperation with the team,” the CBA said in a statement on its official account on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Several of the Rocket’s sponsors and partners announced that they would no longer broadcast games.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.

Tencent Holdings represents the NBA’s largest digital partner outside the US. It struck a deal in July to stream games and other league programming in China reported to be worth id=”listicle-2640934493″.5 billion.

The Chinese consulate in Houston said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked” by what it described as Morey’s “erroneous comments on Hong Kong.”

“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” the statement said.

On Sunday evening, the NBA responded and called the tweet “regrettable.”

Morey on Sunday responded to the firestorm on Twitter, saying his views did not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.

The NBA also issued a statement:

“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league supports individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read.

On Oct. 7, 2019, Democrat and Republican lawmakers hit back over the NBA’s ‘shameful’ response to Chinese backlash.

Some lawmakers came out in support of Morey and criticized the NBA for distancing themselves from the league manager.

“As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on Twitter on Monday.

“Now, in pursuit of $, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”

Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey slammed the NBA for “apologizing” to China.

“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our govt, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t,” Malinowski tweeted. “This is shameful and cannot stand.”

The NBA issued another statement on Oct. 8, 2019. This time, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not “censor” players or team owners.

“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in a statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”

“I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences,” he added. “For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.”

Following Morey’s statement, Chinese broadcasters said they would stop broadcasting NBA games.

“Any speech challenging a country’s national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its announcement that it would be halting all broadcasts of NBA preseason games.

Silver responded by calling the move “unfortunate.”

Tencent Sports followed the measure and issued a statement saying that it would temporarily stop showing all NBA preseason games.

Fans have since weighed in on the controversy. On Tuesday, fans began showing up to games with T-shirts and signs voicing support for Hong Kong.

At the Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, two fans were escorted out of the arena after holding up signs and cheering in support of the protests.

The 76ers responded in a statement, saying the protesters caused a “disruption” and were at the center of “multiple complaints from guests.” Wells Fargo Center said the two were given “three separate warnings” for “disrupting the live event experience.”

On Wednesday, some NBA fans at the Washington Wizards vs. Guangzhou Loong-Lions game in Washington wore “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts and holding protest signs said their signs were confiscated.

On Oct. 9, 2019, all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners cut ties.

All of the companies on the NBA’s list of wholly-owned Chinese sponsors had suspended ties with the league as of Wednesday, according to CNN Business. Those businesses included CTrip, China’s biggest online travel website, and the Chinese fast-food chain Dicos.

On Wednesday, promotional material for a preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers was removed from buildings across Shanghai.

Meet-and-greets and media events were also postponed, an NBA spokeswoman said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The game went on as scheduled on Thursday.

On Oct. 10, 2019, a reporter for CNN was cut off from asking a question to NBA athletes about the conflict.

Christina Macfarlane, a sports correspondent for CNN, was shut down during a media event with Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

She asked the players if they would “feel differently” about voicing their thoughts on political and social affairs in light of the controversy.

“Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only,” a team representative responded.

The NBA later issued an apology, saying that the representative “inappropriately interjected” and that the response was “inconsistent to how the NBA conducts media events.”

And Nike, a major partner of the NBA that provides the league with team apparel, pulled Houston Rockets gear from several stores in China.

Managers at five Nike stores in Shanghai and Beijing told Reuters on Thursday that they had been told in a company memo from management to pull all Rockets merchandise from shelves.

Three stores in Shenzhen, a Chinese city which borders Hong Kong, took down all Rockets merchandise along with NBA merchandise. Three stores in Chengdu, the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan, also removed Rockets gear.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Fitness test is only one part of Army’s new health push

While the Army Combat Fitness Test will be the largest overhaul in assessing a soldier’s physical fitness in nearly 40 years, it is just one part of the Army’s new health push, says the service’s top holistic health officer.

This month, the entire Army will begin taking the diagnostic ACFT — with all active-duty soldiers taking two tests, six months apart, and Reserve and National Guard soldiers taking it once. Then, a year later, the six-event, gender- and age-neutral test is slated to become the Army’s official physical fitness test of record.

