“It’s not worth it”: Talking to kids about return-to-play decisions post-concussion

 In Adaptive Athlete, Body & Soul, Brain Injury, Cognitive Adaptations, Fitness, Guest Post, Mind

I met with a new doctor today to talk about my past, present, and future challenges associated with brain injury. These appointments are always tough, considering that I’ve seen so many doctors with so many versions of hope and hopelessness that it’s hard to even come up with a verbal medical history sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to learn that doctors are just people, and people come in all shades of helpful and hurtful. I’ve had some great experiences and some horrible experiences with doctors, so I always approach meeting a new doctor with some trepidation. Occassionally though, I’m treated like a peer in the field of concussions and the work I do as an advocate and coach is valued as no more or less important than the work of medical professionals. It doesn’t hurt that I’m close to finishing my doctorate in sociology, but a lot of people aren’t willing to see the value in my degree and how it relates to my approach to healing and advocacy. Today, I had an excellent experience with somebody who recognized that we are on the same team and at times have even worked with the same athletes. When he asked how he could specifically help me, I told him this:

“Keep me alive, sane, and smart so I can help young athletes understand that it’s not worth it.”

I think he appreciated my candor, because we launched into a really excellent conversation about how isolation can literally kill young athletes after a concussion lingers for too long. He told me about how new rehab protocols (which I’m currently undergoing with his physical therapists) are making it such that we can typically get an athlete whose suffered their first couple of concussions back to almost 100%. They might have a few lingering problems, but nothing that should alter their day-to-day lives in a significant way. I believe it. I probably had about five or so hits before they took longer and longer to heal. It was probably the seventh or eighth one that ended my career and this last one, number eleven or twelve that I can’t seem to bounce back from; if anything I fear that I’m getting worse. The hard part, the doctor said, was getting the young athlete to understand that they are approaching that line that I crossed and that if they do, they are risking more than they can yet comprehend. They counsel them on the risks of continued play, but with an athlete back to normal health there isn’t much you can do to hold them down.

I’ve been there, too. I tried to…..

 

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