Since the 1970s, Major League Baseball clubs have generally added more and more minor league affiliates. In 1979, there were an average of 4.7 affiliates per major league club.1According to Baseball-Reference.com data analyzed by FiveThirtyEight. This season there are 8.2 — a total of 245 minor league affiliates, the most since 1948, spread across 30 major league organizations.But the Houston Astros, a model of modern player development, bucked that trend a few years ago. After the 2017 season, they reduced their affiliate count from nine to seven clubs.2 The Astros cut ties with their Appalachian League team in Greeneville, Tennessee, and their second Dominican Summer League team. The Astros believed they could become a more efficient producer of talent with fewer farm clubs. Highest levelnumber of BattersAvg. First Year OPS+Avg. First Year Age So if some players are good enough to skip the upper levels of the minors, perhaps minor league resources should be spent trying to identify and develop those players — and perhaps a few rungs of the ladder ought to be removed. A Baseball America study of the 1981-2010 drafts found that only 17.6 percent of drafted and signed players reached the majors, and only 9.8 percent produced 0.1 career wins above replacement, a minimal level of production. Perhaps optimized skill development requires fewer games, and thereby fewer players and teams. “For the baseball people, it was a feeling that it was better to concentrate the coaching resources. We were trying to support a bunch of players that had a less than one percent chance of making the major leagues,” said an ex-Astros official whose current team didn’t grant him permission to speak to us.The Astros felt comfortable cutting the teams in part because of data harvested from new tech. Since turning over the vast majority of their player development staff and minor league coaches under GM Jeffrey Luhnow, the Astros feel they have become better at identifying which players have a chance to rise through their system. For example, while a number of teams were experimenting with their first high-speed cameras this spring to study pitch grips and body mechanics, the Astros had 75 such cameras hard-mounted at stadiums throughout their minor league affiliates last season. According to the ex-Astros official, the team believes it needs less time and fewer games to understand potential, and it is better served by consolidating resources around their most promising players.The Astros aren’t the only ones questioning the structure of the minor leagues in their organization. For decades, baseball has generally treated player development as a ladder. First comes Rookie ball, then multiple levels of Single-A ball leading up to Double-A, then Triple-A, then finally the majors.3More advanced amateur players, like college stars, often skip Rookie and Low-A levels. But recently some players — like young stars Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr., and lesser talents like David Peralta and Rougned Odor — have skipped rungs. And they aren’t worse for it. AA or lower3299.022.2 AA or lower38118.623.3 Highest levelnumber of PitchersAvg. First Year ERA+Avg. First Year Age Minimum playing time for first-year players included 50 innings pitched or 100 plate appearances. Some players were demoted from majors to a higher minor-league level during their first-year seasons.ERA+ is earned run average adjusted for year and ballpark. OPS+ is on-base plus slugging adjusted for year and ballpark.Source: Baseball-Reference.com A year before the closing of two affiliates, in March 2016, the Astros hired Jose Fernandez to be part of their sports science department. He had worked with pro soccer teams in Europe. European soccer giants have centralized training centers focused on building skills rather than a decentralized sprawl of affiliates. The Astros were curious how FC Barcelona developed its players. Barcelona’s “La Masia” — which translates to “Farm House” — is regarded as one of the breeding grounds for talent. The information Fernandez shared was eye-opening.“On site in Barcelona, they have their whole development academy, from the little kids all the way up to the professional teams. They have one big campus. They do everything on-site. Everything is coordinated. Everyone is doing the same drills. Everyone was being measured with the same technology. That makes a ton of sense,” the ex-Astros front official said.While minor league baseball reorganized in 1963 to the classifications we are familiar with today (Single-A, Double-A, etc), the idea of affiliated minor-league baseball has fundamentally remained the same since Branch Rickey bought a stake in the Houston Buffaloes in 1919 and began building the first farm system. As Kyle Boddy, who runs the independent training facility Driveline Baseball, put it in my book, “The MVP Machine”: “Why is the minor-league system set up the way it is? Why does every coaching staff and player development staff feature the same titles, the same backgrounds and are approximately the same size? Why for so long has the minor league system been immune from disruption?” Is the highest level of the minors always necessary?Average ERA+ or OPS+ for first-year players by their highest minor league level before their MLB debut, for debuts between 2010 and May 20, 2019 AAA221101.924.4 On a late May afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Erie Sea Wolves — the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers — hosted the Bowie Bay Sox. A light fog rolled in off the lake, UPMC Park was perhaps at half capacity. While minor league baseball remains popular and big business for big-drawing clubs like