In response to Arthur M. Bradford's letter (June 11), I would like to point out that many of the concerns he expresses about distance-running programs for children have been under investigation by some of us who are involved in the conduct of these age-group programs.
It has been my experience in more than 12 years of coaching track and dealing with the medical aspects of preadolescent athletes that sports injuries are rather rare in this age group. It is only with the onset of puberty and its subsequent muscular maturity that serious injuries such as pulled muscles, shin splints and ligamentous sprains occur. Our physiological studies also indicate that the hearts, lungs and circulation systems of children are as well able to adapt to the stresses of distance running as those of more mature runners.
On the other hand, I must join Mr. Bradford in condemning the psychological effects of some of the high-pressure coaching techniques that he has observed. We have found that the drop-out rate among youngsters who participate in California's age-group cross-country programs is nearly 50% per year. Certainly we must seek to make competitive sports more relaxed and enjoyable for these young people so that their talents can be nurtured, not destroyed.
C. HARMON BROWN, M.D.
AAA Girls' Age Group
Track and Field Committee
San Mateo, Calif.
You were kind enough to print some remarks from a speech I gave to the international Little League convention (SCORECARD, June 18). As the psychiatric member of the National Athletic Health Institute's Medical Advisory Board, I am interested in improving the quality of the athlete's experience in sports. We are trying to work through management and coaches at all levels of competition to help those officials to understand and meet the needs of athletes.
The old drill-sergeant style of coaching is often at cross purposes with the goal of athletic and personal excellence. While our primary goal is not to help coaches squeeze out the last ounce of performance, we believe higher achievement comes as a by-product of an improved player-coach relationship.
Happy players don't always win, of course, but they never lose.
THOMAS P. JOHNSON, M.D.
MORE ON GRAPHITE
We were very pleased to see the coverage you gave recently to the controversy over the use of graphite in golf-club shafts (A Power Hitter Goes on Trial, June 4). The pros and cons of the shaft were handled quite well; however, your comment on the origin of the graphite material itself was in error. The graphite fiber used in golf shafts is a very sophisticated high-performance reinforcement that has been in the research and development stage for seven years. It is manufactured by a complex process that involves carbonizing synthetic (polyacrylonitrile) fiber in an inert atmosphere at temperatures approaching 5000� Fahrenheit.
This fiber is then combined with a high-performance resin such as the epoxy resin used in the Aldila shaft. These reinforced plastic materials have demonstrated weight savings of more than 50% over comparable aluminum parts. This new material has other unique characteristics, such as high vibration damping and low thermal expansion. Vibrations in carbon composite structures stop in as little as one-tenth the time seen in metallic structures. Dimensional alterations resulting from temperature changes are generally one-fiftieth of what is normally expected with other materials. The material also has fatigue characteristics superior to metals. Until recently, the applications have been limited to prototype aerospace structures. The cost of the material has limited wider usage in commercial applications.
The golf shaft is only one of the applications involving sports equipment that are currently being pursued. Tennis rackets, javelins, archery products and other sporting equipment are not far behind.
JON B. DE VAULT
Applications Development Advanced Composites