I suppose it’s inevitable, whenever a serious issue comes to light and gets more and more press — head injuries. Concussions in football. Pro sports injuries.
Media coverage. Reportage. Special reports. Studies presented.
It’s good to see that folks are starting to take head injuries more seriously. Especially in sports. It’s good to see it making the news.
The pictures of broken brains help — slideshows of post-concussive gray and white matter — but they may also hurt.
Because what the pictures do not — cannot — show you, is the person the brain belongs to. They do not show the heart. They do not show the spirit. They may show tangles of tau and a ton of subconcussive damage, but they don’t reveal the character, the personality, the grit of the person attached to the brain. And they say nothing about what their life was really like — good, bad or otherwise.
And I think about what people must be thinking, when they look at the pictures and they wonder about their kids or their teammates or their other loved-ones who have gotten hit on the head a lot of times. I wonder if they are tempted to just throw up their hands and say, “Well, that’s it then. It’s curtains for you…” and turn away from watching the “inevitable” downward demented slide of someone who’s got a lot of head trauma in their history.
When it comes to dealing with traumatic brain injury, concussions, head trauma, TBI, whatever you want to call it, the one thing I think keeps people at bay and keeps them from really studying it and learning to understand it is fear. Fear of what TBI means. Fear of what it may mean. Fear of what it might do to the person who’s experienced it. Fear of what it might turn them into.
And ignorance. Because not ever knowing that there are an infinite number of possible outcomes — good, bad, and otherwise — for a concussion, TBI, head trauma, brain injury, or whatever else you want to call it… well, that’s pretty scary.
And that ignorance is pretty common. Even among doctors. And therapists.
I think if we could all realize that TBI is not the end of the world, and there is always a chance that things will turn out different from how the experts say they will, we could do a better job of approaching TBI, learning about it, and dealing constructively with it… perhaps even reversing the long-term effects. I think we could do a better job of educating athletes about it, as well as their parents and coaches and loved-ones. I think we could do a better job of rehabilitating survivors, and returning them to full citizenship… without them having to do it all alone.
Doing it alone is a lonely, lonely business. I know this from experience. But having someone to help you through… well, that makes it actually bearable.
We need more people to help us through.
We all do, really.
And we need: Knowledge. Information. Trust. Courage.
We need Hope.
The good news is, there’s more than enough of all of the above to go around — if we make a point of pursuing them.
It can be done.