Nick Mercer: Heading the blame away from goal

“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” – Gary Lineker

Sunday’s game was scoreless into the 112th minute, but still an exciting one with an attacking, offensive mindset for both teams. That said, I am not writing this post to give an unqualified analysis of the final. I am not even analyzing FIFA’s approach to concussions. Everyone who watched saw Christoph Kramer collapse after colliding with Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder. This was a particularly nasty collision, but by no means the only, or even most, blatant example of brain injury in this World Cup. Not a week before, Argentina midfielder, Javier Mascherano also received a decidedly hard blow to the head after colliding with Dutch midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum. Then there’s Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira who was actually knocked out before continuing to play!

Another incident caught my attention in Sunday’s final when Germany’s Thomas Müller banged heads with an Argentine defender as they both attempted to head the ball. The defender (I don’t know who it was) was down for a while after they collided and Müller was reaching for his head. Nevertheless, as is now customary, both continued to play.

Blame seems ridiculous, since it can rationally be shifted around in a never-ending circle. It’s pointless for the same reasons. Yes, teams and doctors could do more. Yes, FIFA could write new rules. Yes, players should be taught the dangers of continuing to play. They should be taught this from a young age. The blame goes to ‘them’ and ‘they’, but what about ‘us’?

Personally, I enjoy watching football (or soccer, as we North Americans say), but I watch very little, especially compared to harder hitting American football – where men in full body armour slam into each other and brain injury seemingly occurs every play. Hockey is the same; full body armour, collisions, brain injury. People seem to forget what protection all of the padding provides. When two athletes collide without padding it hurts a lot more (that’s why padding is used) and it hurts both individuals. It also means that in rugby or Aussie Rules Football, where such padding isn’t used, there is a tendency more toward technique, not trying to lay the opponent out every play, because a hard collision is a hard collision for both athletes. But I digress.

Injury in sports and life will happen. Brain injury in sports and life will happen. It’s not about how brain injury is dealt with in sports, it’s about how it’s dealt with in life. Pressure is placed on governing bodies like FIFA, the NFL, the NHL to do something. As the top bodies of their respective sports, they set standards to strive for. Consequences don’t start and end there. The onus is on the rest of us to be aware and learn.

Nick Mercer: Adjustment/Accomplishment

Nick wrote two quick takes on his experiences with TBI recovery and where he stands, currently.  Here they are presented in one post.  We would like to thank Nick for continuing to post from a unique perspective and appreciate the work he has done for us.


Adjusting is not quitting.

I finished my Pilates teacher training in Toronto last Sunday – thank you Body Harmonics! I’m feeling great and have confidence that I will be a good and effective teacher. It’s due to the outstanding instruction I’ve gotten from Sarah Stoker at Pony Locale here in St. John’s and the amazing teacher training from Larisa Makuch and Margot McKinnon at Body Harmonics. The excellence of the instruction I’ve received notwithstanding, I’m happy and confident because Pilates suits me. It fits well with my personality and where I am currently; in life, location, and in the time since my brain injury. Pilates wasn’t even in my mind 5 years ago and if you had asked me about taking on Pilates before my brain injury, I wouldn’t have been interested. I am now though. Very interested. And happy and confident too.

I didn’t write this post to talk about Pilates, but about change, about adjustment after, in my case, a very serious brain injury. It’s about having an open mind and knowing that just because adjustment is tough, especially at a challenging point in your life, it doesn’t mean trying something new is a waste of time. Just the opposite actually. While having an unwanted challenge thrown at you can be tough, a challenge you give yourself can be exhilarating! It doesn’t even have to mean a drastic change in your mindset, just a different activity. Before my brain injury, playing water polo and cycling were activities from which I got a lot of enjoyment. I would still love to play a game of water polo like I used to. I would still love to hop on a bike and just ride all day. That doesn’t happen anymore, but, after finally listening to my sister, with encouragement from physios, I decided to try something that keeps me motivated, interested, and looking to improve. Maybe it was something you used to do, but ‘life got in the way’ and you stopped. Maybe it’s something you do every day and would like to know more about. Or maybe it’s something that has never even crossed your mind.

