Solving the Sports Concussion Crisis

Concussion and sports injury has been a major news story this past year — and deservedly, so. Each week we hear about professional athletes as well as young grammar and high school athletes sustaining life-changing brain injuries due to hits on the field. We witness them each time we watch professional sports. Each time I watch a football or hockey game and see players sustain high impact blows to the head, I cringe. I cringe even more when I’ve seen them go right back into the game. After listening to a presentation by Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute this past spring, I became even more acutely aware of the dangers to our children who innocently want to emulate their heroes on the playing fields no matter what the sport — football, soccer, basketball, etc. Chris showed a film clip of two little guys playing football and “head-butting”. Can you imagine what’s going on in their delicate brains? Just watching the weak neck movements, I could just imagine how their brains are rolling around and twisting inside their skulls. No, they may not get knocked-out; nor lose consciousness, but something is definitely happening. What will the long term and cumulative effects be?

Sports concussion is not something new and the NFL has certainly been aware of it for a long time. Because of advances in the field of science and brain injury, as well as the passionate and persistent efforts of people like Chris Nowinski and the Brain Injury Association of America and its affiliates, including the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, we know so much more about what’s happening to these athletes and how to prevent these injuries, especially in our younger athletes. Their efforts have educated others and attracted the support of the NFL. Last night on a local Chicago television newscast, some football players were lamenting the new NFL concussion guidelines and rules saying, it’s the “suits” that are doing this to us, and “next thing you know they’ll be making us carry flags.” While I understand their point, I realize that there needs to be so much more education and mind-changing in this area. Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but as someone recently pointed out to me, “they signed up for that kind of play and that’s why they’re paid the big bucks!” I think if they knew what was really happening inside their heads and they understood the long-term effects, the “big bucks” might not mean as much to them.

While the NFL has really stepped it up thanks to the persistence of Chris Nowinski and the above-mentioned organizations and others, I’m really gratified with the efforts to educate our kids, parents, and coaches. We have a long way to go — especially to change the culture of athletics. Our kids are worth it, aren’t they?

There is still time to join the Brain Injury Association of Illinois this Saturday, October 23rd at the Drury Lane Conference Center in Oak Brook for our “SPORTS CONCUSSION CLINIC” sponsored by Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton. Our guest keynote speaker is Chris Nowinski, Sports Legacy Institute, presenting, “Solving the Sports Concussion Crisis”. The event is from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Other featured speakers are Dr. Patrick Walsh of the Sports Concussion Program at Marianjoy and Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, Head Injury/Concussion specialist for the Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks and Northwestern’s football team. They will be speaking on “When Is It Safe To Return to Play?”.

For further information, give me a call at 708-945-8360. You may also register at the door that morning. If you have kids in sports, or who play on playgrounds, if you coach kids or just want to know more about this important topic, please consider attending.