Concussions have gained so much attention that the news is almost inundated with story-after-story of occurrences, recovery, litigation and people trying to mitigate the injury. There seems to be a shortage of press clipping and stories on how to handle this injury. More often I have witnessed stories downplaying the injury or the oft cited “Heads Up Football“.
The former, downplaying the injury itself, is not a good thing it is exactly what put us in the spot we are in now. Patrick Hruby also took note of this while reading an article from Andrew Wagaman in the Missourian;
Still, when it comes to the single most head-scratching public statement I’ve seen regarding brain trauma and football, University of Missouri neuropsychologist Thomas Martin takes the pole position. Hands-down. In a piece about youth football and cognitive risks published this week in the Columbia Missourian, Martin compares brain damage to … knee injuries[…]
This blew my mind. I had to read it twice. And then a half-dozen more times. It still blows my mind as I’m typing this. Here’s why people react differently to brain and knee injuries, and why football is in a world of potential trouble: because the potential harm resulting from a brain injury is nothing like that resulting from a knee injury.
If you read Hruby’s article you will see he makes a strong case for this analogy being utterly false; most important point to underscore is that a knee can be fixed and a brain cannot. Certainly living with knee issues is rough, but nothing compared to living with brain trauma. I have had both issues and I would take the knee problems any and every day of the week over concussion.
However, we can handle concussions in such a manner that one day they will be nothing more than a simple sports injury. In fact, we are very close to that day (closer than we were two years ago by my summation). I do think that the assertions of Dr. Martin would fit in recovery of a concussion. If we started viewing the concussion recovery similar to a knee injury recovery we might actually gain headway. If you sprain your MCL you are out 2-6 weeks depending on severity, if you disrupt your ACL one is looking at 6-12 months, meniscus repair 4-6 weeks, you get the point.
Changing our attitudes and expectations of concussion along with delving into proper management techniques – yet to be determined – will go a long way in this battle of concussions. Certainly those that are looking at ways to mitigate the injury are not wrong, but trying to eliminate the injury – which is impossible in sport and life as we currently know it – may be as effective as trying to install a screen door on a submarine.
Accept that concussions will occur, find ways to lessen the exposure, reduce the subconcussive incidences, figure out a methodological recovery/rehab process for when it happens and educate all regarding this injury is the only way this author can see this problem moving into an acceptable paradigm.