There are aggravating and depressing times while recovering, but those times don’t need to last forever. Instead of refusing yourself of any happiness until you recover all of the abilities you think you have lost, embrace the opportunity to try something different. Whatever that is.


I’ve received some very nice and intriguing comments about my last post and they led me to write more about the idea of adjusting.

In essence, it’s life. Life is one long adjustment, with a bunch of intermittent adjustments thrown in. I wrote my last post, initially with the idea of talking to brain injury survivors. The more I wrote and gave my views, the more I realized that it applied to everyone who has had to deal with an unintentional life-changing event. Then, after my post (post-post), some comments got me thinking of who else may be able to relate and then thought “everyone”.

Graduation (from high school, college, or university) is an adjustment. A new job is an adjustment. Having kids is an adjustment. Retiring is an adjustment. These are simply easy ones to name, “big” ones. They all get more challenging the less prepared you are for it. For example, graduation is an event you see coming and it’s achieved with intention. It’s viewed as a good thing. An accomplishment. All of those events, when approached with intention and preparation are what we view as accomplishments. Intention and preparation.

Those two important elements are generally lacking when an accident happens and we’re forced to make an adjustment. Although making adjustments are what life’s all about, and although life is viewed as a good thing, ‘adjustment’ has a negative connotation. People are “forced to make adjustments” and even when given a positive spin, it’s with a qualifier – “a good adjustment”, “the correct adjustment”.

Since adjustments are such an essential and ever-present part of life, viewing them negatively goes against the whole notion of life being good. Embracing the idea of adjustment, that adjustment makes life more interesting (whether due to a “good” or “bad” event), gives a new look to challenges.

It’s not about ‘making the best of a bad situation’, it’s simply about adjusting.

Nick Mercer: Recovery is in the Eye of the Beholder

For those new to the blog, Nick Mercer is our only “staff” writer here at The Concussion Blog.  He provides a great layman’s perspective; one from a person recovering from a traumatic brain injury.  If you want to know why he does this – for us and himself – you can read THIS POST.  Thanks Nick for your time and content!


In recent years, my “recovery” (more on why that word is in quotes later) seems to have gained steam and I’ve noticed more improvement, even though the accident that caused my brain injury occurred over ten years ago. I’m sure there are many physiological and neurological reasons why improvements would take this long, then again, maybe I haven’t improved that much neurologically or physiologically, maybe I just feel better in general and in my attitude toward “recovery”.

For the first nine or so years, I was focusing on trying to fix problems – I wasn’t able to do this or that, I was tired, my vision was messed up – problems that no matter how much I tried to fix, I could always improve upon, so I was reaching for a goal that couldn’t be touched. That kept me going, kept me striving. It also put me in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. There were times, of course, when I was depressed, but there were also times when I was happy. Happy, but dissatisfied.

All the while, I was pushing myself physically, in the pool, the gym, walking to and from work. I was also pushing myself mentally, through work, and through reading a lot, especially non-fiction books. My sister had told me for years that I should try Pilates, that she thought it would be good for me. I always had some excuse Continue reading

Just keep at it

Eleven years ago my balance and mobility were better than good. My health was better than good. Ten years and seven months ago, I was a long way away from feeling anything remotely close to good about my balance and my mobility, or about my health at all. That was a drastic turn, and it sucked, but it happened. I can’t pretend it didn’t. Well, I could pretend, but what good would that do?

Since most people’s introduction and familiarity with rehabilitation is through movies and TV, it’s important to reiterate that it’s a gradual process. It doesn’t just happen one day that everything clicks and all of a sudden life’s back to normal. Hard work is also not the secret. It’s essential for improvement, especially continuous improvement, but it doesn’t guarantee it. It happened for me. I’ve worked hard and I’ve improved, but by no means am I back to normal. It certainly doesn’t mean that someone, whose condition doesn’t improve, didn’t work hard. I know of countless examples. Movies and TV have to fit a story into an allotted time. If a book is too long nobody will read it. So, most of what people know about rehabilitation is a very Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Change is Not the Enemy

Why have a blog if I’m not going to write? Why write if I’ve got nothing to write about? Why write about anything if I’ve got nothing to say?

