Festive funnies in the BMJ Christmas issue

Christmas treeEvery year the British Medical Journal team get in the festive spirit with their Christmas issue, publishing zany or amusing research.  This year is no exception, with a host of genuine research papers and rigorous scientific analyses guaranteed to make you giggle.

Research articles in this week’s issue of BMJ include:

  • Head bangers: stuck between rock and a hard bass
  • Head banging to heavy metal is a popular dance form, but it increases the risk of head and neck injury. The effects may be lessened with reduced head and neck motion, head banging to lower tempo songs or to every second beat, and using protective equipment such as neck braces, say Australian researchers Declan Patton and Andrew McIntosh.

  • Rugby (the religion of Wales) and its influence on the Catholic church: should Pope Benedict XVI be worried?
  • Researcher Gareth Payne and his two colleagues from Cardiff investigate whether there is any substance to the intriguing urban legend that has arisen in Wales in recent times: “Every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two Popes died.” Wales won the Grand Slam in 2008 – so should Pope Benedict XVI be worried?

  • Frankincense: systematic review
  • Edzard Ernst, the UK’s only professor of complementary medicine, systematically reviews the evidence on frankincense – a tree resin that was one of the first ever Christmas presents and is now a popular complementary remedy. He concludes that, although frankincense does not bestow supernatural instant youth or eternal life as many claims would have it, it has encouraging anti-inflammatory properties.

In the comment section, Deborah J Anderson, an author of the IgNobel-winning research on the use of coca cola as a spermicide, advises against this approach to contraception, while MA Buchanan and colleagues discuss whether modern golf clubs can cause hearing damage.

The Christmas issue also traditionally subjects prevalent medical myths to critical appraisal.  Last year Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll showed that reading in low light does not damage eyesight and that turkey is not to blame for drowsiness after Christmas dinner.  This year they turn their attention to whether sugar causes hyperactivity in children and if wearing a hat reduces heat loss in cold weather, thoroughly debunking these popular beliefs.

The whole BMJ Christmas issue can be found online at www.bmj.com.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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