the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers and Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania) Iron Pigs, minor league attendance declined last season for the first time in 14 years last season and by 1.38 million fans. Erie is averaging 3,315 fans this year, 10th out of 12 clubs in the league.Top prospect Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, pitched that day like he was ready to fit in the Tigers rotation. He tossed eight shutout innings on 89 pitches.Speaking afterward in a cramped, dated and faux wood-paneled clubhouse, where the players consumed postgame meals on card tables before their lockers, Mize seemed ready for another challenge. When asked about the practice of aggressively promoting players upward, Mize said, “I think failure is part of it and needs to be part of it. I see positives in being forced to fail.”Some influencers of modern skill-building suggest that athletes ought to push themselves through practices like weighted-ball training — called overload training — to hasten development. To increase skill, take on more than you’re used to and the body adapts and skills improve. But how does that translate to games? In the NBA and NFL, top amateur players get thrown straight into the fray against top professionals. In baseball, top prospects spend years against lesser competition. How do you improve against inferior players?“Major league [prospects] are seeing a lot of competition that is not helping them,” the ex-Astros official said. Because of this idea that players are feasting on lesser talent, minor league numbers can distort evaluation.All-Star pitcher Walker Buehler has been part of cutting-edge training techniques with the Los Angeles Dodgers and when pitching for Vanderbilt University. While much has been said of the low pay and financial struggles of minor-league players in recent years, Buehler thinks there’s another problem: There are too many players that aren’t MLB-quality in the minors.“At any affiliate, there are three players who have a chance to play in the majors. The rest of the players are there so they so they can play. I don’t think that’s fair,” Buehler told FiveThirtyEight. “You are preying on their dreams.”Rethinking the minor leagues is being discussed at the highest levels of the sport.MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told The Athletic in July that “we have to look at the efficiency of the [minor league] system that we’re running right now, how many teams, how many players, what we’re paying players, and all those issues are obviously related.”What that means for the future of the farm system suggests it could, and perhaps should, look much different than it does today. MLB’s approach to the minor leagues is ripe for change in part because of how much data can be collected off the field these days. Independent hitting instructor Doug Latta tells his clients that they “don’t need much space to get better,” as improving via reps, video analysis and ball-tracking tech lessens the need for a player to play in regulation games. Latta worked with Marlon Byrd, Justin Turner and Hunter Pence in various storage-like facilities just before they changed their approach at the plate and improved their performance. Cody Bellinger was already a good major league player but became great this season after he changed his swing in similar modest spaces last winter. While batting cages have existed since Rickey invented them, they’ve never been the feedback machines they are today when outfitted with ball-, bat- and body-tracking tech.On the pitching side, it’s perhaps even easier to gain skills. Adam Ottavino designed a new cutter last winter in a vacant Manhattan storefront that he outfitted with baseball’s cutting-edge tech. The Los Angeles Dodgers held several low-value minor league pitchers back from minor league games in 2016, giving them something of an extended spring training at their complex to see if they could improve throwing velocity. Dodgers pitchers Corey Copping and Andrew Istler learned how to throw harder and subsequently became trade chips last summer.Author Daniel Coyle has written about the benefits of shrinking training space — like Brazil’s futbol de salao (indoor soccer) — to increase reps and feedback. “How do you tighten the [feedback] loop, and deliver the right signal in a timely way?”This past winter, the Philadelphia Phillies tried to become more like the Astros, rethinking how they teach and train in the minor leagues. Two progessive hitting instructors were asked to implement new ideas, new programs and new technology for the 100-plus minor league hitters in the system, tailoring individual plans for each. They have transformed batting cages at each facility into feedback labs. Phillies minor leaguers in A- and Rookie-ball are required to wear sensors on their bats to record bat speed, bat path and biomechanical data. The Phillies also set up a device to track every ball hit in every batting practice before every minor league game. For decades, box scores were the only sources of data on player progress. But now practice is producing more data than games.“The game is the ultimate test but that’s only three or four at-bats a night,” Russ Steinhorn, one of those progressive hitting instructors, said. “The practice before games, you might be taking hundreds of swings. … For me, the practice environment, the lead-up to the game, is the most important. That’s where the development happens.”While there are rules on how players are assigned to teams, the ex-Astros official suspects we could see fewer affiliates one day and more time spent at facilities. “I think down the road in a few years you will see a guy go to an affiliate and play for a while and the team says, ‘OK, you’ve demonstrated that what you mastered at the training facility is working in games. So now it’s time for you to add a changeup.’ So it’s back to the training facility.”Still, Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger — who has worked with Latta and hitting coach Craig Wallenbrock to improve his swing — says minor league games will never be replicated despite whatever gains are made in technology.“You can’t really simulate facing a pitcher in front of thousands of people,” Haniger says, “and failing in front of a whole bunch of people.” AAA32790.923.8
Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.Not long ago, in a galaxy not so far away from wherever Comcast placed truTV in your cable lineup, the era of the dominant men’s college basketball team was over. Last year, no team had more than a 15 percent chance of winning the NCAA men’s tournament, according to FiveThirtyEight’s pre-tournament forecast (Louisville was the best bet). In 2011, the nominal favorite was Duke, with a 22 percent chance. In 2012, it was Kentucky, at 27 percent, and in 2013, Louisville led with a 23 percent chance. While two of those favorites (Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013) happened to win, the lack of dominant teams left the door wide open for lower seeds to make a deep run, as No. 7 seed Connecticut did in winning last year’s national championship.This year is much different — an echo from a bygone era of short-shorts and star players who actually played through their senior seasons. The Kentucky Wildcats are undefeated; they could become the first men’s team to finish the season undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Kentucky has a 41 percent chance of winning it all, according to our forecast — about double what we’ve seen from front-runners in recent years.There’s not a lot to critique in the Wildcats’ résumé. While the SEC is not a terrific basketball conference, Kentucky played a reasonable non-conference schedule and won 13 games against other NCAA tournament teams. The Wildcats rank first in all but one of the computer power ratings that the FiveThirtyEight model uses and a close second in the other. They were last year’s national runner-up and the preseason No. 1. They have all the talent in the world, including three possible NBA lottery picks.But a 41 percent chance isn’t all that high. It remains more likely than not that Kentucky will stumble at some point along the way and won’t win the national championship.What could go wrong? Some of it is the unforgiving mathematics of a 68-team tournament.The Wildcats will be a favorite in every game they play for the rest of the year, but they’ll be playing some capable basketball teams. The odds of running into a streak shooter, or having a game in which they miss some free throws down the stretch, are fairly high.Let’s get more specific. Below, I’ve tallied Kentucky’s chances of winning each round of the tournament, according to our model (the rightmost column). I’ve also listed the Wildcats’ chances of winning each round conditional on them having survived the previous round. So in the conditional column, we’re fast-forwarding the tournament and assuming that Kentucky wins at each stage. For instance, Kentucky has about an 85 percent chance of winning its Elite Eight game and advancing to the Final Four, provided that it’s made it that far.Kentucky is at least a 73 percent favorite in every round. It’s not in an especially tough region, and the team will be able to stay close to home, needing to travel no more than 282 miles from campus (the distance from Lexington, Kentucky, to Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Midwest regional) to win the tournament.But even with the odds stacked in Kentucky’s favor, winning six consecutive games won’t be easy.And there are some other excellent teams in this tournament. Suppose that because of some clerical error, Kentucky’s spot in the tournament instead went to Northern Kentucky, which went 13-17 in something called the Atlantic Sun Conference. In that case, the five teams with the next-best chances — Arizona, Duke, Villanova, Virginia and Wisconsin — would collectively have a 68 percent chance of winning the title. That’s better than the cumulative 54 percent chance that the top five teams had last year.In other words, this would be a top-heavy tournament even without Kentucky. While there’s not a clear No. 2 after the Wildcats, the teams ranked from second through sixth or seventh nationally (in some order) are a strong group, a bit stronger than we’ve seen in the most recent men’s tournaments.So let’s explore the field region by region. For each one, I’ve listed each team’s rating according to the seven ratings systems that the FiveThirtyEight model averages to generate its forecasts. The rankings from each system are normalized so as to make them directly comparable.Five of the seven systems are computer rankings, and they tend to produce highly similar results. It will usually be more interesting to compare the computer rankings with the two human-generated polls: where a team ranked in the preseason (teams that overachieve during the regular season have a history of reverting to the mean in the tournament) and where it placed on the selection committee’s 68-team S-curve. Teams with higher S-curve ratings than computer ratings are potentially overseeded; teams with higher computer ratings than S-curve ratings are possibly underseeded.The charts will also show the adjustment our model applies for injuries and player absences. Usually this has a negative effect, but it can be positive if the