That personal interview has been running through my head for the past several weeks and it pretty much sums up my reasons for not writing much recently, but I’ve found something to talk about…

Every day there is news about brain injury; prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. That said, the stories that make it to the wider media are usually sad stories of lives being completely and negatively altered, the occasional story of recovery and how, with some changes, the individual does what he or she always did, and ominous warnings of the perpetual threat of head trauma. Almost every story about brain injury laments the change that has taken place in the life of the brain injured individual and their friends and family. After reading stories like these it is often forgotten that even in the best of times, everybody’s life changes. That’s a very basic and simple fact. The degree to which, and how, life changes differs. Drastic change sometimes happens, but it’s not always a bad thing, even though it may start looking that way. If my family and friends weren’t so awesome and accepting of change, I would probably never be happy.

Acceptance is not a synonym for quitting or giving up. In fact, in difficult situations, Continue reading

That Time of Year Again

The NFL season starts on September 5 and you can be sure that soon all of the talk about brain injuries will focus on football; how do we make the game safer for the athletes, but still keep it the game that fans love (and will pay to watch)? Then there’ll be talk about the culture of the game and how it’s taught and coached at the youth level. Those questions, and other iterations of those themes, will be explored in the U.S. – definitely watch FRONTLINE: “League of Denial” – and maybe a bit in Canada, but the discussion won’t really get going in Canada until the NHL starts again. So from September to April (maybe June), national/international focus on brain injury is sifted through the major sports screen. In those 8-10 months, it’s sports, and virtually sports alone, that drive the discussion on brain injury. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that people are talking about it, but if brain injury seems to only happen to pro athletes with the very best in medical services to help them recover and the most pressing issue is how soon they can get back on the field or ice , then instead of increasing awareness of a serious injury, these discussions lessen the seriousness and the effect of these injuries to most people who are not privy to those medical services and who will likely need more than a few days or weeks to recover.

In my last post, Continue reading

Nick Mercer: A Story “like that of so many others.”

Benjamin Gray , 18, was a defenceman for the J.L. Ilsley Judges – a high school hockey team from West Pennant, Nova Scotia (about 20 km from Halifax). By grade 12, he had sustained three concussions from playing high school hockey and, after taking time away from school and after his rage boiled over one day in August, his family took him to a specialist who told him not to play contact sports again. “I never felt healthy. There was just too much anxiety, depression and definitely anger problems.” The full story, written by Monty Mosher, is here: ‘A ticking time bomb’ 

Benjamin, hoping to help others in similar situations, wrote a letter discussing his experiences. Unfortunately, it is a story to which too many can relate. I urge young athletes, parents, educators, coaches and league administrators to read this letter and know that it was written by someone who is only 18:

I started playing hockey when I was 6 years old. I was dedicated, motivated and passionate about this sport and I trained hard at being the best player I could be. I never imagined that I would one day be told by a neurosurgeon that I could never play hockey again. At the age of 18, I was diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome as a result of three concussions I had sustained while playing high school hockey. To say that this news was devastating and that it has impacted my life would be an understatement. My story, as I am learning, is like that of so many others.

By the time I had my third concussion, I was not allowed to play hockey for 6 weeks. I knew the only way to get my family doctor Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Why we continue to see players play

Nick submitted this article prior to the Bryce Harper wall escapade but it would certainly fall into this opinion piece.

While I didn’t intend to write a post about brain injury in sport, I was inspired to write it based on some events in the NHL playoffs.  Since it’s not my point to dissect the danger of the two hits, I won’t spend much time on them. In fact, I’ll just share the links to the Gryba hit on Eller and the Abdelkader hit on Lydman. Seriously, whether I think either of those hits was clean or delivered with malicious intent is not, in any way, the basis or inspiration for this post. What is, is the idea that we – the North American contact sports-loving public – have all but abdicated our right to a free conscience. Whether either hitter was deserving of the suspension they have subsequently received, depends not on the hit they delivered, but on which team you cheer for (or against), or whether or not you like seeing big hits in hockey. It has nothing to do with what happened.