To best prepare for the test, Army leaders encourage soldiers to take an integrated health approach to their training regimen.


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Sgt. Steven J. Clough, battalion medical liaison with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, performs a deadlift during an Army Combat Fitness Test in San Francisco, Calif., July 21, 2019. Clough, who serves as a master fitness trainer for the battalion and is a level three certified grader for the ACFT, has been helping prepare the battalion for the new test.

(Photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Holistic health and fitness

The integrated approach, Holistic Health and Fitness — known as H2F — is a multifaceted strategy to not only ace the ACFT, but improve soldier individual wellness, said Col. Kevin Bigelman, director of Holistic Health and Fitness at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

The well-rounded components of H2F include: physical training, proper sleep and nutrition, and mental and spiritual readiness.

These pillars are “similar to a house,” Bigelman said. Meaning that, each element of a house — the roof, walls, floor, etc. — are equally essential for its prosperity, like how each aspect of H2F is critical to combat readiness, and having success on the ACFT.

However, the gravity of H2F transcends the ACFT, which falls into the physical aspect, and has become “a culture change within the Army,” Bigelman said.

“H2F is changing the way soldiers view themselves,” he added. “It is made up of both physical and nonphysical domains, wrapping them into a single governance structure.”

The initiative, originally announced in 2017, was designed to enhance soldier lethality by rolling up various domains of health to complement each other and prepare soldiers for future warfare, he said.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Properly trained

The Army’s most important weapon system is its soldiers, he said. So, to overmatch the enemy in multi-domain operations, Soldiers must demonstrate the superior physical fitness required for combat by training properly in all aspects of holistic fitness, including the ACFT.

The ACFT will provide “a snapshot of the strength, power, agility, coordination, balance, anaerobic capacity, and aerobic capacity of a soldier,” Bigelman said. Limited in scope, “the current APFT doesn’t fully measure the total lethality of a soldier how the ACFT does.”

Due to this, soldiers should train the way they’ll be tested, Bigelman said.

“The ACFT measures all the domains of physical fitness,” said Dr. Whitfield East, a research physiologist at CIMT. “Soldiers should train based on those standards.”

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

California National Guard Soldiers with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion complete the Sprint Drag Carry event during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test

Be well rested

The best training plan is ineffective without adequate sleep, Bigelman said, adding, “You’re not going to perform as best you can, physically, on the ACFT if your sleep is incorrect.”

Neglecting sleep can take a negative toll on the body. Sleeplessness can affect performance during high-intensity workouts, like the ACFT, he said. In addition, it can affect a soldier’s mood, their hormone and stress levels, and it doesn’t let the body fully recover or repair its muscles.

Adequate sleep can improve productivity, emotional balance, brain and heart health, the immune system, and vitality, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For maximum optimization, officials encourage soldiers to get at least eight hours of sleep.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Spc. Melisa G. Flores, a paralegal specialist with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, performs a leg-tuck during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test hosted at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California, July 21, 2019. Flores, who has competed in the Best Warrior competition and won recognition for fitness, said the ACFT has challenged her in new ways.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Eat right

Nutrition is a vital component of training, said Maj. Brenda Bustillos, a dietician at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. “How we get up and feel in the morning, how we recover from exercise, how we utilize energy throughout the day” is all optimized through understanding, and implementing, proper nutrition.

Proper nutritional habits will “enhance a soldier’s ability to perform at their fullest potential,” she added.

Regarding the ACFT, soldiers “should always train to fight,” Bustillos said, and they should do more than “Eat properly the night before an ACFT.” Proper nutrition should not be viewed as a diet, but as a lifestyle choice.

That said, nourishment immediately before an ACFT is also important. “Soldiers should never start the day on an empty tank,” she said.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Spc. Melisa G. Flores, a paralegal specialist with the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion, receives coaching from a grader about the proper form for hand-release push-ups during an Army Combat Physical Fitness test hosted at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California, July 21, 2019.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)

Clear your mind

When you toe the line on test day, it’s natural to feel anxiety, East said. Before the stopwatch starts, soldiers should clear their minds, take a deep breath, and try thinking positively.

