SPORTS MEDICINE: Meyer memory issues merit more than momentary mention

There has been quite the uproar associated with Ohio State’s “independent” investigation into head football coach Urban Meyer’s conduct surrounding the termination of assistant coach Zach Smith. However, one truly stunning revelation from the resultant report has received hardly any notice at all.

Page 19 of “The Independent Investigation Summary of Findings” reads in part, “We also learned during the investigation that Coach Meyer has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events. He has also periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration, and focus.”

Convenient — and extraordinarily lame — excuse?

However, memory loss is an all-too-real side effect of multiple medications. It is no laughing matter and may be more of an issue for individuals on such medications than they realize. Pharmacy Times reported on the problem in December 2015, chronicling eight of the more commonly prescribed drugs or classes of drugs that may impair memory — and several of them are very common.

None of the information that follows is intended to counter a physician’s advice. While many medications carry a risk of harmful side effects, the risk associated with not treating a given condition is even greater.

  • Anticonvulsants are prescribed for epilepsy. They prevent seizures by decreasing activity in the central nervous system. That CNS activity is also necessary for memory formation.
  • Antihistamines are allergy medications that inhibit the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that also plays a part in memory formation.
  • Beta-blockers, such as metoprolol and propranolol, are frequently prescribed for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. By interfering with the actions of epinephrine and norepinephrine, though, they may cause temporary memory problems.
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications, which include statins such as atorvastatin, are very effective at what they claim to do, thus greatly lowering one’s chance of suffering a heart attack. Unfortunately, in so doing, they decrease cholesterol in the brain. Without enough lipids (fat) in the blood, nerve cells have a harder time making the connections necessary to form memories and learn.
  • Dopamine agonists are medications for Parkinson’s disease that improve muscle control. Unfortunately, per the Pharmacy Times report, they may cause “memory loss, confusion, delusions, and compulsive behaviors,” too.
  • Incontinence medications, similar to antihistamines, also counteract acetylcholine. Memory loss and cognitive decline are associated with these drugs but typically only after prolonged use.
  • Narcotic painkillers (opioids) block the flow of pain signals in the central nervous system. They also block other signals, therefore increasing the chance of memory impairment. Memory impairment is just one more reason the highly addictive drugs should be avoided whenever possible.

The Ohio State report revealed neither Meyer’s condition(s) nor the medication(s) he “periodically” takes. However, if the assertions are accurate, one assumption would have to be that whatever condition/illness he has, it must be serious enough for him to risk a treatment that significantly impairs his memory.

If the affliction is that serious, then, is Meyer healthy enough to continue coaching?

Furthermore, even if he is physically healthy enough to remain on the sidelines, how can he effectively perform his head coaching duties with impaired “memory, concentration, and focus”?

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