team is healthier now than it was during the regular season — as Maryland and Virginia are, for instance. We’ll start with Kentucky’s region, the Midwest:While the Wildcats may not quite have even odds of winning the national championship, they are more likely than not (a 72 percent chance) to reach the Final Four.Kentucky has a favorable draw, but some of that is by the committee’s design. The best No. 1 seed — Kentucky this year — is theoretically supposed to be paired with the worst No. 2, and the committee made good on that by placing Kansas in Kentucky’s region. While Kansas has an entirely respectable record for a No. 2 seed, it ranks behind the other No. 2 seeds (Virginia, Arizona and Gonzaga) by the metrics we track.Kentucky also faces a relatively easy Sweet 16 game. Maryland and West Virginia, the No. 4 and 5 seeds in the Midwest, are both slightly overseeded, according to our model.Dark horses in the Midwest include Wichita State and Texas, which are badly underseeded as No. 7 and No. 11, respectively. Even there, however, Kentucky catches something of a break. It can’t face either the Shockers or the Longhorns until the Elite Eight.But while the draw is reasonably favorable for Kentucky, there’s one potential glitch. In the national semifinal, it will be due to face the winner of the West region. And the West is probably the strongest in the tournament this year:In fact, the top two seeds in the West — Wisconsin and Arizona — rank as the second and third best teams nationally, according to our composite ratings. The No. 2 seed, Arizona, actually rates slightly higher than Wisconsin; Arizona is also the only team ahead of Kentucky in any of the seven systems we track (Arizona rates slightly ahead of Kentucky in Sonny Moore’s power ratings.).Still, these are marginal differences. (Arizona’s composite power rating is 94.7 while Wisconsin’s is 94.1, which means that Arizona would be favored by less than a point on a neutral court.) So why does the model give Arizona a considerably better chance — 46 percent against Wisconsin’s 33 percent — of reaching the Final Four? Some of it has to do with each team’s Sweet 16 matchup. Wisconsin’s prospective opponent (No. 4 seed North Carolina) rates as being stronger than Arizona’s (No. 3 seed Baylor). But the geography also works in Arizona’s favor; the regional final will be played in Los Angeles.There’s not much depth in the West after the top four seeds. But one potential exception is the No. 10 seed, Ohio State, which is as strong as a typical No. 5 seed by the computer ratings even though Aaron Craft finally graduated.Villanova is the second-most-likely team to win the national championship. That’s a bit misleading; there’s a huge gap between Kentucky (41 percent) and Villanova (11 percent) and a tiny one between Villanova and the next-most-likely champions (Wisconsin and Arizona, at 10 percent each). Still, Villanova will benefit from being on the opposite side of the bracket from Kentucky, Wisconsin and Arizona. Villanova does have a tough No. 2 seed in the East region in the form of Virginia, but there aren’t a lot of easy outs among the No. 2 seeds this year.Virginia wasn’t done any favors by the committee, by contrast. No. 7 Michigan State, which knocked the Hoos out of the tournament last year, looms as their Round of 32 matchup. Like last year, MSU seems to have been underseeded, even before considering Tom Izzo’s history of postseason overachievement. Full disclosure: I’m from East Lansing.The East region also features an unusual circumstance: The University of Dayton will get to play on its home court in its “play-in” game against the other No. 11 seed, Boise State. This is part of why our model considers Dayton a 73 percent favorite in that game despite having only a slightly stronger power rating than the Broncos.Last up is the South, the most wide-open region this year. Even as a member in good standing of the Christian Laettner Hate Club — we’re automatically enrolled in East Lansing — I don’t mean to disparage No. 1 seed Duke. One can question whether Duke deserved a No. 1 ahead of Arizona and Virginia, but that’s because the No. 2 seeds are really good this year. Duke would be a No. 1 without much question in most recent tournaments.But the Blue Devils do potentially face a tough No. 2 of their own in Gonzaga. And they’ll have to win their Sweet 16 game to get there, where they may face No. 5 Utah, among the more underseeded teams in the tournament and a favorite against No. 4 Georgetown. The South also runs fairly deep: No. 8 San Diego State and No. 10 Davidson are tough outs, for instance.What about the much-maligned No. 11 seed, UCLA? Actually, our forecasts suggest that the committee did just fine with that choice: UCLA’s computer ratings are right in line with its seed.Either way, though, it probably won’t matter. Overall, this isn’t the best year for underdogs — the favorites are really something for a change.
