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One Concussion at a time

Tonight, as I sit here with the Seahawks and Raiders game on, I have, of course, concussions on the brain. No pun intended. I’ve always liked football. It’s floated in and out of my life over the past twenty years.  I have friends who work for teams at various levels, friends who are die hard fans and friends whose sons are just beginning their football career. I love the sound of a football game (and basketball) in the background while I am puttering about the house. I love the sound of the whistles, the crunch of the hits, and watching near acrobatic feats of athleticism. Heck, even my first kiss was from a football player. When I was 18yrs old I would dream of becoming a strength coach for the NFL but I knew essentially there wasn’t going to be any chance of that happening. Twenty years later and I still don’t think there are any female strength coaches in the NFL (I haven’t checked so don’t quote me on that).  I used to watch football just because I liked the game but now I watch football with a very different eye. I am all too aware of each player as they hit the ground. I watch football with a therapeutic eye less enthused by the massive hit and more concerned about the head I just saw bounce and wobble.

Football is not the only sport where concussions are just another injury. I’m also a proud rugby mom. I love watching my son play rugby.  I will encourage him to play as long as he enjoys it. I will also teach him to know his body and when his body is telling him something isn’t quite right. I will teach him that no matter what, his health comes first. I will teach him that while it’s a bummer to sit out a game or two as a precaution it’s a heck of alot better than taking a risk and therefore never being able to play again.  I will teach him that he is of more use to his team as a healthy player than one who is playing at 50%.

As the world of concussions explodes, I still sit back and observe. I read, I watch and I pay attention to the undercurrent that is professional sports, recreational sports and the like. I am not an athlete and I am not an athletic trainer. I am a healer and as it stands the skills I have acquired work exceptionally well on treating concussions. This is what I do. This is what I love! It practically kills me everytime I hear of an athlete (and anyone else for that matter) who is on a concussion watch list. I feel like a little kid jumping up saying “pick me, pick me!” It’s in my nature to want to help people and share what I know.

Prevention. Diagnosis. Baseline testing. Return to Play. Sideline testing APPS. Concussion bills. Laws and policies. Lawsuits.

It’s all good and there are just as many concussions.

My role is to educate and to treat. It’s as simple as that and the two main issues I have come across are: athletes hiding symptoms and no medically approved treatment (Bowen Therapy is not considered a medical treatment). I read it all the time. No one saw the hit. The athlete claims they are fine. Coach and/or trainer has to go with what the player says. When in doubt, sit it out is amazing and it should be adopted by every contact sport and team. I have yet to come across  many situations where the athlete pulls themselves off the field or rink (and I have worked on a few who have). As I said previously, I am not an athlete. But I can imagine being in a game, full of adrenaline, loving the game and not wanting to let my team down. Headache? Meh, maybe I am dehydrated, didn’t sleep well, not enough to eat. An athlete who wants to play will find a way. If the baseline test is clear but they still have a headache, nausea, dizziness, sleep problems but are medically cleared to play, what then? What if the player purposely skewed his/her baseline (it happens)? It is still potential for a second impact concussion which we all know can be devastating.

So what is my point? My point is that football isn’t going anywhere (in my opinion), neither is hockey, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, cheerleading, baseball, boxing, MMA, and basketball (and any other potentially concussion causing sport). People will have car accidents, slip on sidewalks, faint and bump their heads, get into fights. There will always be concussions regardless of how you play the game. People need to understand what the symptoms are. They need to know that it can take a few days for symptoms to appear. And they need to know that there is treatment available (shameless self promotion, I know).  As I mentioned before, one of the main issues I see is the athlete themselves hiding symptoms.  If we create an environment where it’s just as common to sit out a head injury as it is an elbow, wrist, shoulder, ankle etc then perhaps we can reduce the amount of second impact scenarios. What if we created a new mindset regarding head injury? What if, every player still felt valued by speaking up about their injury (head or otherwise).  What if, part of the NFL settlement for medical research actually went to researching what works?

In my idealistic world teams would increase the roster (gasp!) to allow for proper rest time for each player and have a concussion resolution therapist  as a part of the overall medical team and then make it mandatory as any other therapeutic intervention. That’s my ultimate dream job. No longer is it being a strength coach (although, in all fairness, that would be a pretty cool gig if you ask me) but to be an integral member of one or more professional sports organizations. Working alongside medical staff and AT’s for the best benefit of the players who put their bodies through the wringer for the love of the game and the entertainment of others.

Bowen will find it’s place in the mainstream. I believe that. One concussion at a time.


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