Manziel, Hydration, WNBA, Cats

Staff & Wire Reports

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is hit by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end Jason Neill (96) during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is hit by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end Jason Neill (96) during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks for a receiver during the first half of a Canadian Football League game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts after throwing an interception against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Johnny Manziel throws 4 interceptions in CFL debut

Saturday, August 4

MONTREAL (AP) — Johnny Interception?

Johnny Manziel threw an interception — and made a tackle — on his second play in the Canadian Football League. It didn’t get much better after that, with four of his six first-half series ending in interceptions.

Seeing regular-season action for first time since December 2015 with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, the quarterback known as Johnny Football fizzled in a hurry in the Montreal Alouettes’ 50-11 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night.

“This is a humbling experience,” Manziel said. “I’ve had this experience in the past and there are two ways you go about this moving forward. One, you can let it get you down and sulk and harm you moving forward. The other way is to take this on the chin like a man and never let this taste creep back in your mouth again and never let it happen again. This will motivate me.”

After completing a pass for a 5-yard loss on his first play, Manziel threw an interception on the second — with the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner bringing down linebacker Larry Dean.

“I didn’t feel uncomfortable,” Manziel said. “I just feel I might have been a bit too amped up. As the game started, I made a really uncharacteristic throw on the first drive and it really set us back. I did a bad job of setting the tone on that first drive.

On Manziel’s second series, with Montreal down 14-0 to his former Hamilton teammates, he handed off twice before the Tiger-Cats blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

The former Texas A&M star had another pass intercepted on his third series, with the blame going to running back Tyrell Sutton for mishandling and deflecting the ball to defender Jumal Rolle.

Manziel led Montreal to a field goal on his fourth drive, then threw his third interception early in the second quarter — Rolle’s second of the night.

The fourth interception came with 2:22 left in the half that ended with the Tiger-Cats up 38-3.

Manziel finished 11 of 20 for 104 yards. He played three series in the third quarter — all ending in punts — before giving way to back up Vernon Adams in the fourth.

“It didn’t look like anybody was ready today,” Montreal coach Mike Sherman said. “The defense, the offense, the special teams. I don’t have any regrets. He’s going to have to get his first game out of his system.”

Manziel began the season with Hamilton, but couldn’t get on the field behind starter Jeremiah Masoli and was traded to Montreal two ago weeks ago.

“Would it have been nice to be here for three weeks and then get the start? Sure,” Manziel said. “But I didn’t lack any confidence coming into the game. I didn’t feel unprepared. But who knows? I got the start and it went just about as bad as it could possibly go.”

The Alouettes are 1-6 and have won just once in 18 games going back a year.

Masoli was 17 of 26 for 300 yards and two touchdowns and a scoring run for the Tiger-Cats (3-4).

Overhydrating presents health hazards for young football players

August 1, 2018


Tamara Hew-Butler

Associate Professor of Exercise and Sports Studies, Wayne State University

Disclosure statement

Tamara Hew-Butler DPM, PhD, FACSM receives royalties from UpToDate, for her ongoing contributions to the topic of Exercise-Associated-Hyponatremia.

With August football practice fast approaching, every coach’s favorite cheer will be to “stay hydrated” and “keep urine clear” during the summer heat.

In 2017, a University of Texas football coach created a urine-based “Longhorn Football Hydration Chart,” which labeled players with yellow urine as “selfish teammates” and those with brown urine as “bad guys.” This “hydration shaming” practice has permeated high school sports, thereby encouraging a sporting culture which equates superior performance with superior hydration.

Overzealous obedience to this hydration advice has uncovered a dark underbelly to superior hydration practices: overhydration. When high school football player Walker Wilbanks died in Mississippi in August 2014 from overhydration, the doctor said that the cause of death was an “unpredictable freak occurrence.”

Two weeks prior, another high school football player from Georgia drank “two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade” after football practice to prevent muscle cramps and then died. Thus, over the last four years, two high school football players have died during August football practice from overhydrating – a medical condition known as exercise-associated hyponatremia.

Conversely, no football player has ever been known to die from dehydration, although seven died during this same four-year period from heatstroke, which may be related, but not always.

How do I know about that overhydration kills athletes? I watched runners almost die after drinking 100 cups of water during a marathon because they were scared of becoming “dehydrated.” So, I got interested in thirst.