OSU redshirt junior defensive linesman Tyquan Lewis (59) rushes towards the ball carrier along with the rest of the Buckeyes defense during a game against the Tulsa Hurricane on Sept.10. The Buckeyes won 48-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorWith three games down and nine to go, the Ohio State football team enters Big Ten play with a perfect record and a positive outlook for the rest of the season.The No. 2 Buckeyes bowled over then-No. 14 Oklahoma to round out nonconference play, 45-24. Although the Sooners were the first true test for the Buckeyes in 2016, conference play determines the validity of any top-ranked team and its chances of reaching the College Football Playoff.After enjoying a day off on Saturday, OSU has shifted focus to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and their head coach Chris Ash, former co-defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes under OSU coach Urban Meyer from 2014 to 2015.With a daunting Big Ten schedule ahead, the OSU is doing its best to focus on Rutgers without putting too much thought into the rest of the schedule before the game kicks off.“It’s so early right now and you better worry about the next game, the next practice, the next game, and not worry about anything else,” Meyer said. “That’s my concern is with all the added publicity, press conferences and everybody being told how good they are, that’s, I really worry about that.”Combined, the rest of the Big Ten excluding OSU has a record of 31-13 overall, with five undefeated teams. Of those five, the Buckeyes will be facing four of them. Even with the time off during the bye week and the implications of the rest of the season, the team is focused on the next matchup.“You come off this big road win and you get a week off. Not necessarily a week off, you get a Saturday off,” said OSU redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis. “You really get to sit back and watch. I know I watched a little film of myself and the other guys. You get to basically coach yourself and see what you need to do to get better.”Rutgers will present a familiar scheme to the Buckeyes, due to Ash’s involvement while he coached at OSU. When Greg Schiano arrived to coach the defense, there was much speculation as to how different the defensive approach would be.Redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley said the defensive schemes by Ash and Schiano are extremely similar. The only difference is the emphasis on attacking the ball and creating turnovers.In terms of the team mindset from the players, the beginning of the Big Ten schedule marks the time to buckle down for the rest of the season.“The Big Ten, that’s the real deal,” Worley said. “(There are) good teams in the Big Ten right now. One of the strongest conferences if not the strongest conference right now.”Last season, the Buckeyes were 7-1 in Big Ten play, dropping the second-to-last conference game to Michigan State 17-14. The Scarlet and Gray dropped from the top four, and ultimately missed out on the College Football Playoff, which they had won in the previous year. With a younger, more inexperienced team, the Buckeyes will need the same kind of success in the next nine games that the team enjoyed through the first three to prevent the same fate as last season. Starting out well has given OSU a positive attitude, but the practice and hard work is far from over for the Buckeyes.“It’s a great league for our players. It just builds confidence especially with a young football team. It builds some confidence but you don’t want it to be false confidence. And that’s where you come back and evaluate what you’ve done,” OSU running backs coach Tony Alford said about the skill of the Big Ten. “Yes, we have done some good things, but we can’t rest on that either. We’ve got a lot of improvement to go.”
Then-sophomore forward Zach Mason (7) dribbles the ball during a game against Northwestern on Oct. 20, 2013. OSU tied the Wildcats, 0-0, after two overtimes.Credit: Lantern file photoAfter seven overtime periods and three draws, the Ohio State men’s soccer team can finally stop fretting over grabbing its first win – just in time to face a familiar conference foe.“We’re not pleased that we have three draws, but we’re pleased that we don’t have three losses,” junior midfielder Zach Mason said. “Undefeated is always a good thing to have, obviously we want to start turning those (draws) into some wins, but getting one is the first step.”OSU is scheduled to open its conference slate Sunday against Northwestern after a week off.The Buckeyes (1-0-3) defeated Elon 1-0 in Wilmington, N.C., last Sunday to seal that first victory. Junior forward Joao Ehlers, playing in just his second game for the Scarlet and Gray after dealing with a groin injury before the season, dropped in the golden goal early in the first overtime period to deliver the victory. The Brazilian transferred to OSU from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., prior to the season.“It was an amazing play by my teammates, we always work together,” Ehlers said.He was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week Tuesday for his efforts.“I had the opportunity to finish close to the goal and I got lucky; the ball went through the net.”Fresh off their first victory, the Buckeyes are set to face a team they’ve had little success against in recent years.OSU has not beaten Northwestern since the 2007 season, although the two teams did battle to a scoreless draw in Columbus last year.“You play the conference foes every year, so you’re familiar with their players, we know some of their strengths and weaknesses,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “It is pretty easy to prepare for conference teams because you are very familiar with them.”Conference play has certainly shown it can be a major struggle for Bluem and the Buckeyes despite the familiarity between schools. The team went 1-3-2 against its conference opponents last season, including a 2-0 loss to Michigan State in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.“It’s always the most important time of the year, because doing well in the Big Ten really sets your benchmark for the year,” Mason said. “If we can start off with a win, it will make a statement. We haven’t been that successful in the Big Ten the last few years, but it’s a new year, and I think we’re ready to get in the top tier of the Big Ten.”It has been a busy start to the season for OSU. The team has begun the season with a pair of two-game weekend tournaments. If that’s not enough, it has yet to finish a game in regulation time.