Like football, like life

football player being tackled and landing on his headI just read about the WBUR Poll: For Head Injuries, Football Fans Support Regulation, But Haven’t Changed Viewing Habits, and it got me thinking. I’m a big football fan. Even though I don’t watch every single game, I still love the sport. I also love to watch boxing and MMA.

Even though I know what it’s doing to the contestants — potentially causing brain injuries that will screw them up, sooner or later — I still love to watch the sports.

There’s something about seeing people wade into a fight and then come out on the other side (victorious or not) that’s very cathartic for me.

I think that’s because it reminds me of my life. I feel, on any given day, like I’m wading into a fracas of some kind. Either it’s work, or it’s just the everyday occurrences, or it’s dealing with the slings and arrows of the world. But whatever the nature of it, I feel like I’m getting beaten up… like another “team” is gunning for me… and like the players and fighters I love to watch, I have to keep my act together and keep going, till the end of “regulation play”.

I think that I’m not alone in this. A lot of people I know feel constantly attacked by life. We know we’re gonna get roughed up. That’s a given. We know it’s gonna hurt. We know we’re going to get pushed and pulled and trampled in the process, but we have to keep going.

Like the players on the field.

And like those players, we take a calculated risk, every time we engage with life. We know the odds may be stacked against us, but we still keep at it. We stay in the game. And like so many of those players and fighters, even when we should probably sit out to let our brains recover, we head right back in there, as soon as we can. Because that’s the only way we know how to be, how to act, how to get along in life.

Personally, I cringe, when I think what’s being done to the “heroes” on the field and in the ring. I know what’s being done to their brains. But life is rough. It’s tough. It beats you down and knocks the stuffing out of you, time and time again. Football players and fighters are like our proxies. We fight to live, they live to fight.

And just about everybody can relate to that.

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Helmets will not keep you from getting concussed

brains-in-helmetsTBI is real for folks who play collision sports. Call it “concussion” or “mild” TBI or whatever else you will. Call it “character building” and “just part of life”.  But brain trauma goes hand-in-hand with slamming your body into other players on a regular basis.

Helmets will not keep brains from slamming against the insides of skulls. They literally can’t.

Coaches and parents need to get real about this, and understand the conditions they are helping to create.

Truly, I do not understand the rationale behind keeping kids playing collision sports — whether they’re young OR older. Helmets give you a false sense of security — which actually makes the situation worse, because a concussed brain can feel like a great brain. I know from many personal experiences, when I hit my head hard enough to alter my consciousness, after an instant of feeling like the lights went dim, when “the lights” came back up, I felt fantastic. Like I was superhuman. I’m not the only one.

As Riki Ellison, a former teammate of Junior Seau who like Seau played middle linebacker at USC and in the NFL, put it:

The fact is that when you receive what I would refer to as a partial but playable concussion, there is a unique feeling of being high, of floating, of being numb to pain and unaware of other distractions. This produces a happy state that translates to a belief of invincibility and a superman complex. In some ways, it acts just like a drug. You become addicted to that feeling and want more of it. And when you get another hit, it feels even better. (read more here)

And as long as kids are wearing helmets, and parents and coaches are thinking that they’re safer because of it, we’re just creating more opportunity for kids to injure themselves — in the short and long term.

I’ve been accused of attacking football. Not really. What I’m guilty of attacking is our willful ignorance about what role concussion plays in our youth sports… and how that affects the well-being and futures of kids who are “safer” wearing the latest headgear.

It’s one thing to not know about the dangers. But when people tell you, plain as day, and you refuse to take note — or do something about it — well, that’s something else, entirely.

And that goes for all collision sports where headgear is supposed to protect the players.

The shell-ter we carry with us

Our home is what we make it

One of my readers made a great comment over at a recent post:

I have come to recognise and realise, we people with TBIs need to embolden a special type of shell-fish (to otherwise be read as selfish.) The “shell” to house us from what would otherwise be attacks, accusations and allegations over being or feeling “bad” or that we may seem self-centered, any of our actions taken had very real and perceptive reasons and consequences.
Only when we debride a wound, or reach deep within residual scar tissue, are we allowed to uncover (very necessary to the healing process) healthy tissues.
A thorough study of the self amid the healing process, is a study in contradictions. The study of the self in TBI is, filled with cyclical change, growth, angst, beginnings. It is as though we are of two or more persons; walking through the situations in real time, taking the time to study, perhaps rehearse and may even attempt to resolve the consequences of earlier decisions.
Are these not the habits of people without TBI? Of course.
Therefore, the “shell” of being shellfish in TBI, may need to be a little more hearty and courageous, mayhaps even a little outrageous, to understand the absolute truth of these matters.