Some people don’t like where the NHL or NFL are heading; the frequency with which penalties are called when a player hits anywhere near an opposing player’s head. I don’t think that either of these two leagues, NHL and NFL, understand the concept of risk and reward. Hard hitting contact sports are so popular because they exhibit risk in a raw form. That’s probably why some/many of the athletes who make it to the highest levels get into the types of trouble they do. We watch news about multi-millionaire athletes who crash Porsches or who get arrested, and we may think “why would someone with so much to lose risk so much?” However, the athletes actually made logical (that doesn’t necessarily mean good) decisions. They do what all of us do before making most decisions. They, however briefly, look at their risk/reward histories plus their confidence Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Spring’s on the way. Get moving

A while back I saw that Chris Nowinski tweeted this, study by researchers at the University of Buffalo about the benefits of exercise for people who’ve had a concussion, and I thought I’d post now. I was constantly told that my recovery from a severe brain injury (even though, by no means am I back to the way I was pre-injury) was due to my pre- and post- injury fitness. This is an issue I am passionate about and it seemed obvious to me throughout my immediate rehabilitation and continuing recovery/life after my brain injury that exercise and fitness are extremely important. It hasn’t solved my problems or made them go away, but it’s incredibly beneficial and allows me to deal with the effects/issues confidently.

I should know better than to write those four title words when we’re hardly clear of winter. So, first I will apologize in advance to the people of St. John’s. For all intents and purposes, I’ve just guaranteed another dumping of snow. In fairness to me, the title sounds good and I’m looking at a beautiful sunset out my window, so I couldn’t help but write with a tauntingly cheery attitude. Nevertheless, sorry, my bad.

It’s Sunday and the wind was really kicking up a fuss this morning. I, however, stayed safely inside and, although it was sunny and marginally warmer than it has been in a while, I had no need Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Impromptu Expectations

The thing about expectations is that they presume a certain course of events. In July 2003, I assumed that I would start my co-op job in Ottawa in September and I based my expectations for the coming years on that presumption – my previous post, Finding yourself after a brain injury. First step: Recon. Brain injuries themselves are unexpected, so you don’t know what presumptions to make that will allow you to generate expectations. You’re already starting off on the wrong foot. It’s not so much the issue of living up to, not meeting, or exceeding expectations, it’s more about the expectations themselves that I will write about.

After considering a patient’s health/medical history, age, other essential factors and the severity of most injuries, conditions, or diseases, doctors can only base their ultimate prognosis on probabilities. This is where expectations begin to go awry. Not to get into statistics or anything, but if the probability of surviving a coma of a certain length and severity is low, it’s because it hasn’t happened very much, therefore there will be few cases upon which to build expectations. The fewer cases, the fewer reliable prognoses can be made, hence few, if any expectations.

Those are for others to make. The most important expectations are the ones you make for yourself. I had been making those ever since
I can remember. When I was a kid and used to catch insects, I had Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Finding yourself after a brain injury, first step – Recon

As has been said countless times in countless articles about brain injury, “every brain injury is different”. I don’t know and don’t care to know how many times I’ve heard or read it. That phrase is used primarily for the benefit the general public to explain or define a lasting injury about which little is known. Although geared towards people who have – seemingly – little or no experience with brain injury, the statement should still be understood as fully as possible by those of use who have such experience.

In 2003, until making a hard and fast right turn on my bike on a hill in Victoria, BC, I had every intention of completing my upcoming 8 month MPA work term with the Auditor General in Ottawa, and while there, continuing to ride my bike and join a local water polo club. When I finished my MPA I would work somewhere for a few years, then, hopefully, pursue a PhD.  The next morning, all that changed. Two weeks later, when I woke from my coma, I was a different person. Not completely different – I was lucky – but different enough that I had to change my plans for my future.

My focus wouldn’t be on finding an apartment in Ottawa or impressing my Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Bubble Times – Is it going to pop?

Continuing with my analogy from my last post, “Brain injuries and pro contact sports: Bubble times” , in which I compared the concussion issue in pro sports with the financial crisis, I thought I’d try to complete the comparison without, hopefully, forecasting the end of contact sports, notably the NFL and football in general.