“We’re really tired and beat up right now,” Bluem said. “It’s been a long preseason, it’s been a tough couple weekends playing Friday-Sunday-Friday-Sunday like that, so this is a good time right now to have a week to prepare for Northwestern.”The Wildcats (2-0-2) are led by a stifling defense that has only allowed one goal in their four games this season. Senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller set a school record with his 30th career shutout in Northwestern’s scoreless draw against California State University, Fullerton on Sunday.The Buckeyes’ Big Ten opener against the Wildcats is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A hormone commonly found in contraceptive pills may protect women from the worst effects of flu and help repair lungs damaged by the illness, a new study reveals.Trials of progesterone, which is present in most forms of hormone-based birth control, appeared to stave off the worst effects of influenza in female mice.The unexpected finding by scientists at Johns Hopkins University indicates that the sex hormone may have an effect far beyond the reproductive system and may one day offer a viable flu treatment.Women of reproductive age are twice as likely as men to suffer from complications related to the flu virus. When women go on birth control, they don’t generally think about the health implications beyond stopping ovulationDr Sabra Klein, Johns Hopkins University The researchers are now calling for further investigations to establish whether women taking progesterone-based contraception, of whom there are an estimated 100 million worldwide, are enjoying unexpected protection from flu while on the pillDr Sabra Klein, who lead the study, which is published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, said: “Understanding the role that progesterone appears to play in repairing lung cells could really be important for women’s health.“When women go on birth control, they don’t generally think about the health implications beyond stopping ovulation and it’s important to consider them.“Despite the staggering number of women who take this kind of birth control, very few studies are out there that evaluate the impact of contraceptives on how the body responds to infections beyond sexually transmitted diseases,” she added.The research team infected a cohort of mice with an influenza A virus, some of which had been implanted with progesterone and some not.Both sets of mice became ill, but those which had the implants suffered less pulmonary inflammation, better lung function and saw the damage to their lung cells repaired more quickly.The study found that progesterone was protective against the more serious effects of the flu by increasing the production of a protein called amphiregulin by the cells lining the lungs.When the researchers bred mice that were depleted of amphiregulin, the protective effects of progesterone disappeared as well.Dr Klein said she was not surprised progesterone lessened the inflammation and damage associated with the flu, but that she had not expected the hormone to help repair lung cells as well.When female mice, and probably humans, get sick with flu their natural levels of progesterone fall.But women non hormonal contraceptives get a steadier level of progesterone which overrides what the ovaries make naturally or what the virus takes away during infection.
Bennell, who lives in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, had been taken to hospital on Friday after being found unconscious at a hotel.He had been the youth coach at Crewe Alexandra but also had links to a number of other professional clubs including Manchester City and Stoke City.A CPS spokesman said: “On 27 September 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service received a file of evidence from Cheshire Police relating to allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse involving a former football coach, Barry Bennell.“Following a review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, Mr Bennell, 62, has today been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14.“The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Bennell will now begin and that he has a right to a fair trial.“It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”Bennell has been charged with five counts of indecent assault against the boy; two charges of inciting the same boy to commit and act of gross indecency; and one charge of assault with intent to commit buggery.The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1981 and 1985.Bennell is due to appear at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court on December 14. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Barry Bennell, a former football coach, has been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy.The Crown Prosecution Service announced that Bennell, 62, had been charged with historic child sexual abuse.The prosecutors said they had received a file of evidence against Bennell in September and now decided he should be charged with eight offences against a boy who was under 14 at the time of the alleged assaults. Barry Bennell was a youth coach at Crewe AlexandraCredit:PA Wire
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A mystery diner at an Indian restaurant in Northern Ireland left staff gobsmacked when he left a huge tip as a reward for “excellent food”.Stunned staff at the Indian Tree restaurant in Portadown were left a £1,000 tip on top of a bill for just £79, according to the Portadown Times.Chef Babu (Shabbir Satter) cooked the food for the family of five, with owner of the business Luna Ekush praising his “hard work”.“It is a very simple thing to express gratitude, but this has had such a big impact. We are still in shock,” she explained, the BBC reports. “All the staff working that night will split the money as the customer said it was for everyone. I don’t think anyone at the restaurant has ever received such a massive tip, I definitely have not.“I want to thank Babu for his hard work; all credit for the food must go to him.”She added the mystery man was a regular at the restaurant, but would be keeping his identity a secret. Last year, this diner left a hateful note for a shocked waitress instead of a tip. While this woman battling cancer was stunned by a diner’s amazing act of kindness.
Kate wore an outfit by Luisa SpagnoliCredit: Ian Vogler The engagement is part of a series of events the Duke and Duchess are undertaking – many with Prince Harry – to promote the royal trio’s Heads Together mental health campaign.Heads Together is a umbrella organisation – with Place2Be a member – that aims to change the national conversation around psychological issues to a positive one. The Duchess of Cambridge has said she wants to teach her children the importance of respect, honesty and kindness.Kate said making Prince George, the future King, and his sister Princess Charlotte aware of the value of these qualities was just as important as academic or sporting success.The Duchess’s comments came as she celebrated pupils with the “K factor”, or kindness factor, during a visit to Mitchell Brook Primary in north-west London with her husband the Duke for the launch of Children’s Mental Health Week.The annual event – which this year has the theme Spread A Little Kindness – is an initiative founded by the mental health charity Place2Be, which has Kate as royal patron, and runs counselling sessions at Mitchell Brook in Neasden. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sit down on a “kindness bench” as they celebrate the efforts of school children with the “K factor”Credit:Ian Vogler/PA Wire Kate, who wore an outfit by Luisa Spagnoli, said: “My parents taught me about the importance of qualities like kindness, respect, and honesty, and I realise how central values like these have been to me throughout my life.”That is why William and I want to teach our little children George and Charlotte just how important these things are as they grow up.”In my view it is just as important as excelling at maths or sport.” The Duchess of Cambridge arrives at the Mitchell Brook Primary School, north London, where she and her husband are attending the Place2Be Big Assembly with Heads Together for Children’s Mental Health Week.Credit: PA Wire/PA Images/John Stillwell Speaking during a special school assembly where those with the K factor were recognised, the Duchess added: “People often ask me why I am so interested in the mental health of children and young people.”The answer is quite simple – it is because I think that every child should have the best possible start in life.”When I was growing up I was very lucky. My family was the most important thing to me.”They provided me with somewhere safe to grow and learn, and I know I was fortunate not to have been confronted by serious adversity at a young age.” At the weekend, Kate, William and Harry competed in a relay race at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, where they joined around 150 London marathon competitors who are fundraising for the eight Heads Together charity partners or the campaign itself. Among the competitors was The Telegraph’s Bryony Gordon, who shared a warm moment with Prince Harry when she was discussing the challenges of mental ill health with news reader Sian Williams. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Patients were given a drug which encourages stem cells to move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, where they were removed from the body.High-dose chemotherapy was then administered to kill all immune cells, before the patient’s own stem cells were put back into the body to “reset” the immune system.Nearly three in four (73 per cent) patients with relapsing MS – where the disease flares up before symptoms improve – found their symptoms did not worsen for five years after having AHSCT, compared with one in three patients with progressive MS, the more severe variant of the disease. We previously knew this treatment reboots or resets the immune system but we didn’t know how long the benefits lastedDr Paolo Muraro, Imperial College London The disease is caused by the immune system malfunctioning and mistakenly attacking nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.It leads to problems with movement, vision, balance and speech.The treatment, autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT), was given to patients with advanced forms of the disease who had failed to respond to other medications.A similar approach has been trialed on people with certain forms of cancer, with encouraging early results.Dr Paolo Muraro, the new study’s lead author, said: “We previously knew this treatment reboots or resets the immune system but we didn’t know how long the benefits lasted.”In this study, which is the largest long-term follow-up study of this procedure, we’ve shown we can ‘freeze’ a patient’s disease – and stop it from becoming worse, for up to five years.”The researchers noted, however, that the nature of the treatment, which involves aggressive chemotherapy, carried “significant risks”.The chemotherapy deactivates the immune system for a short period of time, which can lead to greater risk of infection – of the 281 patients who received AHSCT, eight died in the 100 days after treatment.The treatment works by destroying the immune cells responsible for attacking the nervous system. A multiple sclerosis treatment which “resets” the immune system has been found to “freeze” progression of the disease in nearly half of patients, according to scientists.A study led by Imperial College London found that 46 per cent of patients who underwent the treatment did not suffer a worsening of their condition for five years.The treatment could give hope to the estimated 100,000 people in the UK who are affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), for which there is currently no cure. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Brendan Cox, the MP’s husband, said his wife’s killing “aimed to divide communities but has instead brought them together”.He added: “Her killing by a far-right extremist shocked the country and unleashed a wave of compassion and kindness that has comforted us ever since and for which we are extremely grateful.“At a time when extremists of all types are trying to divide our communities there is a huge ground swell of people who just want to focus on the things that unite us, who want to draw closer to their neighbours and communities. Mr Cox said he was “awed by the scale of the reaction” to The Great Together.“We hope these events give us all a moment – as Jo talked about in her maiden speech – to focus on the things we have in common,” he said.“I also hope they are fun, full of energy and laughter. That’s what Jo would have wanted.”What else is going on?Yorkshire’s two regional TV news programmes will put aside 50 years of rivalry when they broadcast jointly for the initiative. The editors of The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph have also published an opinion piece under a joint byline to support The Great Get Together.People taking part have also been sharing photos using the hashtag #moreincommon Yes – anyone can take part and it’s still not too late to register your interest online in The Great Get Together.“Arrange something with your neighbours, find an event taking place near you or join in online. Whatever you decide, you’ll be part of a huge national celebration,” organisers say. #JoCox as I’ll always remember her; smiling. Thinking of @MrBrendanCox & all Jo’s family today. Hoping everyone will enjoy @great_together pic.twitter.com/N1mwG6eWeq— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) June 16, 2017 People all across the UK will come together to enjoy picnics, street parties and concerts for The Great Get Together, marking the first anniversary of her death.Mrs Cox’s constituency will be the focal point of the event, with schoolchildren taking part in special assemblies, the renaming of a conference centre in Mrs Cox’s honour, moments of reflection in Birstall, where she was killed, and church services.You can search for your nearest event online.Can anyone take part? The Great Get Together, described as “the biggest neighbourhood celebrations since the Jubilee street parties”, will run from 16 – 18 June.Where is it? Mrs Cox’s family and friends came up with the initiative.“We believe there is a groundswell of people who reject divisive politics and simply want to bring our communities together and celebrate all that unites us. This is our chance,” they say.“As the Prime Minister said, when she remarked on Jo’s death in her New Year’s message: 2017 represents an opportunity to move forward and ‘bring this country together, as never before’.”What has the reaction been? #JoCox as I’ll always remember her; smiling. Thinking of @MrBrendanCox & all Jo’s family today. Hoping everyone will enjoy @great_together pic.twitter.com/N1mwG6eWeq— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) June 16, 2017 Brendan Cox, widower of murdered MP Jo CoxCredit:PA “We’re inviting people to get together with their neighbours to share food and celebrate all that we hold in common.“It could be a street party or a shared barbecue, a picnic or a bake off. What matters is that we have fun and bring communities closer together.”The organisers said they expect people to take part “for many different reasons”.Inspired by Jo Cox Tomorrow thousands of schools will be holding assemblies& Great Get Togethers – focussing on the things that bind us together. #moreincommon https://t.co/be20Z7ha1X— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) June 15, 2017 “I think people are sick of the narrative of hatred and division that neither represents who they are nor our great country.” What is The Great Get Together?The Great Get Together is inspired by Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was shot and stabbed to death in her Batley and Spen constituency, in Yorkshire, on June 16 last year. Jo Cox on her wedding day Credit:The Jo Cox foundation Neighbourhood celebrations are taking place up and down the country to bring communities together, with more than 110,000 events organised.When is it? The Horror of what unfolded a year ago will live with me forever. Thinking of my brilliant, talented & wonderful friend #JoCox #MoreInCommon— Chris Elmore MP (@CPJElmore) June 16, 2017 Exactly a year ago, Jo Cox was killed. Today let’s keep her words alive. A powerful way you can help is by sharing Jo’s words #MoreInCommon pic.twitter.com/rA4rGA26L0— Great Get Together (@great_together) June 16, 2017 Today, as we remember Jo Cox, her work, her life, & legacy, let’s remember that we do, & always will, have #MoreInCommon pic.twitter.com/pXLj09ujyY— Steven Atkins (@StevenAtkinsUK) June 16, 2017 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.