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Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

IU Health & Wellness: Romance; sex; and the NFL's response to concussions

Research and insights from Indiana University

Jan. 22, 2013

IU Health and Wellness for January discusses the following topics:

Valentine heart

NFL not alone in handling concussions as 'benign' problems
Hookup and (non)dating culture on college campuses
Want love? Get busy -- and start talking

Health and law expert: NFL not alone in handling concussions as 'benign' problems

David Orentlicher

David Orentlicher

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More than 2,000 former football players are suing the National Football League, saying the league should have taken action earlier to deal with injuries related to concussions more seriously.

But if a lack of speed in tackling concussions warrants criticism, the NFL isn't the only player deserving a penalty, according to a study co-authored by health care and law expert David Orentlicher, who teaches at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

Neurologists were also slow in sounding the alarm, and for decades, concussions were viewed as a "benign phenomenon," according to Orentlicher.

Orentlicher's study "Concussion and Football: Failures to Respond by the NFL and the Medical Profession," co-authored by William S. David of Harvard Medical School, traces the evolution of the medical understanding of concussion over the past several decades.

"In reviewing the response of the National Football League to concussion, one can easily think that the league was too slow to worry about the medical consequences of head trauma," according to the study published in this month's Social Science Research Network. "But the extent to which its response was unreasonable is unclear. If many medical experts did not worry about concussions, it is difficult to fault the NFL for not worrying either."

"Still one can question the NFL's failure to adopt concussion guidelines in the late 1990s when medical experts did issue guidelines," Orentlicher said.

David Orentlicher is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU Robert McKinney School of Law, and co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health, a unit of the McKinney School of Law, which is on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Orentlicher holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is an adjunct professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, also at IUPUI.

The study is scheduled for publication in the FIU Law Review of Florida International University College of Law. Orentlicher can be reached at 317-658-1674 or For additional assistance, contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195 or Top

The death knell for dating?

College students find themselves in a cultural bubble, where notions of dating, love and sex tend to be turned on their head, resulting in high rates of hookups and the loss of dating.

"I ask students, 'How many of you would like to go to dinner and a movie with someone you meet?' They say, 'Yeah, a date would be cool.' But few college students have done this. They say it just doesn't happen," said Justin R. Garcia, evolutionary biologist and researcher at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University Bloomington. "They really want a dating culture ... but it's nearly dead."

Garcia and a research team that included a biomedical anthropologist, developmental psychologist and queer theory personality psychologist scoured research involving this unique group of emerging adults -- not adolescents but not quite young adults, either -- to examine how they negotiate relationships and sexuality.

"If we're going to take college health seriously, we have to think of the context in which dating, love and sex occur. This is the context college students are experiencing -- hookups first and then 'maybe' relationships," Garcia said. "We need to understand the physical and psychological consequences, both positive and negative."

The study, published in the Review of General Psychology last year, found that 60 to 80 percent of college students hook up at least once, with half saying they did so with the intent of beginning a relationship. The evidence reviewed suggests most students are having more hookups than first dates, and while many students are only experiencing a few hookups, on average most men and women have several. This clashes with a rapidly changing dating culture in the U.S. that has emphasized dating and relationship building and even marriage before sexual relations.

"Most (college students) aren't dating to find a partner," Garcia said. "Students tell us they do go to the movies together, but it's often after they wake up next to him or her. They do dating-esque things after they've had an uncommitted sexual encounter."

He said this hookup culture coincides with a re-ordering of sexual behavior reported by college students, with greater occurrence of oral sex before more traditional intercourse and higher rates of heterosexual anal sex. In the studies reviewed by Garcia and his colleagues, students described "hookups" broadly, some involving just kissing or oral sex. The various definitions give students wiggle room to either inflate their number of hookups or minimize it.

Garcia said traditional college students are a unique group of people developmentally because they often assume adult responsibilities, such as managing money and time, while their brains continue to undergo developmental changes that lead into young adulthood.

Students uninterested in hookups in college face an abysmal dating scene, Garcia said, but could benefit from better understanding the pressures they face and that they are short-term, that dating culture is alive and well outside the bubble.

"As they move off the college campus, out of emerging adulthood and into the next stage of life, we see people moving into more traditional dating," he said.

Co-authors of "Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review," include Chris Reiber, Sean G. Massey and Ann M. Merriwether of Binghamton University.

Garcia, Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, can be reached at 812.855.7686 or Top

Want love? Get busy -- and start talking

Bernardo Carducci

Bernardo J. Carducci

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Calling the search for a soul mate "work" sucks the romance right out of the chase, but the notion is grounded in reality. Finding that special someone shares the fundamentals of an effective job search: Who you know is key, it takes time, and online efforts are over-rated.

"Every great relationship, romantic or business or otherwise, begins with small talk. These relationships start with a simple conversation," said Bernardo J. Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. "The mistake people often make is they think there has to be instant chemistry to have a soul mate. Instant chemistry is possible, but it's not probable. That's the myth."

Computer apps make many things in life easier for the technologically adept. But Carducci urges caution when it comes to online dating services because of the sophisticated marketing efforts used to sell the services and the ease by which customers can mislead others about their character.

Face-to-face encounters take more time and effort but can be more revealing and often rely on a "much deeper" filtering system -- the people you choose to surround yourself with socially or through work, religious or service activities.

"The people that you associate with in a sense have already been vetted," Carducci said. "They have the same interests and values that you have, or they wouldn't be your friend."

Carducci encourages people to work the room, but as social facilitators, not job seekers. Dance or talk with a wide range of people, he said. Introduce friends and acquaintances to new people. These efforts make the facilitators appear more attractive and approachable.

"Look at how people find jobs. The best way is knowing someone who knows someone; it's the same with finding a soul mate," Carducci said. "We tell people, 'You want to find a soul mate, be a better friend, extend your social network.'"

Here are some other tips for finding romance:

  • Don't wait for people to find you. "A real problem that women have is they can be passive," Carducci said. "They wait for men to come to them. The problem then is that you get chosen instead of doing the choosing."
  • Women want bold boys -- not bad boys. Carducci said women are attracted to men who can talk and who are social. "So, we tell guys to show up at a party or social event with six of their buddies and introduce them around. They become really attractive when they're the social connector."
  • Limit the snark. "Never underestimate kindness, compliments and social graces," Carducci said. "Most people think that in a dating situation, you have to be brilliant, the suave debonair individual. If someone likes you for being brilliant, you have to be brilliant all the time. You just have to be nice."
  • Volunteer. Volunteer work is an overt statement of one's values and beliefs. "It's not checking a little box on a survey," Carducci said. "It's telling with their feet and most importantly, their time."
  • Engage in "quick talk." Share brief comments and observations at daily haunts, such as grocery stores, coffee shops and schools. The shared environment often means shared interests. "When people see you there all the time, they think 'Next time, I'm going to talk to that person because she's friendly.'"

Carducci , author of "The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything," can be reached at 812-941-2295 or Top

For additional assistance, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or Tweeting @Vitality_IU, with more news from IU at #IUNews and #IUPUINews; blogging Health & Vitality.