The Physician and Sportsmedicine
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gold medal Sports Scientists Win Olympic Laurels


In what may be sports medicine's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Jeremy N. Morris, DSc, DPH, and Ralph S. Paffenbarger, Jr, MD, DPH, were awarded the first International Olympic Prize in sport science. They were recognized for their pioneering work in documenting the relationship between physical activity and the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The award was announced in June and will be awarded on July 14 at the opening ceremony of the 105th session of the International Olympic Committee in Atlanta. The prize consists of an Olympic medal, a cash award, and a certificate of recognition.

Morris was the first epidemiologist to prove that regular physical activity reduces the risk of CHD. His work in the area began in the 1950s when he conducted a ground-breaking study of CHD rates among London transit workers. Over the next 40 years he found that CHD was four to five times more common in those who did light work than heavy work at age 45 to 50, and two to three times more common at age 60 to 70. He also found that men who did regular aerobic exercise had a lower coronary disease incidence rate than men who did lighter work around the house or gardening.

Paffenbarger is known for an ongoing study, begun in the 1960s, that demonstrated the risk factors and lifestyle habits of male graduates of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. In the 1970s he studied the effect of strenuous occupational physical activity on CHD in San Francisco Bay longshoremen. His work validated Morris's findings that physical activity is a factor in reducing the risk of hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, some forms of cancer, and premature death.

Currently, Morris, 86, is emeritus professor of public health at the University of London. Paffenbarger, 74, is professor of epidemiology emeritus at Stanford University School of Medicine, adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard University School of Public Health, and research epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and College of Arts and Sciences. He is a long-distance runner who has competed in 22 Boston Marathons.

The award, endowed by the Parke-Davis division of Warner-Lambert Co, will be presented every 2 years in conjunction with the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The winners were selected from more than 30 nominations by a jury of researchers and experts in biological, medical, physical, and psychological sciences. Three members of the editorial board of The Physician and Sportsmedicine—Rod K. Dishman, PhD, Timothy D. Noakes, MBChB, MD, and Per Renström, MD, PhD—were on the selection committee.


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