This might sound a little contradictory — how can you ever make it “safe” to be brain-injured? And why should you?
Valid questions. Here’s my answer:
So long as brain injury and concussion are viewed as purely life-threatening hurts, which can never heal properly, and which result in the loss and destruction of everything you’ve ever worked for, everything you’ve ever hed dear, the chances of concussed athletes owning up to their injuries is slim at best.
So long as brain injury/concussion is viewed as a season- or career-ending tragedy, which is impossible to reverse, the chances of sports teams being fully comprised of non-concussed athletes is in question.
So long as brain injury/concussion remains a mystery shrouded in the secrecy and esoterica surrounding THE BRAIN, with experts proclaiming with inexplicable glee that “We just don’t know exactly how the brain works,” concussed athletes who fear the worst about their head trauma and symptoms are going to remain mum about their true circumstances, making them all the more vulnerable to re-injury and second impact syndrome.
If we are to safeguard the health and well-being of student athletes, we owe them some Courage.
The Courage to admit that brain injury/concussion happens frequently — and has happened since the beginning of time. And yet, we’re still here.
The Courage to admit that we actually do know more about the brain than we pretend, and yes, “anecdotal” observations can sometimes yield invaluable insights and coping strategies that will never (and I mean NEVER) be observed in a clinical setting.
The Courage to educate all athletes not only about the dangers of concussion, but also the success stories of amazing recovery that do indeed happen. All the time.
The Courage to step away from the partisanship, the need to bicker and nitpick and point fingers, the very human impulse to assign blame and tut-tut-tut ourselves all the way to the disability claims office, thinking that finding a scapegoat is a viable response to a national health crisis.
The Courage to admit that one of the main things holding us back from a full and objective approach to this situation is our innermost fear of our own frailty and vulnerability, and that what holds us back from being frank and honest is often the sick sinking feeling that what happened to them could very well happen to us — and maybe it already has.
The Courage to partner with the “other” side(s) to come up with objective solutions to recovery and rehabilitation, separate and apart from monetary, financial, commercial interests.
When we start having and demonstrating this sort of Courage, then it may be safe to be brain-injured. Because the injury itself will not be the end of our road, but only a bump along the way. It may be a big bump that takes out our exhaust and gouges into our gas tank and requires us to put our vehicle in the shop for longer than we’d like, but it’s a bump along the way — not the end of the line.