Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Costs" of obesity?

Why is it that the fat-haters are railing about how much money fat people cost the health care system (when the evidence for that is shaky at very best), but they're silent on the very real cost of sports-related injuries that have increased a great deal from sixteen years ago?

There was a 33% increase in sports-related injuries in Baby Boomers from 1991 to 1998 (source). Orthopedic surgeons have noted a significant increase in sports-related injuries in children--from 15% to 40% in one doctor's practice. Every year, there are 300,000 mild-to-traumatic brain injuries in children that are classified as sports-related--and 20% of all high school football players sustain brain injuries.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, really. The modern obsession with athleticism is damaging bodies quickly and measurably, and it's affecting people of all ages. While the evidence that fatness (I abhor the term "obesity") has an impact on the cost of health care is specious at best, you won't hear the fat-haters shrilly denouncing the very tangible cost of replacing 16-year-olds' knees, treating football players' head injuries, and, of course, the disability payments and medical costs toward those who chose to engage in high impact athletic activity that damaged their bodies.

It's not that I would begrudge injured athletes care, but when I am hearing that fat people don't deserve medical care because they "choose" unhealth by not starving themselves thin, yet those who engage in activities that cause over a million well-documented injuries per year are actually choosing "health" by doing so, it makes me pretty bitter. I'm doubly so, probably, because I have a debilitating medical condition that is not fat-caused or even fat-related, but many doctors would demand that I starve myself before they are willing to treat my actual problem.

Let's also consider that someone engaging in sports is lauded for their behavior, as if they are contributing something to society by expending energy on activities that really only benefit themselves (or, in the very rare case, some fans, but professional athletes make enough money to pay for their medical costs; it's their job). People who go jogging five miles a day don't benefit society as a whole. They aren't heroes. They're doing it to achieve a personal goal of fitness and/or body shape. Yet, when they sustain injuries as a result of their injuries, no one bats an eyelash at the cost. In fact, a great deal of health resources are expended to get that person back out jogging as soon as possible.

If you're fat, though, it doesn't matter if you volunteer twenty hours a week, build Habitats for Humanity, rescue lost children, and teach illiterate people to read. Your being fat means that you are a drain on society, you're selfish, and you have no value. You don't deserve medical care for conditions that are completely unrelated to being fat.

We have the most awesome priorities, don't we?


Rachel said...

Nice observation. I once had a woman tell me that obesity is unhealthy using the argument that it puts extra strain on knees and joints. My soon-to-be-husband (as of next week!) is 6'1" and is very slender. He messed up his knee running. Me? I'm overweight and my knees are just fine, thank you.

A year ago, I attended a job fair at a local middle school. A group of girls were clamoring around our table. Talk led to sports, and the girls started naming off all their sports-related injuries. Keep in mind these are 13 year-old girls who are going to the hospital with concussions and head injuries. When's the last time you heard of an obese patient with a head injury caused by his/her obesity?

Karoo said...

Actually I run to be fast and because I enjoy it. You are fat because you enjoy it, no? The people who excersice for health are lamer than those who do it for fun, but the people who don't excersice at all, like you I assume, are lamer still. Stop assuming things. It makes you sound like an asshole. And my knees are stronger because I run. And I am cooler than you.

Catherine Cantieri said...

This post is excellent. I knew sports-related injuries had been increasing, but I hadn't considered their costs, let alone the "virtuous" vs. "indulgent" categorizations being done for sports injuries.

Basically, an injury is your body's way of saying "You're doing it wrong!" If you're getting repeatedly injured doing something, stop doing it and find something different. Why is that so hard for people who keep sustaining injuries to understand?

Oh, and for the teenager who's convinced of her coolness: It's funny that you assume fat people don't exercise. It's *hilarious* that you say "like you I assume" and then follow it up with "Stop assuming things. It makes you sound like an asshole." Yes. Yes, it does.

RioIriri said...

Wow, my first fat-hating troll! How cute.

Karoo said...

Its pretty obvious you dont exercise considering you are ranting about the high costs of sports injuries, meaning you dont have any. And no, walking is not exercise, sorry. Walking is easy, anyone can do it. Soccer, Running, Swimming, Biking, Basketball...those are all real sports with real health benefits. I love people who assume you get healthy because you can walk a few blocks. 30 min of walking is not exercise

RioIriri said...

Little girl, you are missing the point entirely. Maybe it'll be something you can wrap your brain around when you're a bit older.

Karoo said...
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Karoo said...
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