Turns out, the neuroendocrine thirst circuit dates back 700 million years and is found in most animals, including bugs and worms. Thirst activates the same conscious area of the brain that tells us we’re hungry or have to pee. To say we need to stay “ahead of thirst” (or die) is like saying we need to pee every hour to stay ahead of imminent bladder explosion (or die). The molecular and neural circuits that govern fluid intake (and micturition) in real-time are absolutely exquisite.

It’s remarkable to think that animals survive without water bottles and urine charts – they drink when they are thirsty, and we should too.

Too much water, too little salt

Hyponatremia is caused by drinking too much water or sports drinks, which dilutes blood salt levels below the normal range. Any sudden drop in blood salt levels, from drinking more than the body can excrete, can cause all cells in the body to swell. Brain swelling from hyponatremia can cause headaches and vomiting, while muscle cell swelling can trigger whole-body muscle cramping.

What is most frightening, however, is that these symptoms mimic those of dehydration They are often treated by medical staff with more fluids.

So, which hydration imbalance – dehydration and overhydration – is the lesser of two evils?

Dehydration is undeniably harmful to human health and performance. Wrestlers have died from trying to “make weight,” through vigorous dehydration practices. A recent meta-analysis of 33 studies verified that more than 2 percent dehydration impairs cognition. Dehydration can impair performance and increase core body temperature, as per the American College of Sports Medicine’s latest position statement. All of these statements underscore the vital importance of staying hydrated.

But I fear that many coaches ignore the finer points that support those conclusions. For example, three wrestlers who died of dehydration rapidly lost about 15 percent of body weight by withholding fluids while exercising in a hot environment in a rubber suit. Similarly, to achieve 3 percent dehydration, which impairs cognition, individuals need to withhold fluids for 24 hours. And that’s without exercise.

Dehydration can occur in the desert when one runs out of water, but dehydration is less likely where fluids are readily available. Koldunova Anna/

These dehydration protocols do not necessarily represent “free-living” situations. When hikers die from dehydration in the desert, most if not all had become lost or had run out of fluids. Thus, thirst – or the “deep-seated desire for water” – is rarely “broken” when healthy people die from dehydration. Morbidity and mortality occur when there is no fluid available, fluids are withheld, as in lab studies, or when athletes refuse to drink for other reasons, such as “making weight.”

When do athletes and others need to drink?

So how much fluid should football players – and all other humans for that matter – drink? If you ask fluid balance experts who perform basic science research on the brain or kidney, or clinicians who specialize in fluid balance disorders, researchers who perform brain scans on dehydrated and overhydrated humans, or even worm investigators, they all agree that water balance is tightly regulated and that all land mammals need to drink when thirsty.

Drinking when you are thirsty is not “too late,” because the thirst mechanism is hardwired into the nervous system to protect against scarcity. Thirst represents the highly individualized signal which protects the balance between water and salt regardless of size, activity or ambient temperature and is encoded in most invertebrate and all vertebrate DNA. Babies are born with this innate behavioral drive.

Then, what about the need for eight glasses of water per day? There is no evidence to support this. What about peeing until our urine is clear? Dark colored urine merely reflects water conservation by the kidney, rather than water lack by the body.

What’s a football player to do?

Kirtland, Ohio, football players pour ice over head coach Tiger Laverde after a major playoff win Dec. 6, 2013. Pouring ice or water over their own heads could be a good option to stay cool. David Richard/AP Photo

Football players absolutely need water, but they should be warned not to overdo it.

In the modern era, where fluid is widely available, in order to stay adequately hydrated, the following must occur:

A variety of fluids needs to be freely available to football players, and

The players should be given the freedom to drink whenever they feel thirsty.

And when the players get hot, they need the opportunity to pour generous amounts of ice water over their heads instead of into their mouths to promote evaporative cooling, rather than dilute sodium levels. Better yet, they should be allowed to go inside and cool off.

We should recognize who the “true champions” may be with regards to most modern day hydration advice. According to the latest figures, bottled water sales have increased to US$18.5 billion dollars, up 8.8 percent from the previous year. This revenue does not include the vast array of purified, infused, oxygenized, sparkled, distilled, intravenous and reverse osmosis versions that compete for attention on the market.

