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Jack Lovelock, the Wonder Miler

Jack LovelockJack Lovelock was a poor kid in New Zealand who was so smart and athletic that he won an academic scholarship to high school, was valedictorian of his class, the school boxing champion, the best swimmer and rugby player in his region and a champion debater.  He won a scholarship to the University of Otago Medical School where he was one of the fastest college mile and cross country runners in New Zealand.  In 1931, at age 21, he became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, England and received his medical training at  St Mary's Hospital in London. Before receiving his medical degree at age 24, he won the English Amateur Athletic Association mile championship and the gold medal in the British Empire Games mile.  
 
In 1936, at age 26, he won the Olympic 1500 meter run in a world record 3 minutes and 47.8 seconds. It was the first time since 1904 that an Olympic 1,500-meter winner had broken the world record and was also New Zealand's first Olympic gold medal ever. In the last 300 yards of the race, he out-sprinted by four meters two other runners who had far more basic speed than he had -- the 1932 Olympic champion, Italian Luigi Beccali, and the U.S runner Glen Cunningham.
 

His Running Life
Lovelock was born in 1910 to a sickly father who had emigrated from England to find work in New Zealand and died when his son was only 13 years old.  At school, Lovelock was always the best of the best.  In 1931, he entered Oxford University and in 1932 he broke the British Empire record for the mile in 4 minutes 12.0 seconds which was the fifth-fastest mile ever.  In the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles, he finished seventh in the 1,500 meters. In 1933, he defeated American Bill Bonthron on his home track at Princeton University in a world record, 4 minutes 7.6 seconds and in 1934 won the British Empire Games mile.  In 1936, he won his Olympic gold medal even though he had injured his knee before the race.  After winning the gold medal, he competed a few more times and then retired from running.  He worked  as a doctor specializing in rheumatology and wrote newspaper articles on sports.
 

After the Olympics
in September 1940, he fell off his horse during a hunt and lay on the ground with a broken arm and leg, undiscovered for more than an hour.  He remained unconscious for two days and suffered from headaches, dizziness and vision problems for the rest of his life.
 
In World War II, he served as a major in the British Army.  In 1945, he married Cynthia Wells James, an American employed as a secretary at the American Hospital in London, and they had two daughters. In 1947 they moved to New York where Lovelock worked as assistant director of physical medicine and director of rehabilitation at New York Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
 
One day in December 1949, he felt sick but went to work anyway.  He was too sick to work so he tried to return home later that morning.  In a nearly empty subway station, he fell onto the tracks and was run over by the subway train which killed him instantly,.  There were no witnesses, but since there was no reason to suspect suicide, it appears that he had one of his dizzy spells or fainted.   He was 39 years old.
 
Lifelong Impact of Head Trauma
Head injuries can cause severe and lasting damage or death.   Your brain is three pounds of soft tissue locked in a tight box that is your skull.  When you bang your head, your brain bounces from one side to the other and sustains repeated damage with each strike and counter strike against your skull.  This can break blood vessels that will bleed into your brain.  Your brain is three pounds of soft tissue locked in your skull, a tight box that cannot expand, so the increasing pressure of continued bleeding will take up the space previously occupied by your brain and squash your brain which can kill you.  If you have continued bleeding into your brain, doctors may have to drill holes in your skull and remove the excess blood. 
 
After you hit your head, you may lie unconscious for hours or weeks.  Once you recover consciousness you can suffer headaches, dizziness, lack of awareness of surroundings, nausea and vomiting.   You can also have no immediate symptoms and never lose consciousness but still suffer serious and progressive symptoms later on.  Signs of brain damage can include: 
• difficulty remembering, concentrating and processing your thoughts 
• a wide range of emotional problems from depression to anxiety,
• irrational and damaging behavior such as uncontrolled anger and inappropriate actions.
 
Long-term consequences of brain damage can include difficulty paying attention, concentrating, solving problems, speaking and finding appropriate words.  The person may also suffer headaches, changes in taste and smell, dizziness, loss of balance, slowed responses, tiredness, shortened attention span, forgetfulness, difficulty making decisions, frustration, irrational behavior, unreasonable anger and loss of memory.   They may have blurred vision, sensitivity to bright lights, difficulty focusing, reduced hearing, intolerance to loud noises, ringing in the ears, anxiety, depression, mood swings and sleep disorders.  Head injuries are also associated with increased intake of: alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, over-the-counter medications, tobacco or food, probably as part of the person's efforts to cope with the after-effects of the injury.
 
Treatment of Head Injuries
With prompt emergency treatment, doctors can prevent some deaths from head injuries by relieving pressure from bleeding into the brain and keeping patients alive if they stop breathing.  However, there is no medical treatment for damaged brain tissue.  A recovering patient may be able to relearn some lost skills using the parts of the brain that are undamaged, but this can be a long and difficult process.  Some lost functions, behaviors and skills are never recovered.  
 
January 5, 1910 - December 28, 1949
June 25th, 2016
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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