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Guest: Dr. Robert Reynolds; Topics: Dr. Reynold's latest research regarding the mortality of astronauts when compared to professional athletes in baseball and basketball plus related research topics and studies. You can read his abstract here: https://oem.bmj.com/content/76/2/114.
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We welcomed back to the program Dr. Robert Reynolds for a two segment 91 minute discussion on his latest research comparing mortality issues of US astronauts with professional athletes. His study focused on both professional basketball and baseball player for specific reasons which you will him talk about in the first segment of our program. Early on our guest introduced us to bias in the form of selective bias and survival bias which he explained. In addition, I asked him about his research pertaining to fashion models which was part of his introduction so listen to how fashion models related to the astronaut-athlete study. During our discussion, our guest had much to say about bias which in the second segment, we talked about in terms of many different components and subsets of overall bias. Dr. Reynolds also introduced us to the healthy worker effect (HWE). The HWE is an important concern since it is used to predict lower morbidity and mortality rates for a working population being compared to a general population. Make sure you listen to how he related this to the athletes and astronauts study groups. Later, we talked about the HWE in other disciplines, careers and behaviors of different population groups.
Dr. Reynolds spent significant time talking about the astronaut components in comparison to the components within the athlete communities being studied. Don't miss his discussion of these components. Additional topics included various population mortality rates, the standard mortality ratio and astronaut race. Note that throughout our discussion, radiation remained the biggest risk factor. Listener Jim asked about potential influences and/or differences in mortality between LEO and BLEO space missions, flights, and destinations. Another listener asked if children of athletes and astronauts had been studied if there were differences in the groups. This topic opened up a discussion about children in space, the effect of microgravity on their development and other issues including being subject to radiation.
Marshall called twice but the first time he called, he wanted talk about kids in space and partial weightlessness versus long term low gravity effects. Our guest went through several of the problems associated with the development of children, fluid distribution and the unknowns regarding children in the space environment. Later, I noticed in one of the media articles about his research that there was a greater risk of astronaut death due to external causes. I asked Dr. Reynolds to describe external causes. For the most part, this referred to trauma and factors that happen outside the body. For astronauts, this mostly comes down to aviation and spacecraft accidents. Don't miss all of what he said on this subject. Listener Ben asked if the quality of health care was a factor. Before we went to the second segment, diet and nutrition as a factor came up as did smoking and cancer rates in the different populations. Offspring issues came up again but there was no real data on that topic. Finally, we deferred the discussion on Russian cosmonauts to the second segment.
In the second segment, we talked with Robert about his earlier and ongoing work with Russian cosmonauts. Robert referenced a 2014 paper and additional work. For the most part, cosmonauts have a greater risk factor than astronauts. Later in this discussion, he said he thought the real risk factor 3 times greater than for astronauts. Marshall then called for the second time wanting to know about retired Russian officers and cosmonauts plus the same here in the US. Robert then mentioned another study he had worked on which looked at politicians, supreme court justices and presidents. The indications were these groups lived longer than the general population. Listener Harry then asked about the impact of marriage and family along with pets. Beverly then wanted to know how he thought private or commercial astronauts would come out in the comparisons. Don't miss what our guest said in response to this question.
Additional topics in this segment looked more at tourists and space settlers and the ticking time bomb question which you will hear Robert address. Much was said about medical care issues in space as an unknown and then Robert suggested, as part of other comments, that since Apollo and the space station, we were doing backfill in our knowledge and we had to go deeper. He said we had to catch up with bio medical for space. We then took an email from Richard in Dallas wanting to know if their was an impact on mortality and risk factors based on the purpose of the space mission. Don't miss what we said about this.
Before our program ended, our guest told us about some of the projects he was working on and would be working on in the future. The last question of the day was from student Jimmy in Boston wanting to know what levels and type of math were required for someone to study who wanted to do the type of work Dr. Reynolds was doing and talking about on our show. You might be surprised by what our guest said about the math. Before we ended, we talked about bias in research, peer review, and how to detect bias. In conclusion, Robert suggested we remember that someone doing research or putting forth information in a paper, reviewed or not, was trying to sell others on his/her ideas. I suggested buyer beware and our guest confirmed that approach.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Reynolds through me.