While we all need water, drinking until our “urine is clear” is money (and water) flushed away. And with the threat of overdrinking high in motivated athletes, I ask coaches/trainers to reconsider before enforcing the urine color chart in athlete locker rooms: Is it worth the risk?

The case for boosting WNBA player salaries

August 9, 2018


Nancy Lough

Professor of Educational Psychology & Higher Education, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Disclosure statement

Nancy Lough does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Nevada, Las Vegas

University of Nevada, Las Vegas provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

As someone who has studied the WNBA for years, I’ve been excited to witness, over the course of this season, continued growth in viewership and attendance, along with sponsorship revenue.

Last year, total attendance for the WNBA’s 12 teams reached 1,574,078, with an average attendance of 7,716 fans – a new high for the 21-year-old league. Three teams experienced double-digit growth: Attendance was up 17.8 percent for the Los Angeles Sparks, 15.3 percent for the Connecticut Sun and 12.3 percent for the Minnesota Lynx.

As a point of comparison, the NBA didn’t draw crowds of this size until its 26th season, when the league averaged 8,061 fans per game.

The WNBA’s growing popularity has made pay equity a hot topic in the sport, and over the course of this season, several players have drawn attention to the issue.

WNBA players aren’t asking to be paid on par with their NBA counterparts. But should they be seeing an increase in their earnings?

Points of comparison

Last year, the average WNBA salary was US$71,635, and this year appears to be closer to $75,000. The maximum veteran salary is $113,500.

Meanwhile, for the upcoming NBA season, the minimum salary of a professional NBA player is $838,464.

Of course, the NBA rakes in far more revenue. However, in the 1971-1972 season – the year the NBA started drawing the same number of fans that the WNBA attracts today – the average salary was $90,000, which would equate to roughly $500,000 today.

Finding accurate financial data on any sport league is challenging. But using league revenue, economics professor Dave Berri was recently able to calculate a significant gender wage gap in another respect.

He estimated that WNBA player salaries constitute 22 percent of league revenue, while NBA player salaries amount to roughly 50 percent of league revenues. The fact that NBA players get a much larger piece of the revenue pie does seem to say something about how each respective league values its players.

Of course, a bump to 50 percent of WNBA league revenue isn’t realistic, because there’s a difference between revenue and profit. While the NBA is quite profitable – with a blockbuster $24 billion TV deal, billions of dollars in advertising and a robust revenue sharing system – only about half of WNBA franchises finish the season in the black.

Tapping into revenue streams

Clearly, the WNBA still needs to work on establishing its long-term viability, and some might argue that the players shouldn’t request raises until the league has become more financially stable.

Yet much progress has been made on this front, and the league has found particularly innovative ways to promote its players, grow its fan base and tap into new revenue streams.

In 2009, the WNBA decided to include sponsor logos on their jerseys. The move was controversial at the time – given all major sport leagues in the U.S. had previously opted to keep jerseys free of advertisements – but the NBA followed their lead in 2017. This year, the WNBA gave companies the opportunity to sponsor a second jersey patch, while offering sponsors the chance to include a logo on the court during games that don’t air on ESPN. Not surprisingly, sponsorship revenue, in turn, has grown.

Other strategies have also paid off.

In 2014, the WNBA launched the first marketing campaign in professional sports to directly appeal to the LGBTQ market. The success of this campaign resulted in the WNBA being the first pro league to take part in the NYC Pride Parade in 2016. This year, all of the major professional sports leagues had a presence.

Some feared that such a campaign could alienate other segments of the league’s fan base. But the risk also offered reward: 15 million Americans self-identify as LGBTQ, and they represent a market segment worth around $830 million. Furthermore, two years earlier, the league studied its fan base and discovered that 25 percent of WNBA fans identified as lesbian.

Following the success of the 2014 Pride Campaign, the league has continued to reach out to gay fans, promoting stories about their LGBT players, and offering special merchandise for Pride Month and Pride Night games.

In a way, this strategy makes perfect sense. The league has more gay players and fans, percentage-wise, than any other major professional sport. In the 2018 All-Star Game, for example, 32 percent of the roster identified as gay. Marketing researchers have discovered that consumers respond more favorably to marketing initiatives that cater to their identities. As former WNBA President Laurel Richie noted in 2014, “For us it’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and recognition of an audience that has been with us very passionately.”

