Archive for the ‘Gymnastics’ Category

University Park, Pa. — Girls and boys are now equally caught up in the social pressure for a muscular body image currently lauded in popular culture. A Penn State researcher contends those pressures are leading girls and boys down unhealthy avenues such as the misuse of anabolic steroids.

“Young girls have always had to struggle against the media stereotypes of stick-thin models or voluptuous sexuality, but with the rising popularity of women sports, girls are bombarded with buffed body images,” says Dr. Charles Yesalis, professor of health policy and administration, and exercise and sports science at Penn State, and editor of the newest edition of the book “Anabolic Steroids in Sports and Exercise.” “Now, young boys face pop culture musclemen like The Rock and Steve Austin, given the influence of professional wrestling shows.”

“The current film ‘Charlie’s Angels’ sports karate-kicking women in cool clothes,” he added. “Today’s children look with envy at the physiques of actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, and Linda Hamilton, whose roles call for a muscular build. Hollywood stars are openly taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH) injections to combat aging.”

In addition, children are entering competitive sports at younger ages and many working families have children signed up in two or three sports. Parents, coaches and young athletes are facing growing violence in amateur athletics. The pressure to win at all costs continues to weigh heavily on children, Yesalis notes.

The concern is that many youths will take shortcuts to achieving a muscular build by using anabolic steroids. Female athletes also are pressured to achieve low body fat to excel in their sport. The Penn State researcher has seen evidence that the pressures are reaching down to young children. For example, the book cites figures from the Monitoring The Future Study, a national-level epidemiological survey conducted annually since 1975. Approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12 graders are surveyed each year.

The MTF data shows that during the 1990s, anabolic steroid use among 12 graders –both boys and girls – rose to an all-time high with more than 500,000 adolescents having cycled – an episode of use of 6 to 12 weeks – during their lifetime. And the percentage of girls alone doubled in the same period.

A 1998 study of 965 youngsters at four Massachusetts middle schools found that 2.7 percent admitted to taking illegal steroids for better sports performance. That included some boys and girls as young as 10 years old. “This year’s Olympic doping scandals and the epidemic of anabolic steroids in professional baseball just glorify and justify steroids to impressionable youths,” Yesalis notes. “The use of anabolic steroids has cascaded down from the Olympic, professional and college levels to high schools and junior high schools and now middle schools for athletes and non-athletes alike. ”

“Anabolic steroids are made to order for a female wanting to attain a lean athletic body. While most drug abuse has outcomes that tend to discourage use, females who use anabolic steroids may experience a decrease in body fat, increased muscle size and strength, and enhanced sports performance,” he says.

Girls and boys misusing anabolic steroids may win approval and rewards from parents, coaches and peers, but don’t realize there are long-term negative effects on their health, particularly girls, according to Yesalis. Young girls face potential permanent side effects of male hair growth or baldness, deepening of the voice, the enlargement of the clitoris as well as the known risks of heart and liver diseases.

Published by Human Kinetics, the book incorporates the latest research, experience and insights of 15 experts on the scientific, clinical, historical, legal and other aspects of steroid abuse and drug testing. New information looks at the effects of steroids on health, particularly that of women.

This year, trials of East German doctors, coaches and officials reveal records of systematic doping of young athletes without their own or parents’ knowledge. In 1974, officials’ plan to turn the tiny Communist nation into a superpower in sports included giving performance-enhancing drugs to all competing athletes including children as young as 10 years old. The indictments included 142 former East German athletes who now complain of health problems. In media reports, several female athletes report incidents of miscarriages, liver tumor, gynecological problems and enlarged heart, all showing up decades after the steroid misuse.

“Our society’s current strategy for dealing with the abuse of anabolic steroids in sport primarily involves testing, law enforcement and education,” Yesalis says. “But our efforts to deal with this problem have not been very successful. Unless we deal with the social environment that rewards winning at all costs and an unrealistic physical appearance, we won’t even begin to address the problem.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Vicki Fong
Penn State

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Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that practicing even small doses of daily meditation may improve focus and performance.

Meditation, according to Penn neuroscientist Amishi Jha and Michael Baime, director of Penn’s Stress Management Program, is an active and effortful process that literally changes the way the brain works. Their study is the first to examine how meditation may modify the three subcomponents of attention, including the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, the ability to voluntarily focus on specific information and the ability to stay alert to the environment.