In my previous post I said that fans, teams, and leagues play the same role in the concussion issue as the banks/financial institutions did in the recent financial crisis; interested only in their short-term benefit, making them unintentionally complicit in the looming collapse. Players are like the borrowers; they want to play the sport they love and make lots of money doing it. Consequences be damned. Just like people wanted to buy houses and a bunch of other stuff, not thinking, wishing away the potentially negative long-term consequences. It’s about the looming collapse that I will write.

Since my last post, I have listened to Malcolm Gladwell talk about the undesirable, yet inevitable decline of football. Then I read an article on the Oxford University Press blog Why football cannot last’ discussing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – a neurological disorder resulting from repetitive blows to the head. It got me thinking about the optimism shown at the end of my last post – had I not considered the situation fully? Was it simply wishful thinking?

Gladwell makes a convincing case Continue reading

Brain injuries and pro contact sports: Bubble times

As much as I can, I read about and watch professional contact sports. I also read, and have read, a lot about the financial crisis; more specifically, what led to it. Naturally, since I was brain injured in 2003, I have become very interested in brain injury. Hence this blog.  I have also taken a bigger picture view of almost everything and, influenced by many books I’ve read, notably Collapse by Jared Diamond, I’ve been noticing similarities between different situations and events in society. Not connections or links. Similarities in our perception. They make sense to me – that’s why I thought of them. They’re not perfect or identical, they’re similar, the theme is the same. I see the same prevailing theme in the lead up to the financial crisis as we have seen in the current concussion/brain injury issue in professional contact sports.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve picked two themes that I think run through both situations; “arrogance” and “wishful thinking”. It was arrogance on the part of banks who thought they could make the market do what they want, creating financial instruments (and fitting mortgages into these securitized instruments)  that would generate big short-term profits, ignoring the long-term consequences. The bankers had to sell/lend these instruments/mortgages to someone. Whether the buyers/borrowers were deceived or not is not what this post is about. The buyers/borrowers of these financial instruments ended up losing a lot.

The banks are like the teams, Continue reading

An Act of Digression/Maybe I’ll write about this stuff

I’ve been on long hiatuses from writing before, but coming back from this one feels a bit strange. Lots of stuff happened, but I couldn’t decide how, or if I wanted to write about any of it. My decision not to write was probably based more on lethargy than I want to admit, but it was also based on my desire to take a break. A real break. A do-nothing break. I apologize in advance for the sequencing and general disorder of this post because I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to say. Right now, I’d place bets on ‘nothing’, but there’s a chance, however small, that I’ll pen (or type as the case may be) the most eloquent and poignant piece of literature in the English language. That would actually be a better bet, because the odds of that happening are astronomical, so betting even a penney would net you more money than you could spend in 5 lifetimes. But I digress…

Actually digressing seems to be the way this post is going to go. This country, or more to the point, TSN, is losing its mind about the return of the NHL. In September, the main story in Canadian sports was Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Understanding Runs Both Ways

First off, Movember 2012 is over and the moustache is gone. Thank you to everyone who donated, whether it was to me or not, the money goes to the same very worthwhile cause.

Now, onto the post…

Yesterday, I tweeted  a story from the New York Times, “Report Urges ‘Cultural Shift’ as Hockey Coaches Defy Concussion Specialists”. In the study, in the Journal of Neurosurgery, Dr. Paul Echlin writes, “Concussion is a significant public health issue that requires a generational shift. As with smoking or seat belts, it doesn’t just happen overnight — it takes a massive effort and collective movement.” I couldn’t agree more! Which leads me to this post.

I’ve previously written about this idea and I’m happy to see that I’m not alone. For this ‘generational shift’ and ‘massive effort and collective movement” to occur, we need to stop dividing ourselves. Right now, there seem to be two camps. Those who’ve had a brain injury or have a close relationship with someone who has, and those who play contact sports and relish the ‘contact’ aspect. The latter is the group that we’re trying to educate about concussions and the former is the group that knows about it all too well.

