Spring Is in the Air

Parent’s Perspective – April Newsletter – Sports Brain

It has been a long, hard, cold winter. Weeks of sub-zero temperatures have kept my family indoors more than usual this winter so as spring approaches the itch to get out and play is stronger than ever.  For my family this means soccer season!  While my older child is at an age and level where he plays soccer year round, there is still an excitement in the air to get outside and play on a “real” field and on “real” grass.

Of course, that brings up the fear of concussions in sports.  With all the media focusing on concussions, a parent can’t help but worry about the dangers their child faces while playing.  Through my work in the concussion arena I’ve learned that concussions are not just a football issue, they are an issue for everyone – in sports and in life.  Over the course of the winter, I heard stories of kids being concussed in hockey, skiing and snowboarding.  Now that spring is here, I am sure I will hear stories of kids being injured in soccer, lacrosse and wiping out on their bikes.

Like most parents, I am excited for my kids to get outside and play but I also worry about them.  I think worry is something that simply comes with the initial delivery of your child, the continual fear for the health and safety of one’s child is natural.  I worry about my kids all the time; I worry about their grades, I worry about their friends, I worry about keeping them safe.  When we send our kids out to play, whether it is on a soccer field or in the back yard, we put them at risk of injury.  Of course, we can’t keep our kids wrapped in bubble wrap for safety and we can’t have them sit on the couch playing video games all day.  The results of overprotection or not engaging in athletic activities is far worse than the normal risk of injury.  Kids need sports to learn valuable life skills such as cooperation, working as a team, overcoming obstacles, winning with grace and losing with dignity.  In addition, they need to be active to keep their bodies healthy and strong.

So what’s a parent to do?  We balance.  Like everything we do in life, we balance the risk and the reward of our kids being active and participating in sports.  I’ll admit it – concussions scare me.  They scare me more than broken legs and broken arms because we can’t see them.  We can’t take an x-ray and put it in a cast to heal.  Many coaches, kids and even other parents don’t worry about concussions for that same reason – a child appears fine, they look fine, so they should go out and get in the game.  To me, this is the scariest part of the entire concussion world – getting back into the game before the brain has properly healed.

I understand and agree that we should not be changing the dynamics of the game.  Whether we are talking about football, basketball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse or any other sport, concussions are going to happen.  Our goal, as parents, should be to protect our kids and make sure they have completely healed before they go back out on the field and are at risk another injury.  You would never send your kid back out to play on a sprained ankle, why would you send him back out to play on a sprained brain?

The first and most important step in this regard is concussion baseline testing.  It takes less than an hour to complete and costs less than most parents pay for their child’s school pictures.  When a child is concussed, the parents and doctor can then effectively determine when a child has recovered.  The brain is not a bone that you can view on an x-ray, you cannot simply look at it and determine it is fixed but a series of cognitive tests can accomplish the same thing as an x-ray.  Simply put, concussion baseline testing is the best thing you can do to protect your child’s brain.

I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single parent who does not agree about the importance of a comprehensive concussion baseline test.  In my conversations, I have never had a parent say they wouldn’t bother or it isn’t worth the time and money.  However, I know that many of those same parents never make the time or effort to complete these simple tests.  When I am hosting a baseline testing event, a significant number of those being tested tend to have a sibling that suffered a concussion and now the parents have first-hand experience of how beneficial it would have been if only they had baseline testing results for their concussed child.  Let those stories be a lesson for all of us, take the time, make the effort and get your children tested.  It’s easy, inexpensive and a great insurance policy should something ever happen.

My kid’s love their sports and I would consider them athletic but their brains are still their greatest assets.