It’s very true. Like a hermit crab, we need to find shell-ter where we can, develop our defenses like a protective shell, and learn to carry it with us, as we go through life. No one else can know 100% what we are going through, so we need to develop our own defenses, our own sense of self, our own techniques and tricks to get us by.

I was just thinking about this yesterday — how I can basically make it through most situations in life without alerting everyone to the fact that I am struggling so terribly at times. My memory fails me.

The noise is too loud, the lights are too bright, and I have deafening ringing in my ears.

I am in pain.

I am off balance, struggling with vertigo, feeling like I’m going to lose my mind with having to keep upright.

Or I am boiling on the inside and fighting back my intense desire to either run screaming from the building or punch someone in the face.

Or I am dying inside, feeling like I am just not keeping up, and I have no idea what is going on in the conversation I’m participating in, even though it really matters a lot that I keep up.

I can get through those situations intact, because I have a shell of collected tactics I have built up over the years. Some of them I’ve been using a long time, while others are fairly recent.

But whatever their source or “vintage”, they work.

They keep me safe. They are not me, and they are not something I want to have, but I lost my “real shell” a long, long time ago, so I make do as best I can. And it works.

That’s the main thing. My internal state changes frequently, often without making any sense to me. It’s usually connected to my physical well-being — when I get tired, everything gets harder, and I am tired a lot of the time. So, I have to have a way to offset that effect, so my life can continue.

It’s not easy. It’s pretty painful at times. And it takes a lot out of me. But it works.

And that’s what really matters.

It’s bad enough that I have these issues. But having them screw up my life at the same time? That’s no good — not if I can at all avoid or prevent it.

And so I do.

Onward.

 

Computerized concussion testing – not such a good idea after all?

The Concussion Blog pointed the way to this excellent post by Matt Chaney, discussing the issues around computerized concussion testing, especially the ImPACT test that’s publicized by the NFL

His post discusses:

glaring faults in “baseline” testing of hot-selling ImPACT software employed by youth leagues, schools, colleges and pro sports. “The use of baseline neuropsychological testing in the management of sport-related concussion has gained widespread acceptance, largely in the absence of any evidence suggesting that it modifies risk for athletes,” Randolph observes.

Since 2005, Randolph is among reviewers for several journals who find unacceptable rates of false-positive and false-negative results for ImPACT, among popular brain assessments developed and marketed by academics and doctors associated with the NFL and benefiting from the league’s pervasive publicity machine.

“It is a major conflict of interest, scientifically irresponsible,” Randolph told ESPN The Magazine in 2007. “We are trying to get to what the real risks are of sports-related concussion, and you have to wonder why they (NFL experts) are promoting testing. Do they have an agenda to sell more ImPACTS?”

The marketing succeeds, with sales to a thousand schools and hundreds of colleges thus far, and media only increase exposure of ImPACT in the furor over concussions, especially in football.

Read the rest here (http://blog.4wallspublishing.com/2011/04/23/critics-evidence-debunk-concussion-testing-in-football.aspx) — it’s well worth the read.

What really worries me about computerized testing is what worries me about most computerized “solutions” to problems in life — they relieve you of the burden of having to really understand and think about what’s going on. A computer will give you a certain amount of information, which can be a good starting place. But it’s really up to you to figure out what — if anything — to do with the information. Most people forget (or never figure out) this important fact, and they think they can let the computer do everything for them.

On the playing field, “testing” (potentially) concussed athletes without paying very close attention — over the long term as well as the immediate short term — can have catastrophic consequences, if the test is not accurate (or fudged), and real issues go undetected and unaddressed. Again, the damage can happen over the long term, not only the immediate short term, as issues arise and become problematic beyond the playing season, even beyond school, and well into adult life — beyond any window of opportunity for ImPACT testing.

Lost income, underachievement, broken dreams, and shattered lives due to health issues, attentional issues, cognitive-behavioral problems (and more) arising from undiagnosed and untreated traumatic brain injury are something no computerized test will ever be able to measure.