The WNBA has also been eager to experiment with social media and new streaming platforms to connect with fans. In 2017, the league aired 20 games live on Twitter, while also offering a new fantasy game on the fantasy platform FanDuel. And for the first time, gamers could play with WNBA players in NBA Live 18.

As a result of all this, merchandise sales grew by 18 percent in 2017, attendance has increased, more people are tuning in, and players are acquiring significant social media followings.

But even with all this growth, there’s one enduring challenge: media exposure.

Where’s the media attention?

In 2014, ESPN paid the WNBA $17 million for broadcast rights. That same year, however, only 2 percent of airtime on the station’s flagship show, SportsCenter, was allocated to women’s sports.

For decades, sports media figures have argued that interest drives coverage. But interest is also clearly driven by media: If a network highly values a property, it’ll market and promote it as a way to build an audience.

Ninety-five percent or higher of sports media content is focused on men, even though women make up 40 percent of all sports participants. Women represent 44 percent of NFL fans, while 28 percent of women say they follow pro baseball, and 29 percent report that they follow the NBA.

This lack of media coverage has always hampered women’s sports. After all, sponsors want exposure for their brand. The more exposure they receive, the more they’ll dole out the cash for sponsorships, endorsements and advertisements.

WNBA players aren’t asking for NBA level compensation. It took the NBA 72 years to get to where the league is today, while the WNBA is only in its 21st season. The women of the WNBA are simply seeking the recognition they deserve for their performances.

The WNBA’s current collective bargaining agreement won’t expire until October 2021, with the maximum salary paid to WNBA veterans set to increase $8,000 – from $113,500 to $121,500 – by that year, which barely keeps pace with inflation at its current rate.

However, the players union has the option to terminate the agreement after the 2019 season if they give notice by Oct. 31 of this year. This would give them the opportunity to negotiate a new deal that increases the salary cap, along with maximum and minimum salaries.

With this deadline looming, the players would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity – and compel the league to come to the table with an offer commensurate to their worth.

The Conversation US, Inc.

Study shows the paw-sitive effects of watching cat videos

June 18, 2015


Jessica Gall Myrick

Assistant Professor of Media, Indiana University

Disclosure statement

Jessica Gall Myrick does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Indiana University

Indiana University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

According to, a website about video marketing, there are more than two million cat videos on YouTube. People have watched these videos more than 25 billion times, which equates to an average of 12,000 views per cat video.

The statistics speak for themselves, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a dog lover with a cat allergy, but the staggering amount of cat media available to internet users came as a surprise to me. With numbers like that, I couldn’t help but wonder: who, exactly, is so drawn to this type of content? And what effects do cat-related media have on viewers?

The keyboard cat video has been viewed over 40 million times on YouTube.

These were the overarching question that spurred my initial quest to gather empirical data on the internet cat phenomenon. I scoured academic databases to see what the literature could tell me, but found no existing data about why people watched so many cat videos online, or what effects these videos might have on us.

So I decided to find out myself.

My neighborhood internet celebrity feline – the adorable Lil Bub, who happens to also live in Bloomington, Indiana – shared the link on her website after I launched an online survey. With Bub’s help, the survey quickly garnered nearly 7,000 respondents.

The results from this exploratory study suggest that certain people are, in fact, more likely than others to view copious amounts of internet cat videos. It also showed that cat videos can positively influence the emotions of viewers.

According to my study, if you currently own or have previously owned a cat – or if you’ve volunteered to assist pets in the past year – you’re more likely to watch cat videos. Cat video viewers also spent more time online than other participants, tended to be more agreeable and shy, and felt they had adequate emotional support in their lives. However, emotional stability was negatively (albeit only slightly) related to watching online cat-related media.

The data also revealed information about the nature of audience interactions with online cat media. Three-quarters of respondents did not actively seek out cat content. Instead, they happened upon it in the course of their daily internet use.

This means that it’s hard to avoid internet cats, even if you want to.

It’s tough to avoid encountering internet cat celebrities like Lil Bub.

Still, online cat videos aren’t all about passive consumption. Many people indicated they also produce their own cat-related media to post online, which often amass comments and likes. Online cat-media consumption is therefore an interactive process where media consumers can be media producers and media critics, all in the same space.

But I really wanted to learn what effects watching online cat videos might have on viewers.