As common as anxiety is, he said, confidence is built by properly preparing for the ACFT. For example, soldiers should not start training a week before their test or else their mental fitness can be as affected as any other component of holistic health.

In addition, during the months leading up to a test date, soldiers should do mock tests to know where they stand. These small steps can be giant leaps for an individual’s mental fitness, he said.

Soldiers cannot perform “as best as they can physically” on the ACFT without implementing a holistic approach, Bigelman said.

With soldiers expected to train harder to meet readiness goals, experts are available to them, he said, noting that physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other professionals can now be found at most brigade and battalion levels to take their training to the next level.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why you can’t use age as an excuse

Army Lt. Col. Ron Cole, 49, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, doesn’t exactly look the part of the long-distance runner. He’s a big guy.

This 5 feet, 10-inch tall former professional body builder and wrestler will tell you his physique is more suited for short bursts of speed, but he loves distance running. This year marks an important milestone for Cole — he’s turning 50 and he’ll be competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October.

“Age is not on our side always and I’m not the smallest of guys,” said Cole. “My joints have been in the military for 28 years and pounding the pavement has had its toll, but my motto for this year’s race is ‘Forged at 50’. I’m not slowing down, I’m getting better with age, and I’ve gotten creative with the knowledge I’ve learned over the years to either keep the pace or even improve my pace.”


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Cole, who also serves as the APHC Performance Triad action officer, understands the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition. He hopes to improve on his best 9:30-minute mile ATM pace by incorporating the 10-mile training plan (linked to this article) offered through the ATM website and endorsed by APHC’s health and fitness experts.

“One of the things I’m doing is incorporating the Performance Triad of sleep, activity and nutrition as well as some of my weight training background and personal nutrition experience to enhance my muscle endurance as I prepare to run,” said Cole.

Cole plans to run hills, incorporate treadmill sprints, follow a good sleep and nutrition plan, and do some cross training to optimize his performance.

“I live in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which has a lot of hills that I also use for shorter sprints instead of resting on the inclines,” said Cole. “I also like to cross train and do walking lunges with weights in the hallways during my breaks from my desk.”

Cole was first introduced to the run through his then girlfriend and now wife Shanekia, who was training for the run in 2006 as part of the Kirk Army Community Hospital Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He trained with the team on some of their practice runs and cheered her on at the finish line.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Lt. Col. Ronald Cole, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, hydrates in between exercises June 21, 2019, in preparation for competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October. Cole is following the APHC-expert recommended Army Ten-Miler training plan as well as APHC guidance on proper hydration.

(Photo Credit: Graham Snodgrass)

The two married in August 2008 and planned to compete together for the 2009 race, but Shanekia was diagnosed with cancer in October 2009, and he ended up doing his first ATM that year with no training or preparation, which he does not recommend.

“The race was going well until I reached mile seven, which was the entrance of the 14th Street ramp,” said Cole. “The ramp is about a 1 degree incline and continues to rise at 1 degree for approximately 2 miles.”

It was at that moment that Cole felt like a pack of gorillas had jumped on his back and he wanted to quit. However, he looked to his right to find a wounded warrior changing his prosthesis; this sight made him realize that he had nothing to complain about.

“So I started running from that point on and every time I wanted to quit — he was my motivation,” said Cole. “So that first run wasn’t my best run, but it was my most inspiring.”

Cole is committed to running the race every year until he can no longer run. He also does this to honor Shanekia, who suffered complications from chemotherapy and can no longer compete in the race, but remains one of his biggest supporters. She is now free of cancer and helps with his meal prepping and comes out to cheer every run.

Cole’s story and commitment to the race have motivated some of his co-workers to make the run.

“His energy and spirit and story of why he runs has also inspired me to run the Army Ten-miler this year,” said Joanna Reagan, an APHC registered dietitian who recently retired from the Army. “Although I’ve run it in the past, Lt. Col. Cole has inspired me to shoot for my own personnel best this year.”