In the Penn study, subjects were split into two categories. Those new to meditation, or “mindfulness training,” took part in an eight-week course that included up to 30 minutes of daily meditation. The second group was more experienced with meditation and attended an intensive full-time, one-month retreat.

Researchers found that even for those new to the practice, meditation enhanced performance and the ability to focus attention. Performance-based measures of cognitive function demonstrated improvements in a matter of weeks. The study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, suggests a new, non-medical means for improving focus and cognitive ability among disparate populations and has implications for workplace performance and learning.

Participants performed tasks at a computer that measured response speeds and accuracy. At the outset, retreat participants who were experienced in meditation demonstrated better executive functioning skills, the cognitive ability to voluntarily focus, manage tasks and prioritize goals. Upon completion of the eight-week training, participants new to meditation had greater improvement in their ability to quickly and accurately move and focus attention, a process known as “orienting.” After the one-month intensive retreat, participants also improved their ability to keep attention “at the ready.”

The results suggest that meditation, even as little as 30 minutes daily, may improve attention and focus for those with heavy demands on their time. While practicing meditation may itself may not be relaxing or restful, the attention-performance improvements that come with practice may paradoxically allow us to be more relaxed.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jordan Reese
University of Pennsylvania

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Penn Stress Management Program.

Steroid use starts early, decreases as teens grow older

Participation in sports with real or perceived weight requirements, such as ballet, gymnastics, and wrestling, is strongly associated with unhealthy weight control behaviors and steroid use in teens, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Research published in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found nearly 6 percent of males between the ages of 12 and 18 who participated in weight-related sports induced vomiting within the week prior to being surveyed, as compared to only 0.9 percent of males who did not participate in weight- related sports. The use of diuretics within the previous year was reported by 4.2 percent of males in a weight-related sport, as opposed to 0.8 percent who did not participate in a weight-related sport.

Steroid use was reported in 6.8 percent of females who reported participating in weight-related sports, compared to 2.3 percent of those that weren’t active in a weight-related sport. Vomiting and using laxatives were also more likely in girls who were active in weight-related sports.

“The link between unhealthy weight-control behaviors and weight-related sports, especially in boys, is alarming,” said Marla Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Pediatrics. “Parents and coaches should emphasize skill and talent instead of weight and body image and educate teens about the negative health effects of steroid use and extreme weight control.” Researchers surveyed over 4,500 middle and high school students from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. The students were asked if they had engaged in self-induced vomiting, used diet pills or laxatives, or used steroids within the previous week and year.

Steroid use in teens peaks at young age, but overall use has not increasedIn a separate study, published in the March 2007 issue of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota researchers surveyed the same teen population again five years later. They found that steroid use among teens peaked at 5 percent in middle school boys and girls, but as they grew older, steroid use declined significantly.

“It is encouraging to see that the majority of young people who reported using steroids in 1999 stopped using them as they got older,” said Patricia van den Berg, Ph.D., lead author of the study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “But even given this decline, between one and three in 100 teens still reported using steroids within the last year when asked again 5 years later.”

Researchers conducted the longitudinal study with more than 2,000 adolescents to examine changes in eating patterns, weight, physical activity, and related factors over five years. Participants completed two surveys, one in 1999 and one in 2004, to determine if there were changes in steroid use.

Overall, 1.7 percent of boys and 1.4 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 23 reported steroid use in 2004. Those that reported use early on were 4 to 10 times more likely to use later in life.

Boys who reported wanting a larger body in 1999, as well as those who said they used healthy weight-control behaviors, were more likely to take steroids when they were older. In contrast, girls who were heavier, less satisfied with their weight, and who had limited knowledge of healthy eating and exercise habits were more likely to take steroids as they grew older.

The study found no significant change in steroid use overall among teens from 1999-2004. “Our research suggests that the increased media coverage surrounding steroid use among athletes in recent years hasn’t led to a huge rise in steroid use in young people,” said van den Berg.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone, testosterone. They are typically taken to increase muscle mass and strength for either improved sports performance or enhanced appearance. These steroids have significant negative effects on the body’s muscles, bones, heart, reproductive system, liver, and psychological state.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Liz Wulderk
University of Minnesota 
 

Project EAT: Eating Among Teens Both studies are part of Project EAT: Eating Among Teens, research designed to investigate the factors influencing the eating habits of adolescents, to determine if youth are meeting national dietary recommendations, and to explore dieting, physical activity patterns, and related factors among youth. The project is designed to build a greater understanding of the socio-environmental, personal, and behavioral factors associated with diet and weight-related behaviors during adolescence so more effective nutrition interventions can be developed.

