Education is for the parents too!

Parent’s Perspective by David Bookstaff, VP of Operations – Sports Brain

As a parent working in the concussion field, I have the advantage of knowing and understanding a bit more about concussions than most other parents. One of the most important things I have learned is concussions are different than any other injury our kids will face. Parents need to understand these simple facts about sports related injuries.

  • Other injuries can be seen
  • Other injuries can be felt
  • Other injuries are best treated after they happen

If my child takes a hit to any other part of the body I typically see a bruise, a red mark, a cleat imprint, even blood. If the injury isn’t visible, I am confident that he can feel it. His ankle or knee may be tender or hurt when he walks on it. But again, the injury is very noticeable.

The one commonality among all sports related injuries is that there is not much I can do to protect him in advance. It is possible to strengthen certain muscle groups during training and this will aid in an athlete’s recovery if they do get hurt. But as a parent, we cannot prevent our kids from the possibility of an injury while playing sports. We can only help them by creating the most optimal environment for them to learn, practice, and play team sports.

Like all parents, if my child gets hurt, I do whatever I can to make sure he is fully recovered. He may need to be bandaged, casted, or need physical therapy. The brain, however, is different and most parents haven’t learned the best way to treat a brain injury. The good news is we can do something important BEFORE a concussion occurs.

We get a lot of information from the media about concussion-related injuries to professional athletes. I know that many parents have difficulty understanding what a concussion truly means. We teach parents to remove the word “concussion” from their vocabulary and insert the phrase “brain injury”. That will give you a better idea of how seriously you should take the issue. Unfortunately, many times parents live with the fear and hope that our children don’t get a concussion.

This is why I preach the importance of baseline concussion testing every day. I tell people the most important action that can take for recovering from a concussion is to have proper baseline concussion testing done BEFORE the injury. These results help medical professionals prescribe the best care for the quickest recovery so our kids can get back to playing and having fun.

Our coaches tell us their team takes all injuries seriously. They want our kids to be safe and have fun. So we need to work together to make sure our kids have the best opportunity to do just that.

In most situations, we do everything in our power to take care of our children. For example, we prepare our kids for the beginning of their sport by getting proper fitting equipment to help protect their body. Baseline concussion testing is just one more step in preparation for the season.

Here are some examples of kids who suffered concussions and did not receive the best possible care because they had not take baseline concussion tests:

  1. A player on my son’s soccer team suffered a concussion. Two weeks post-concussion he was examined by a doctor and was completely symptom free. The doctor said his balance was a little questionable and he should sit out another week and then he would be fine to resume play. No further examinations were needed. But I thought, maybe his balance was always off and sitting out another week wouldn’t change anything. Maybe his balance was affected by the concussion and in another week he still won’t be fully recovered. No one really knows for sure because there wasn’t any quantitative baseline data to compare to his current status. Everyone reacts differently to a concussion and everyone recovers at a different rate.


  1. Another story, out of the Chicago area, was from a parent whose child suffered a concussion in wrestling. The doctor asked if there was a baseline concussion test done before the season began. When told no, the doctor told the athlete’s family that he was automatically out for 3 months because that was the time frame the doctor felt was the safest for recovery from this concussion.

In both of these cases, the doctors had to use personal judgment instead of objective data to determine when a child was fully recovered. These cases may have been handled very differently if baseline concussion test results were available. I don’t want to blame the parents because I don’t think it is entirely their fault for not completing the tests before the seasons began. But these examples demonstrate why coaches, athletic staff, and parents need to be educated on the importance of pre-injury baseline concussion testing.   It is our responsibility to share this knowledge with other parents and emphasize the importance of baseline concussion testing so our kids can have the best opportunity to properly recover.

We can all agree concussions are different than other injuries in sports. We need to be more proactive and ensure that our children get baseline tested. The solution is simple – coaches, teams and sports organizations need to step up and place a higher priority on teaching parents about concussions. Concussion policy should not simply be a sheet of paper a parent has to sign at the beginning of each season. Parents need direct education to ensure that they learn this critical information BEFORE the concussion occurs.


The Importance of Sportsmanship

Parent’s Perspective – May 2014  Newsletter – Sports Brain


As a parent, one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is sportsmanship. The idea of winning with grace and losing with dignity is important not only on the field but in our entire lives. Recently, my son has gone through some challenges in the area of sportsmanship. In the most simplistic terms, a close friend of his is a bad loser. In the old days, this meant storming off the field and needing to be left alone for a while until the feelings blew over. Today, however, life is different and a simple post on Facebook or Instagram not only enhances those negative feeling but can give those hard feelings a life of their own.

In this story, my son and his friend, who are both in middle school, play on two teams which compete against each other. This time, my son’s team won the game. After the game, the friend refused to shake hands with the other team, would not speak to my son and stormed out of the building. On the car ride home my son tried calling and texting him but his friend would not reply.

A few hours later his friend took to Instagram complaining about the game and the referees. After dozens of comments from family and friends, the Instagram post took on a life of its own with people commenting on the situation even though they really had no idea what had happened or what it was about. While I knew it was not easy for him, I insisted that my son stay out of the debate and not comment on the Instagram feed. My lesson for him was that by refraining from commenting, he was winning with grace instead of rubbing the victory in his friend’s face.

Sportsmanship is a part of life and incredibly important in our future lives. As a parent, we want to develop children that are productive, happy and well-adjusted members of our community.

Sportsmanship teaches us to:

  • Treat everyone with respect
  • Put team goals ahead of individual goals
  • Support your team
  • Try your best
  • Display grace and dignity, whether you win or lose


Each of these qualities are desirable to every teacher and every employer. So if we can teach these qualities to our children at a young age, they will certainly benefit throughout their entire lives. Additionally, as I tell my children, nobody wants to play with a person who is a bad sport. The athlete slamming the ball against the wall because someone missed a shot or swearing at a teammate for doing something wrong is never the person you want to play with.


Another valuable sportsmanship lesson is that life is not always fair. Like life, sports are not always fair. Sometimes the ball takes a bad bounce, sometimes the referee misses a call. Sports can be a wonderful training ground for similar challenges in life. Just as we sometimes win and sometimes lose in sports, we will certainly have wins and losses in our lives. It is how we deal with those losses that makes us a stronger person.


Failures on the field should not be debilitating but should create a path to greater understanding and serve as a motivation toward success. We have all heard the Thomas Edison story about failing to be successful after 9000 attempts to make a light bulb instead of viewing his actions as 9000 failures, Edison explained that he discovered 9000 ways not to make a light bulb, thereby making success closer to his grasp. After another 1000 attempts, Edison was successful. Our greatest successes in life do not come easily. They are the ones we work the hardest for. No Olympic athlete is going to tell you it was easy to win a gold medal. They will tell you they worked harder for that medal than they have worked for anything in their lives.


So as parents, we need to take it upon ourselves to teach our children to be good winners and good losers. When we are gracious in victory, it is easier to lose with dignity. There will always be another game.