The two train together, which Reagan says helps keep her motivated.

“We are holding each other accountable with our running plans, trying to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night,” said Reagan. “Having a ‘running buddy’ really helps with accountability and commitment.”

Cole hopes to keep running for years to come.

“The energy of the Ten-Miler keeps me enthusiastic and motivated to run,” said Cole. “Every time you’re running it may be painful, but along the course of the run you’re surrounded by at least 30,000 other people and you feel you want to do that again.”

The Performance Triad website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/performance-learning-center/nutrition is a good resource for nutrition, nutrient timing and hydration recommendations for this year’s ATM competitors.

The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.

MIGHTY SPORTS

One soldier’s unique path to the Warrior Games

When many of us think of wounded warriors, we think of service members injured or wounded downrange, during a deployment or in combat. Pfc. Kyia Costanzo, and her Team Army family participating in the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games would say otherwise. Costanzo was injured while in Basic Combat Training, suffering multiple severe injuries, leading to a long journey that has brought her to the DoD Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.

“My team is comprised of so many incredible soldiers, who have made so many sacrifices for this country, and for me, have been incredible about the fact that I did not complete training. They told me we all signed up to do the same thing, you just got hurt in the process after volunteering to serve your country. You deserve to be here,” Costanzo recalled. “That was really significant to me beyond words.”


Now a soldier at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord’s Warrior Transition Battalion, Costanzo took up adaptive sports to help cope with her injuries, sharpen her focus, and motivate herself towards the next steps ahead of her. Costanzo is competing in the archery and swimming events at Warrior Games.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo laughs with fellow competitors during archery practice at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, June 18, 2019, during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(Photo by Spc. Katelyn D. Strange)

“When I first got to the WTB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I heard about adaptive sports, and I was curious as to how injured soldiers can still do sports like basketball and volleyball. Then I saw it in person and was amazed! The more I got introduced to the programs, the more fascinated I became. It’s been life changing. When you are told that you will have limitations on you for the rest of your life, and you can’t do certain things ever again, programs like this are life changing,” said Costanzo.

“Adaptive sports for me, has built confidence and makes me feel as if I’m still doing something to raise awareness in the community about wounded, injured and ill soldiers. It was painful to say goodbye to things like hiking that was painful initially. But getting involved in adaptive sports gave me a new outlet, like I didn’t lose something, but gained new physical activities I could do,” Costanzo added.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo attends athlete training for the archery event, June 17, 2019, at MacDill Airforce Base during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(Photo by Pfc. Seara Marcsis)

WTBs similar to Costanzo’s are the cornerstone of the Warrior Care and Transition Program and play a vital role in helping our wounded, ill and injured soldiers as they pursue to recover and overcome. The U.S. Army has established WTBs at major military treatment facilities at 14 military installations. The DoD Warrior Games are a culmination of adaptive sports reconditioning that takes place in the WTBs, in the form of an adaptive sports competition for the athletes selected to participate.

“Being a part of this program keeps you part of Team Army,” Costanzo said. “I can’t tell you how much adaptive sports, the Warrior Games, and specifically Team Army have helped me stay positive on what’s happening and to be excited about what’s going to happen for me in the future.”

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyia Costanzo speaks with Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville June 22, 2019 at the Bobby Hicks Swimming Pool during a training session for the Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(Photo by Spc. Evens Milcette)

The 2019 DoD Warrior Games will run from June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Florida. The athletes participating in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces are also competing in this year’s DoD Warrior Games.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Navy football uniforms are all about the Goat

Every year, the cadets at West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis meet to put on one of the most patriotic games of the year: the Army-Navy game. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines all cheer on their respective branch as future officers fight for bragging rights on the football field.

And while most troops are watching from the sidelines or the chow hall, gritting their teeth and waiting to see who comes out on top, there’s a secondary, unofficial contest going on — which team has the best uniform. Each year, both teams bust out a special uniform, just for this game.

This time around, West Point chose to honor the 1st Infantry Division on the centennial anniversary of the WWI armistice. The midshipmen, on the other hand, are going with a design that honors their own treasured history by showcasing Bill the Goat.