The studies were supported by the Maternal and Child Health Program, Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and a training grant from the Centers for Disease Control.

Peak athletic performance may be related to time of day, suggests a University of Chicago study being presented to the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, ENDO 2001, in Denver, Colorado, on June 22, 2001. The study shows that the response of the systems regulating energy metabolism and some hormones differs according to when in the day exercise is performed.

Subjects who exercised at night had much larger drops in glucose levels in response to exercise than at other times of day. Exercise in the evening and at night elicited large increases in the levels of two hormones important for energy metabolism, cortisol and thyrotropin. Exercise at other times of day had much smaller effects on these hormones. In contrast, marked increases in growth hormone levels in response to exercise were not effected by the time of day.

“The effects of exercise we observed may explain how some times of day could be better than others for regular exercise or athletic performance, as we might expect from anectdotally reported variations in peak athletic performance,” said Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in endocrinology at the University of Chicago. “We found strong evidence for substantial changes in glucose metabolism and an array of hormonal responses to 1-hour, high-intensity exercise, dependent on the timing of the exercise. Circadian rhythms, generated by our 24-hour internal clock, appear to play an important role in the complex response to exercise.”

For the study, conducted in the Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago, 40 healthy men, between the ages of 20 and 30, were divided into five groups. Four groups exercised vigorously for one hour on a stair-stepper in the morning, afternoon, evening or night. A control group did not exercise. A standard marker, the timing of melatonin secretion, was used to determine the timing of each individual’s daily rhythm, his circadian “clock time.”

When not exercising, the subjects rested in bed with constant glucose infusion to avoid fluctuation in their blood sugar levels caused by intermittent meals. Blood levels of the “circadian hormones,” melatonin, cortisol and thyrotropin, and the levels of growth hormone and glucose were compared to blood levels for the same time of day in the resting control subjects.

The importance of timing for hormonal secretion and energy metabolism is demonstrated by the distinct 24-hour patterns of secretion for each hormonal system. One hormone may be actively secreted in a complex pulsating pattern while another may be in a resting phase.

Many circadian rhythms, such as heart rate, oxygen consumption, and cardio-pulmonary function play a role in athletic performance. Rhythmic patterns of hormonal secretion provide internal temporal organization essential to the coordination of physiological processes. Physical exercise is associated with marked metabolic changes and can elicit a variety of neuroendocrine responses. Although these metabolic and hormonal responses to morning exercise are well-documented, few studies have examined the effects of exercise at other times of day.

“Our study covers new ground, demonstrating variation in the effects of exercise at four different times of day, with circadian time precisely quantified, with a practical duration of exercise, and with a high intensity designed to elicit maximal effects” said Buxton.

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
University of Chicago Medical Center

Co-authors on the study include, André J. Scheen, M.D., Division of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders, University of Liége, Belgium; Mireille L’Hermite-Balériaux, Ph.D., Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., Department of Medicine, University of Chicago.

This work was supported by grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from the Department of Defense. The University of Chicago Clinical Research Center is supported by a National Institutes of Health grant.

When it comes to coaching, the pep talk is better than the locker room tirade, University of Florida researchers have found.In a project that applied methods previously used only in classroom settings, a team headed by Professor Robert Singer found that changing people’s attributions, or how they think about themselves, influenced their performance in sports tasks they sought to learn.

“How we think about how we will do and how we’ve just done can very much affect our persistence, our attitudes and our achievements,” said Singer, chair of UF’s department of exercise and sport sciences. “It’s not only a belief in what you can do, it’s also an understanding of thinking more objectively.”

The technique is known as attribution training, which involves using people’s self-perceptions and the extent to which they feel they can control their own behavior to help them succeed at various tasks. Those who believe they can control and change how they feel about themselves are said to have constructive attributions.

In the study, scheduled to be published in March in The Sport Psychologist, Singer and UF colleague Iris Orbach divided 35 college-age beginning tennis players into three groups, each of which was given different instructions regarding personal failure. The first was told they could control their attributions and effort and could change their performance. The second was told their failures were due to a lack of innate ability. The third group was told nothing.

In four trials, the first group scored consistently better in performance, expectation, success perception and emotional control, Singer said. For example, on a test to measure feelings of personal control over behavior, the first group scored twice as high as the control group, while the second group scored below the control group.

In a related study in 1997 that focused on basketball time trials, the first group improved their final time between the first and fourth trials more than twice as much as the control group and more than nine times as much as the second group did.

