Head injuries as it pertains to kids playing sports ironically is nothing short of a head scatcher.
For years, kids and after school sports were synonymous with one another. In today's world of concussion awareness, sports and head trauma go hand in hand.
Even for children.
Most of the time, the word "concussion" is paired up with something on a national, professional level, whether you're discussing the NFL or NHL or even something as scripted, albeit rough, as professional wrestling.
Either through testing, education or rule changes, those aforementioned leagues that once marketed their products as high contact have migrated in a different direction and a completely rewritten mantra: enjoy the game but safety first. That feeling truly took the shape of reality recently when the NFL and several ex players reached an $800 million dollar concussion lawsuit that will help pay for players to get medical help and compensation for years and years of playing with concussions.
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That 180 degree turn was hardly as drastic as it seems. Concussions always existed in sports, but only in the last decade have they really taken center stage as far as prevention, assessing them and treatment. Concussions easily rank as the most heavily discussed and scrutinized injury in all of sports, whether professional or something as fundamental, pure and rudimentary as a pee wee football.
And therein lies the debate parents discuss when contemplating whether they're going to allow their sons and daughters to participate in high impact sports: Is it worth putting kids at risk for concussions or potentially long term injuries to their heads?
Dan Geraci is the head strength and conditioning coach at Hard Pressed, a training facility in Chicago, and he doesn't believe football can survive without prevention as the top priority.
Parents have indirectly answered that question based on the dwindling numbers of participants throughout the country when it comes to football specifically. Mom and dad don't have quite the penchant for letting kids play football as they once did, and the numbers across the board support that notion.
No one could blame or argue with a parent who has made that decision without as much as blinking an eye. But truth be told, fearing concussions isn't really the argument set forth on the table but rather the ability, wherewithal and gumption to know how to recognize a head injury, take appropriate action and thus ultimately determine what happens next.
The future of football on any level truly is dependent on more than concussions happening but rather how they're treated when they do. Far too often, you would hear war stories about football players from a day gone by that played with concussion symptoms or flat out admitted they lied to trainers and coaches about how they felt just so they could play in a marquee game.
Not exactly the kind of behavior you want your kids emulating.
The initial blow to the head that causes a concussion does damage but subsequent hits thereafter are the ones that have been linked to long term injuries to the brain. Ignoring that first concussion like feeling only leads to compounded, often catastrophic results, in the long term.
The idea of "playing through the pain" once was glamorized to the point that fans cheered those players, probably a lot of them included in the NFL lawsuit mentioned earlier, and reveled in their "toughness." That fine line between "toughness" and "stupidity" got thinner over time to the point that playing with a concussion lost its swagger and common sense finally emerged victorious.
That sagacity came in the form of NFL fines for helmet to helmet hits at the professional level and trickled down to a plethora of education for coaches, parents and players no matter how small their gridiron stage was. The result has been less injuries and a renewed sense of optimism that football has a future for children as a viable sports that finally has its head on straight.
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