On the surface, it may seem simplistic, but in actuality, it’s steeped in Navy and Naval Academy lore.


New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Could it have been the gifted football players that gave their all on the field that day? Or could it have been the spirit of the goat, channeled through two goofy ensigns who did pretty much the opposite of what they were told to do? The world will never know.

(U.S. Naval Academy)

Navy’s uniform, produced by their sponsor, Under Armor, features the Navy’s traditional white, blue, and gold color scheme. Emblazoned on the right side of the helmet is Annapolis’ mascot, Bill the Goat, with the player’s number on the left — a nod to classic football helmets.

Bill the Goat, for those who don’t already know, became the Naval Academy’s mascot entirely because of the Army-Navy Game. Legend has it, two ensigns were tasked with taking the body of their ship’s beloved goat to the taxidermist. They got “lost” on their way and ended up at the Army-Navy game.

During halftime, one of the ensigns took the goat skin, wore it as a cape, and ran around the sidelines to thunderous applause from the sailors and midshipmen in attendance. The Naval Academy — and presumably the ensigns’ commander — never took disciplinary action against them because it’s believed Bill the Goat was responsible for the Midshipmen winning that day.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

(Under Armour)

Each uniform also has the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” embroidered on the bottom. This was the famous battle cry (and last words) of Capt. James Lawrence as he fell to small arms fire sustained during the War of 1812. It has since become the rallying cry of all sailors as they head into battle.

The pants of the uniforms sport a stripe with six dashes. These six dashes are a reference to the Navy’s first six frigates, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the USS Constellation, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, and the USS Congress.

Check out the unveil video below. Go Navy! Beat Army!

MIGHTY SPORTS

12 of the best football party foods, ranked

Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.

What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.


With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Who puts okra on a cheese plate?

12. Cheese Plates

How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.

How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.

How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.

11. Chips & Dip

How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.

How to be a legend: Make your own layered dip that doesn’t involve packets of seasoning. Pro tip: the more layers, the better. Yeah, you could make a 35-layer dip, but if you’re feeling really saucy, why not make a 50-layer dip?

How to lose: Kale chips.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

If they’re mushy, we hate you.

10. Potato Skins

How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.

How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.

How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.

9. Pigs in a Blanket

How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.

How to be a legend: Bratwurst in pretzel dough.

How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.

8. Party Subs

How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.

How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.

How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Literally anything.

7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything

How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.

How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.

How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.

6. Soft Pretzels

How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.

How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.

How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.

5. Pizza

How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.

How to be a legend: Individual calzones.

How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.

4. Street Tacos

How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.

How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.

How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.

3. Sliders 

How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.

How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.

How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.

2. Wings

How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”

How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.

How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Admit it.

1. Ribs 

How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.

How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.

How to lose: McRibs.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.

The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.

“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”

He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.


“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.

He’s only a couple feet away now.

“I took like five steps … “

Major steps down with his right leg.

The enemy pushes the remote control.

The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.

“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”

Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.

“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”

“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.

“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”

They make it back to base.

“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”

Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.

Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.

And his nine years of dark depression begins.

Thirteen years after waking up in that hospital room, Major is one of the most vocal and energetic competitors at the 39th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, with quad rugby his favorite sport because it’s loud, it’s fast and there’re lots of crashes and smack talk.

“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”

Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.

He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.

“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.

“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.

“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”

Days turned into weeks, months and years.

His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.

“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”

Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.

“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.

“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”

As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.

“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?

“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.

The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.

“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”

“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.

He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.

“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.

“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”

He hasn’t stopped since.

“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”

Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.

“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”

“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”

He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.

“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.

“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”

It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.

“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”

Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.

“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

These sports icons served during the Battle of the Bulge

(Featured image courtesy of War History Online)

Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.



These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)

Lloyd Mangrum

“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.

Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Ralph Houk

Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”

Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

(Courtesy of the New York Times.)

Gino Marchetti

Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.

What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.

New study shows frightening connection between weight gain and brain health

Nestor Chylak

Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.

At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”

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