“When it comes down to it, the primary thing is that you really have to understand what helps you to achieve and what’s under your control,” Singer said. “What has been observed is that those individuals who tend to have more constructive attributions tend to persist longer and tend to achieve more than those who do not have constructive attributions.”

Most studies associated with attribution training techniques have been conducted in the area of education, with the goal of raising the standards for children who are underachievers in the classroom. Singer and Orbach were among the first in the world to apply the techniques to sports.

“Why not try this in a sports setting?” Singer said. “The typical design is to train one group with an attributional orientation that reflects that if you try harder and you try smarter, you’ll have a greater chance of doing well. You’ll learn the skills better and think better things will happen.”

Although it is a common perception that believing in yourself can lead you to success, Singer said his study could have a significant impact on the way people teach and learn athletic activities.

“A lot of times in sports, there’s a negative attitude and a lot of criticism that goes on,” he said. “Probably many athletes and coaches don’t realize the significance of what we’re talking about and the relevance of how people think … I believe that if there’s a better understanding by coaches as to the kind of feedback they give to athletes and how stuff is delivered to them, it could make a difference.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Kristin Harmel
University of Florida

Female athletes often lose their menstrual cycle when training strenuously, but researchers have long speculated on whether this infertility was due to low body fat, low weight or exercise itself. Now, researchers have shown that the cause of athletic amenorrhea is more likely a negative energy balance caused by increasing exercise without increasing food intake.”A growing proportion of women are susceptible to losing their menstrual cycle when exercising strenuously,” says Dr. Nancy I. Williams, assistant professor of kineseology and physiology at Penn State. “If women go six to 12 months without having a menstrual cycle, they could show bone loss. Bone densities in some long distance runners who have gone for a prolonged time period without having normal menstrual cycles can be very low.”

In studies done with monkeys, which show menstrual cyclicity much like women, researchers showed that low energy availability associated with strenuous exercise training plays an important role in causing exercise-induced amenorrhea. These researchers, working at the University of Pittsburgh, published findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showing that exercise-induced amenorrhea was reversible in the monkeys by increasing food intake while the monkeys still exercised.

Williams worked with Judy L. Cameron, associate professor of psychiatry and cell biology and physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dana L. Helmreich and David B. Parfitt, then graduate students, and Anne Caston-Balderrama, at that time a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, were also part of the research team. The researchers decided to look at an animal model to understand the causes of exercise-induced amenorrhea because it is difficult to closely control factors, such as eating habits and exercise, when studying humans. They chose cynomolgus monkeys because, like humans, they have a menstrual cycle of 28 days, ovulate in mid-cycle and show monthly periods of menses.

“It is difficult to obtain rigorous control in human studies, short of locking people up,” says Williams.

Previous cross-sectional studies and short-term studies in humans had shown a correlation between changes in energy availability and changes in the menstrual cycle, but those studies were not definitive.

There was also some indication that metabolic states experienced by strenuously exercising women were similar to those in chronically calorie restricted people. However, whether the increased energy utilization which occurs with exercise or some other effect of exercise caused exercise-induced reproductive dysfunction was unknown.

“The idea that exercise or something about exercise is harmful to females was not definitively ruled out,” says Williams. “That exercise itself is harmful would be a dangerous message to put out there. We needed to look at what it was about exercise that caused amenorrhea, what it was that suppresses ovulation. To do that, we needed a carefully controlled study.”

After the researchers monitored normal menstrual cycles in eight monkeys for a few months, they trained the monkeys to run on treadmills, slowly increasing their daily training schedule to about six miles per day. Throughout the training period the amount of food provided remained the standard amount for a normal 4.5 to 7.5 pound monkey, although the researchers note that some monkeys did not finish all of their food all of the time.

The researchers found that during the study “there were no significant changes in body weight or caloric intake over the course of training and the development of amenorrhea.” While body weight did not change, there were indications of an adaptation in energy expenditure. That is, the monkeys’ metabolic hormones also changed, with a 20 percent drop in circulating thyroid hormone, suggesting that the suppression of ovulation is more closely related to negative energy balance than to a decrease in body weight.

To seal the conclusion that a negative energy balance was the key to exercise-induced amenorrhea, the researchers took four of the previous eight monkeys and, while keeping them on the same exercise program, provided them with more food than they were used to. All the monkeys eventually resumed normal menstrual cycles. However, those monkeys who increased their food consumption most rapidly and consumed the most additional food, resumed ovulation within as little as 12 to 16 days while those who increased their caloric intake more slowly, took almost two months to resume ovulation.

