Let’s Stop Concussions but Keep the Game Alive

Header Annah Lindberg 1Fit2Finish note: This is a guest post from Dr. Neilank Jha, neurosurgeon and the head of Konkussion Inc – a concussion treatment program with clinics in many locations in Canada. If you are concerned about concussions in youth sports, also read “Solving the Concussion Crisis: Practical Solutions” here.

For many, sports are the epicenter of their youth. Sport teaches children lessons of unity, discipline and provides a forum to develop interpersonal bonds that last a lifetime.

Lately, I’ve seen a rise in concerns from parents as stories of head injuries and concussions began to enter the forefront of the media, especially in the sport of Football.

The type of head injuries I witness on a weekly basis are not, however, limited just to Football. In fact, soccer, hockey and even basketball are scrambling to deal with this serious issue.

As a concussion expert I think it’s important that we don’t become too alarmist when it comes to this issue. We sometimes have a tendency to go overboard and write off these sorts of sports altogether which in turn can cause unintended ramifications for our children. If kids are to avoid sports because of the possibility of an injury, then how will they fill their free time? The magnet of television, social media and even video games may begin to eclipse playtime. For a generation also struggling with rapidly escalating obesity rates, this may not be the best option.

The movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, talks about the debate and differing interests of researchers, doctors and league officials. This is of course limited to the experience of the NFL, however these major organizations become catalysts for change and often the metric we turn to.

Many years ago these sorts of head injuries were pushed aside by major sports organizations. When billions of dollars in revenue begin circulating there are often divergent interests at play. In the past couple of years however I have seen a dramatic shift. Just as social media is used to make politicians accountable, it can also be used to call out these professional leagues. With the millions of impressions on these social networks on a daily basis, there are few places for anyone to hide.

This has given birth to concussion protocols and other technological developments for diagnosis. But what about the youth league without a team of on-call doctors and wired helmets?

Ontario is one of the first places in the world where political leaders are starting to get great traction on this issue. Rowan’s law was recently introduced for Rowan Stringer, a teen who died after being knocked unconscious in the middle of a rugby game. The bill provides education not only to coaches and players but also to the parents. We used to use sayings such as “walk it off” to encourage kids to get back out there after a hit. Now we’re learning to respect all injuries and demand children take to the sidelines to be treated.

Unfortunately the bill itself does not allocate the funds necessary to make big changes. How can we find a way to broadcast a standardized method of care? How can we make sure every player, coach, and parent is on the same level?

Let’s not throw the sports baby out with the bath water. We have passionate individuals willing to make this happen.

Demand your government representative allocate tax dollars towards this cause.

Let’s play together.

For interview requests with Dr. Jha, please contact Jordan at Toronto PR Firm Grey Smoke Media.

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