There has been a blatant ‘make them understand’ movement and, not surprisingly, it hasn’t worked overnight, or it’s been begrudgingly accepted. At times, the higher levels of an organization like the NHL or NFL  have fully endorsed changes to contact rules and have subsequently, unilaterally imposed them on the players and officials. In the case of the NFL,Commissioner Roger Goodell, counter-productively and idiotically, pushed for a longer season, so players could collide more and have more opportunity to be concussed. But I digress…

It feels like there is a discernible “you’re either with us or against us” attitude. Not to get too political here, but Continue reading

Nick Mercer: The Education of Nick

When I try to think of an idea for a post, I look to sports, news, pop culture, and usually find something that gets my mind firing. Sometimes, actually more often than not for my most recent posts, my idea seemingly comes out of nowhere, but once I get a hold of it, off I go. So, while trying to think of the subject for this post, although there were a lot of stories of concussed athletes – not the least of whom is Alex Smith of my favourite team in any sport, the San Frncisco 49ers – I have decided to take another tack and look more at society. I’ve written a bunch in this vein, so you could simply call this tactic ‘going to the well’, but there is just so much fodder here. Plus, it gives me a wider audience than  1000 words on Colin Kaepernick would have (nonetheless, he played an awesome game on Monday!). There have been countless stories over the past 2 years about concussion in pro sports, youth sports, and recreational sports. Every time a new story comes around, a catalog of articles are written, a fury of interviews are given, and an exhaustive supply of statistics are produced. As I’m the only one working alone on this blog, the only resource at my disposal, or at least the only original resource I have, is my experience as someone who’s had a severe traumatic brain injury.

Starting my blog ( was one of my best ideas. It gives me a place where I can share my views and vent my frustrations, all under the guise of thoughtful, and dare I say, good, writing. I have, not so subtlety, been able to integrate some pop culture events into my posts. From the start, the point of my blog was to write about brain injury in sports, notably football and hockey, because in July or August of 2010, it seemed a bit different, and as such, it would be interesting to write about. If anything, I’ve deviated from this, Continue reading

Ding, ding, ding!

I recently read a story in the Globe and Mail, “Stampeders backpedal on concussion talk” about Calgary QB Drew Tate who was hit in a head-to-head collision in the 2nd quarter of play on Sunday, November 11. At halftime, Tate said that he had his “bell rung” and couldn’t remember the first half of play, generating this comment from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun, “All the questions Monday will and should revolve around the apparent silliness of letting Tate play after his halftime admission to TSN.” (emphasis added) Not to worry though, according to Tate all that really happened is that he was “dinged” and “felt some fuzziness”, besides, as Tate says, “As far as talk about a concussion, I didn’t get what the fuss was because I felt fine and just wanted to play.” The Stampeders administered concussion tests during the game, after the game, and Monday morning. Tate was ruled to be symptom free.

It seems fairly clear that Tate was concussed. However, not according to Dave Dickenson, Calgary’s offensive coordinator and a former QB, whose diagnosis was that  he “can tell when I look into someone’s eyes if they are concussed or not,” and he didn’t see any symptoms. Nevertheless, Chris Nowinski knows a thing or two about concussions, concussion management, and the Continue reading

Defining success in rehab: exhaustion

Admittedly, I didn’t understand or even appreciate the importance of my physiotherapy rehab after my brain injury. When the doctors first told me that I’d be going to the Miller Centre (the rehab hospital in St. John’s, NL) I was really excited! At least I’d be out of the hospital! I couldn’t sleep. When I was eventually able to eat food it was terrible. I was bored to say the least. I was newly dealing with my double vision, so I couldn’t read. I figured, when I got to rehab, I’d be able to go to the rehab gym all day, at least it was something to do. They’d never seen me at rehab. I’ll be awesome! “Sure I can’t walk now, but you let me at that place for a few weeks and I’ll be running the stairs and doing burpees in the hall in no time!” “I’ll run home one day and won’t need to go back.” It’ll only be a few weeks, a few months tops.

At first, my motivation to get there was to get out of that GD hospital and get the whole ‘brain injury’ thing over. It sucked and there was a bunch of stuff I’d rather be doing. I had a co-op job in Ottawa for my master’s program that I had to get to. Most of my friends from Queen’s were in Ontario, so I’d see them a lot on weekends, whenever. That was the goal. Bang this rehab out and get back to life. An inconvenience. A pretty big inconvenience, and a good story, but an inconvenience is all it was.