Williams is now conducting studies on women who agree to exercise and eat according to a prescribed regimen for four to six months. She is concerned because recreational exercisers have the first signs of ovulatory suppression and may easily be thrust into amenorrhea if energy availability declines. Many women that exercise also restrict their calories, consciously or unconsciously.

“Our goal is to test whether practical guidelines can be developed regarding the optimal balance between calories of food taken in and calories expended through exercise in order to maintain ovulation and regular menstrual cycles,” says Williams. “This would then ensure that estrogen levels were also maintained at healthy levels. This is important because estrogen is a key hormone in the body for many physiological systems, influencing bone strength and cardiovascular health, not just reproduction.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: A’ndrea Elyse Messer
Penn State

Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep might be jeopardizing their athletic performance, and high school sports teams on the west coast may be at a disadvantage if they play east coast rivals, says Mary Carskadon, PhD, of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center.Carskadon, a leader in the field of sleep research, compared the results of studies that measured sleep patterns and circadian rhythms in children and adolescents in the May 24 issue of Clinics in Sports Medicine. While it’s widely known that lack of sleep can affect learning, mood and behavior in teenagers, Carskadon suggests that insufficient sleep can also negatively impact teen athletes in a number of ways.

“Young people live in nearly a constant state of chronic insufficient sleep,” says Carskadon, “and adolescents who don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis are extremely impaired in the morning.”

For this reason, she suggests that adolescent travel teams heading westward across time zones have an advantage over home teams early in the day.

While most adults who routinely travel from coast to coast might be well aware of the difficulty adjusting to a different time zone, teens are at even more of a disadvantage.

Evidence suggests that the adolescent circadian rhythm, or internal biological clock, is still adjusting, and their internal day-length is longer than that of adults. This means that teens might not be ready to fall asleep until later in the evening, or may wake up later in the morning.

“For morning games, the home team might still be in the lowest point of alertness,’ while the team that headed west will have the advantage of having been awake for an hour or so longer, and thus have more energy.”

Additionally, if the eastern team arrives the night before, they would gain an extra hour or two of sleep, which can improve focus, alertness, and better reaction skills.

Conversely, she warns that athletic teams taking extended training trips (eg. spring break) of a week or more may experience schedule difficulties on the return home.

“This scenario is most problematic for teams on the east coast that travel west, as student athletes may return with a significant sleep-phase delay that is difficult to correct,” Carskadon says.

Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect athletics in teenagers. Studies repeatedly show that reaction time, vigilance, learning and alertness are impaired by insufficient sleep; so students with short nights and irregular sleep patterns perform poorly in school and in other aspects of their life and have a tendency for a depressed mood.

“Circadian and lifestyle changes conspire to place sleep of adolescents at a markedly delayed time relative to younger children and to adults,” says Carskadon.

In fact, studies have shown that teenagers need as much, if not more sleep as younger children (an average of 9.25 hours per night) but as they mature, their bodies are able to stay alert later into the night.

She cites part-time jobs, caffeinated beverages, social activities, away-games and long practices as factors that help contribute to chronic sleep deprivation for young people.

Is there any reprieve? An afternoon nap can help, but only for so long. Carskadon found that a 45-minute nap taken approximately six hours after waking supported alertness and mood for about eight hours. For a teen who starts his day at 6:30 am, a lunchtime nap could keep him going till 8 or 9 pm.

However, Carskadon warns that afternoon naps don’t help morning fatigue the next day.

“In order to help adolescents do their best, parents need to take an active role in helping set a regular sleep pattern for their teen.”

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Article adapted by MD Only Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Carol L. Hoy
Lifespan

Mary Carskadon, PhD, directs the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Laboratory, and is a Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School in Providence, RI. She is currently recruiting children and young adults for several studies.

Founded in 1931 as the nation’s first psychiatric hospital for children, Bradley Hospital (www.bradleyhospital.org) remains a premier medical institution devoted exclusively to the research and treatment of childhood psychiatric illnesses. Bradley Hospital, located in Providence, RI, is an affiliate of Brown Medical School and ranks in the top third of private hospitals receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health. Its research arm, the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center (BHCRC), brings together leading researchers in such topics as: autism, colic, childhood sleep patterns, HIV prevention, infant development, obesity, eating disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and juvenile firesetting. Bradley Hospital is a member of the Lifespan health system.