By David Mitchell from Shingo Imara™ (www.shingoimara.com)
Concussions. CTE. Rule changes. Daily news. Hollywood movies ...
Concussions and related issues are everywhere right now! As a person who has had multiple concussions, as a dad of daughters who suffered sports and non-sports concussions, and as a recently-retired high school counselor who saw a significant leap in the number and severity of concussions recently, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not happy that concussions are affecting so many athletes, nor am I pleased to hear about it all the time. What makes me happy is the fact that the issue is being discussed. It’s being addressed by many of the brightest minds in medicine, coaching, and education. Everyone is seeking answers.
One problem with this flood of (sometimes conflicting) information is that it’s creating an unreasonable level of fear in many. That fear has reportedly contributed to a decline in participation in certain youth sports. All the while American inactivity and obesity rates continue to climb for both youth and adults. A decrease in participation in youth sports will likely add to those climbing numbers. Not playing sports helps one issue but makes the other worse. So as an athlete what can you do?
Take action. Be proactive to reduce the unreasonable fears. That will give you a clearer view of the facts, so you can plan accordingly. Concussions must be taken seriously, but they shouldn’t scare everyone away from sports. Here are five steps to proactively address the complex issues and risks that we’re all facing regarding concussions.
- Educate yourself using resources that you can trust. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has excellent resources available online . Take the time to read through the parts that apply to you as an athlete. This information is up-to-date and trustworthy. Sometimes, the information in the media is incomplete and inflammatory. Getting a foundation of solid and reliable information will help you as you have to sift through the rest of what’s out there. Take responsibility. It is your brain and your future.
- Build neck strength. To reduce risk follow the rules, use proper technique, listen to your coach and develop neck strength on your own. Studies have shown that increased strength in the neck and surrounding muscles can be a protective factor in reducing concussion risk. How do you do that safely and effectively? Check out Shingo Imara™ a new neck strengthening kit. Shingo Imara means “strong neck” in Swahili. The kit provides a complete program for building strength in the neck and muscles of the upper back without needing a weight room. There is no known way to prevent all concussions, but doing whatever you can to reduce risk just makes sense.
- Talk about concussions, neck strength, and other facts you’ve learned . Parents, coaches, players, doctors, and athletic trainers should all be a part of the conversation at some point. Ask questions, share resources like the CDC Heads-Up website. Anyone who is directly involved in the process of protecting athletes and diagnosing potential concussions is important to include. Do they have the same information that you do? Do you understand their thoughts on concussion issues? If not, keep asking questions. It’s better for you to know now than to find out after an injury occurs.
- Develop distrust. Learn not to trust yourself in the heat of the moment at a practice or competition. Wait...what? That’s right, don’t trust yourself. As a coach with over 50 seasons of coaching various sports, my experience has been that the person who just took a blow to the head (or to the body that may have shaken the brain) is usually the worst source of information at that moment. Nearly all of my athletes in that situation have said, “I’m ok.” Almost none were. I don’t think that they were all liars or were even trying to deceive me. I think that athletes are trained to play over the pain of minor injuries, that most love to stay out on the field, and that they just plain don’t have the level of brain function needed to give an accurate answer. Trust your coaches, athletic trainers, your teammates, and parents. Take the time to get assessed before insisting that you’re “okay.”
- Be a great teammate. Live what you’ve learned. Once you have gained knowledge, it’s time to use it and share it. If you see a teammate showing signs of concussion, don’t just look the other way. Say something to the teammate and to the coach.
Facing down unreasonable fears and anxieties by taking action is a good strategy for life. It also applies to determining the best way to handle the very real concussion issues. Once you’re committed to educating yourself, talking about concussions, building neck strength, relying on others to assess, and to being a great teammate, the issues won’t go away, but they’ll be put into a healthier perspective---one that gives you a better chance of staying healthy and in the game.