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October 21, 1968
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October 21, 1968


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Knees are big these days. More than 300 physicians from 37 states and Canada considered knees all one day at Niagara Falls last week, and they learned, for one thing, that knees cost pro football teams $500,000 a year.

The source of this statistic was Dr. James A. Nicholas, team physician for the New York Jets and the man who operated on Joe Namath. There is one knee operation per eight men per squad per year in pro football, said Dr. Nicholas. And below the professional level, nearly 50,000 football knees are operated on every year.

The speakers at the seminar—part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' three-day course in sports medicine—seemed to agree that knee trouble generally begins in high school and that there has been more and more of it in recent years. "Suddenly kids who never did anything rough or built up their bodies in any way come out for football," says Dr. Fred L. Allman Jr. of Atlanta. "Their anatomy can't make the change." Dr. Allman says boys are less likely to be injured if they start playing contact sports earlier. And he recommends that coaches spend less time on game plans and more on conditioning.

There was also general agreement that artificial turf cuts down on knee injuries. And one participant suggested, controversially, that the taping of knees before games is an unnecessary fetish. But at any rate, observed Dr. Nicholas, we know that "the loose-jointed type of athlete" is more susceptible to hurt joints. Some 30% of the American population is loose-jointed. Joe Namath is. (Also E. J. Holub, who has had eight knee operations, and Steve Tensi, who has hurt a knee in each of his three pro seasons.) Such people "can do many things that ordinary persons can't," explains Dr. Nicholas, and they are less likely to pull or strain muscles, but their flexible joints won't withstand so much force. "In pro football now, we try to make the flexible ones stronger and the strong ones more flexible. The ideal person has great strength to control the flexibility. Jimmy Brown is this type."

So a great pair of knees is going to waste in Hollywood.


The Florida Legislature Subcommittee on Pari-Mutuel Affairs has recommended that Butazolidin, the drug that disqualified Dancer's Image in the Kentucky Derby, be legalized in Florida.

"The weight of evidence," said a spokesman for the committee, "is that Butazolidin is neither a stimulant nor a depressant and that it cannot make a horse run beyond his natural potential. It is an analgesic."

But that is not the whole point. Butazolidin may not soup a horse up, but the lack of it can slow one down. If a horse can be run under the influence of Butazolidin, it can be run "hot and cold"—medicated when someone wants to bet on the horse, and unmedicated when someone wants to bet against it.

That, no matter what the legislators of Florida feel, would not be good for pari-mutuel affairs—or for horses.

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