I eventually realized that to get back to my old self, physically, was going to take longer than a few months. My motivation was then much harder Continue reading

It’s going to happen, learn from it

Yesterday evening, as I was about to talk to receive a call from someone from the Mayo Clinic about their Concussion Program to discuss how I could be involved, I was thinking about what it is about brain injury that I want to share with people. I’ve said it in a more muddled way before, in posts and talking to others, but that never translates properly into how important I think the point is. Another problem is that we, as a society, haven’t truly realized the prevalence and lasting consequences of brain injury until recently. The effects of brain injury had barely been recognized when it became an epidemic in sports and, not long after, a pandemic. Concussions are going to happen. Brain injury is going to happen. Of course we should look for ways to prevent it and ways to treat it, but perhaps most importantly, we should be responsible adults and stop kidding ourselves that this sort of thing is curable.

This post is not strictly about sports, but I will use sports as an example. Last year in the NFL there were 171 concussions among 1696 players. Approximately 10% of all active players in the league suffered concussions. ‘Wow! Even 1 is too many! That’s shocking!’…No it’s not! The average size of an NFL player varies by position, but to generalize, it’s about 6’2″ and 250 lbs. Average! We’re still not talking about power and the force with which they collide! The NHL is smaller but still above 200 lbs and similar height. However, these guys hit each other at higher speeds in many more games. Obviously, these are adult statistics, but these are adult statistics for people who have been playing the respective game for a long time and know what they’re doing. The youth level in either sport is filled with kids of varying size and drastically varying skill levels.

Look at those numbers and think about any NHL or NFL game you’ve seen, even if it was just highlights. Really think about it. Seriously, think about it. Thanks to all of the attention on brain injury, including concussions, in these past few years, it’s now blatantly clear that there are going to be these types of injuries. What’s truly surprising is that there aren’t more!

Better concussion policies. Better equipment. Better treatment. What seems to have been forgotten is common sense. People getting hit in the head is not some new phenomenon Continue reading

Call it what you want, just don’t panic

Confidence, arrogance, or indifference. It doesn’t matter which term you use, as long as you understand what it means to show any  of those characteristics. The popular conception is that confidence encapsulates valuing yourself, being proud of what you’ve accomplished and ‘standing up for yourself’. The unfortunate circumstance is that the word ‘confidence’ (as used in the phrase, ‘Have confidence in yourself’) appears to have been corrupted and used to connote an arrogant, narcissistic attitude. People who have been affected by brain injury, or any other health condition that has had detrimental effects on self esteem, are encouraged to  show confidence, with the hope that they will feel good about themselves when they go out into society. This is well-meaning, but perhaps, not the best way to go about instilling true confidence.

Confidence is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something; the state of feeling certain about the truth of something; a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

That is what confidence means. What’s often impressed on people – recovering from brain injury or not – is that Continue reading

Why do I write?

Nick Mercers provides some insight into why he chooses to write for us and his blog.

Because, as much as it lets others ask questions, it encourages me to ask questions of myself.

Granted, I have always questioned myself, I’m hyper-self-critical. In general, it’s not necessarily a good thing. I hesitate or stop completely. I waste opportunities. I’ll pass up a good chance (with a woman, for a job,…) for a safer, if not longer, chance. However, in writing, my exhaustive self-analysis, is probably beneficial. It means I take longer to write, because I’m always correcting what I wrote and how I wrote it. There aren’t many sentences in this post that haven’t been ‘renovated’ in some way. That’s not to say there aren’t mistakes, or that I catch-all of those errors on the first, second, or even third read. I’m cognizant, but maybe not enough, of the propensity of my self-criticism to take the emotive punch out of what I write. So I try to guard against that. I try to be open, and I hope that shows through, but since this personality trait has been with me my whole life, it’s not completely natural for me to silence it. It is at constant odds with the my ‘newly’ acquired (9 years ago) impulsive nature.