People in my study reported experiencing more positive emotions and having higher energy levels after watching cat videos than before. They also reported lower levels of negative emotions after viewing online cat-related content.

In short, most of us get a little psychological “pick-me-up” when we watch Lil Bub climb the stairs or view a hilarious Grumpy Cat meme.

You might wonder: So what? Why does this study matter beyond its momentary entertainment value?

Well, we now spend more time with media than ever before. If – as my study suggests – part of that media diet includes cute pet videos, then it’s important to know how that specific genre impacts us psychologically if we want to truly understand the role of media use in shaping who we are.

Second, media is often criticized (sometimes rightfully so) for harming society – for making us violent, confused about science or even narcissistic. This study, though, indicates that media use can have a beneficial impact. Even a short-lived boost in one’s mood may help someone make it through a day or charge through an unpleasant task.

A distraction, or a mood-enhancer?

Because this study was an exploratory attempt to quantify an anecdotally popular activity, I don’t think it should be the final word on the role of pet-related media in our lives. Instead, it should be a springboard for more research.

Experiments that use control groups can test different types of cat videos (eg, humorous, cute, or inspirational) for differences in emotional reactions. Additionally, researchers could test if digitized cats or dogs can serve as a low-cost form of pet therapy for those who are allergic to real pets.

Cat videos are here to stay, so I hope researchers continue to study the potential “paw-sitive” effects of this type of media.

Why can’t cats resist thinking inside the box?

April 17, 2017


Nicholas Dodman

Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Pharmacology and Animal Behavior, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University

Disclosure statement

Nicholas Dodman co-owns PetDocs Inc (an S-Corporation private consulting company), is Scientific Advisor for DogTV, is Chief Veterinary Officer for a startup investigating cannabinoids in dogs called We Cann Heal LLC, and Scientific Advisor for the not-for-profit website the Center for Canine Behavior Studies.


Tufts University

Tufts University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.

This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest Pets” series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and even wide-necked flower vases.

“That’s so cute … but why do you think she does that?” was always the question. It was as if each climbing or squeezing incident had a completely different explanation.

It did not. It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.

Kittens get securely snuggled by their mothers. Cats image via

When young, they used to snuggle with their mom and litter mates, feeling the warmth and soothing contact. Think of it as a kind of swaddling behavior. The close contact with the box’s interior, we believe, releases endorphins – nature’s own morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress.

Along with Temple Grandin, I researched the comforting effect of “lateral side pressure.” We found that the drug naltrexone, which counteracts endorphins, reversed the soporific effect of gentle squeezing of pigs. Hugs, anyone?

Also remember that cats make nests – small, discrete areas where mother cats give birth and provide sanctuary for their kittens. Note that no behavior is entirely unique to any one particular sex, be they neutered or not. Small spaces are in cats’ behavioral repertoire and are generally good (except for the cat carrier, of course, which has negative connotations – like car rides or a visit to the vet).

One variation on this theme occurs when the box is so shallow that it does not provide all the creature comforts it might.

Or then again, the box may have no walls at all but simply be a representation of a box – say a taped-in square on the ground. This virtual box is not as good as the real thing but is at least a representation of what might be – if only there was a real square box to nestle in.

This virtual box may provide some misplaced sense of security and psychosomatic comfort.

The cats-in-boxes issue was put to the test by Dutch researchers who gave shelter cats boxes as retreats. According to the study, cats with boxes adapted to their new environment more quickly compared to a control group without boxes: The conclusion was that the cats with boxes were less stressed because they had a cardboard hidey-hole to hunker down in.

Availability of a cozy box is part of a well-appointed space for a cat. Lisa Norwood, CC BY-NC

Let this be a lesson to all cat people – cats need boxes or other vessels for environmental enrichment purposes. Hidey-holes in elevated locations are even better: Being high up provides security and a birds’s-eye view of the world, so to speak.

Without a real box, a square on the ground may be the next best thing for a cat, though it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. Whether a shoe box, shopping bag or a square on the ground, it probably gives a cat a sense of security that open space just can’t provide.

The Conversation US, Inc.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is hit by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end Jason Neill (96) during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is hit by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end Jason Neill (96) during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks for a receiver during the first half of a Canadian Football League game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks for a receiver during the first half of a Canadian Football League game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts after throwing an interception against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel reacts after throwing an interception against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of a Canadian Football League game Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports