Sports and recreational activities undeniably foster good health, character and priceless life lessons. Unfortunately today’s “let’s-dominate-at-all-costs” culture overrides awareness of potential brain damage, often to the point of denial. Whether it is getting back into the game too early or not communicating sufficiently after a severe hit, denying the potential of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) can be dangerous.
Additionally, if you look around most training rooms for teams from youth leagues to professional organizations, there is one glaring absence. These training and exercise rooms focus on the strengthening and the repairing body parts below the chin—nothing above the chin, where our most valuable body part is.
We are all aware of when athletes “get their bells rung.” But the way we deal with this is a result of over fifty years influenced by the toughness “play-through-the- pain” mentality.
You’ve heard it: “Ah, I just got my bell rung…I will be ok”. By simply accepting that the symptoms will go away, we deny the potential lasting effects of a brain injury. Just because you can’t immediately recognize them, doesn’t mean they are absent or will not resurface. Can you imagine them playing with a visible broken leg or ankle? Certainly not, and the brain is no different.
The Next Step
Most parents, coaches and athletes are focused on one result: the team and the win. There is nothing wrong with working hard and making the team, whether it is for a youth traveling team or a top-rated college team. Some may even make a living as an Olympian or professional athlete.
This drive to succeed is fantastic. Unfortunately, this focus has often left today’s sports culture blind to the long-term effects of brain injuries. With effort, we can comfortably position awareness for brain injury and recovery to protect you or a loved one.