Public schools

You Really Won't Believe This University Study Alleging Chocolate Milk Mitigates Concussions. And You Shouldn't.

Product placement masquerading as science



Ah, chocolate milk: a beloved beverage for children, occasional treat for adults, and brain supplement that improves the cognitive functions of concussion victims. That's according to extremely dubious research produced by the University of Maryland, which shamefully touted the results in a press release that sounds like an advertisement, not just for chocolate milk, but for a specific brand: "Fifth Quarter Fresh."

If you wish to continue living under the delusion that public universities are serious places engaged in vital scientific research, read no further.

The study involved some 474 high school football players: half the group was given Fifth Quarter Fresh on a regular basis—"sometimes six days a week"—and the other half was not. According to the research, which was spearheaded by Kinesiology Professor Jae Kun Shim, "Both non-concussed and concussed groups showed positive effects from the chocolate milk."

Now don't go rushing off to the dairy mart so quickly: the study was never peer reviewed, and is not technically published at this point. It's also not quite clear whether Fifth Quarter Fresh played some role in the funding or research process. According to the press release, the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program provided the funding, but I don't kow what that combination of words indicates. I reached out to Jae Kun Shim for clarification, but did not immediately get a response.

The press release certainly reads like an advertisement for Fifth Quarter Fresh:

Officials in Washington County, Md., home to all seven high schools participating in the study, are now considering the broad adoption of Fifth Quarter Fresh in sports programs throughout its school system.

"There is nothing more important than protecting our student-athletes," said Clayton Wilcox, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools. "Now that we understand the findings of this study, we are determined to provide Fifth Quarter Fresh to all of our athletes."

Earlier this year, UMD released the preliminary results of a study showing that Fifth Quarter Fresh outperformed leading commercial workout recovery drinks for endurance recovery by 13-17 percent.

It doesn't sound like anybody's tax dollars were wasted on this project, at least. But it's a little disturbing to see a public university promoting under-scrutinized research that so obviously serves a private, corporate interest. In fact, it's udder-ly ridiculous. (Sorry, I have to milk this for all its worth.)