My impulsive side has not completely balanced out my patient and measured side (or vice versa), but it has made some headway. That said, I’m certainly calmer and less anxious than I was before my brain injury, which could have more to do with the severity of my brain injury than with the injury itself, however I don’t know, I’m just speculating, and I don’t have any medical information to back up such a claim. See that? That was Continue reading

Still Relating

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled Relating. It was about the new (past 9 years, since my brain injury) difficulty I had relating to others. I discuss how it’s tough to convey the experience and how great the help from my friends and family was. Recently, I read an article, entitled Voyages in Concussion Land: the homeless, Sidney Crosby and me by Tabatha Southey in The Globe and Mail on Friday, Oct 5, 2012. In it, Tabatha wonders about, “the dissociation many concussion sufferers experience”.

Immediately I thought ‘Dissociation! That’s the word! Perfect.’ However, being my critical, nit-picking-self, I soon found reasons why ‘dissociation’ wasn’t, in fact, ‘perfect’ to describe me. This bit of criticism was made much easier by my recent trip to Toronto and London, Ontario to see my best friends from university. We had a great time! Not only that, I got to see their children (except one). Dissociated could in no way describe how I felt at any time that weekend. Even though all the guys are married and almost all have children, it was such an easy, if not natural, situation that it was as though we still all lived in the same house (Granted, their actual houses now are much, much, cleaner – I can’t emphasize that enough).

Then I came home and this past weekend had a much different, yet also easy/natural time at a friend’s party. So, I’ve started thinking  Continue reading


I’ve written two blog posts (attempted posts, really) about relating to people since my brain injury. They now sit in the ‘Posts’ section as drafts Relating 1 and Relating 2. I was happy with my first one until I realized that I just kept talking about my brain injury and recovery, very slowly meandering to a vague point. So I started a second post. That one was more direct and I was writing some good stuff! At least that’s how it felt at the time. That time, however, as I was really going at the crux of the post, I realized that I couldn’t truly relate to what I was writing. Bringing me to my this third and hopefully final attempt.

In my previous 2 drafts I concentrated my writing on why I found it difficult to relate to people since my brain injury, about how many of their experiences weren’t my experiences. In the midst of that narration, I began a spiel about how the comparison of the feelings from one experience to another, different experience, is based on a false premise. While writing that, I started to figure out Continue reading

NFL players: They’re not doing it for their health

With the NFL season getting started last Wednesday night, player health, at all levels, comes to the front of my mind. I have recently been thinking about health insurance with respect to sports. Living in Canada, it is definitely less of concern than in the U.S., but I thought I would share some thoughts about the college and pro levels of sport.

There is no way that I’m the first person, after all this time, to talk about what colleges and pro teams are doing about health insurance for players. I know there are a bunch of questions about whether or not concussions are pre-existing conditions, and other reasons players can’t be insured, but it should be a legitimate issue at the college and pro-level for contact sports. The NFL, NHL and NCAA have enough financial wherewithal to encourage some forward thinking insurance company to insure the players who are, perhaps unwittingly, putting their future well-being in jeopardy on the field of play.

As has been reported countless times, concussions are caused in a number of ways and the symptoms are diverse. So why should it be forced into the same insurance categories as other injuries with the “pre-existing” condition clause? If there was enough demand for some type of concussion insurance, a new category for a specific league/sport could be created. Taking care of players once Continue reading

Can you get there from here?

This is my first post since early June and I’ve got no excuse for being delinquent. I guess our unusually warm and sunny summer has made me listless. Nevertheless, I want to write and it’s about time I put excuses (however valid) aside and get back to writing something. It’s not like sports have disappeared this summer! The Olympics (and the media coverage) will undoubtedly come with stories that will encourage me to write. There I go, making an assumption. I shouldn’t do that. I know better.

When I started ConcussionTalk, my plan was for it to be a site where people can discuss their struggles with brain injury, exchange advice on how to deal with common problems or talk about brain injury in sports. (The discussion idea was thwarted by spammers and their ads for prescription drugs, without prescription. Nevertheless, Concussion Talk on Facebook and @concussiontalk on Twitter are there for discussion.) Two years later and the concussion and brain injury issue has become prominent Continue reading