Injuries are no joke, and unfortunately they persist in the athletic community. How do we prevent them? What can we do to measure concussion? What should a child do when diagnosed with a concussion?
These are all questions that myself and the other panel members at the Nashua Telegraph forum on injury prevention faced last night as part of the series on “Broken Athletes.” In attendance, we had the Nashua Athletic Director Tom Arria, Performance Rehab PT and owner Jerry Holland, and some esteemed doctors and specialists from the Manchester area. The panel members spoke about incidents of knee ligament tears and repairs, concussion testing, and new laws with regard to return to play post-injury. Though I am no “expert,” I found that my experience and successes provided an interesting twist to the sometimes purely clinical and politically correct discussion.
Click here to read about the forum in the Telegraph.
I get this question a lot: What about helmets? My personal belief, and several of the panel members reinforced this notion, is that the helmet can prevent a skull fracture or a broken nose, but it does little to protect against a concussion. That’s why we still see so many concussions in hockey and football. It is not necessarily the contact with the head, but the entire impact that creates the movement in the brain, resulting in a concussion. There are many who are fighting for helmets in women’s lacrosse, and I can see that side of the argument, but I can also empathize with the other side. Helmets could make the game more aggressive. Once a girl has a helmet on, every stick around her game would be fair game. The idea could be that if we are now wearing helmets, we could definitely hit a little harder now. So what to do?
The unpopular idea is to change the game or to even delete these “contact” sports entirely. Despite what I went through, I would not trade my athletic experience for anything. So what does that mean? Just keep pushing through it even though players are getting hurt?
I do think that practices can become more about conditioning and skills, and less about repetitive drills. As athletes, I think we can do more to prepare our bodies before the season. Every summer I trained at TOP Fitness, and I was never injured until my junior year of college.
My keys to injury prevention:
A Strength & Conditioning program that emphasizes preventative exercises to improve hip strength, lateral movement, and mobility.
Playing multiple sports in high school with different movements. For example, a pitcher should probably not also be a quarterback in football and a discus thrower in winter track. My shoulder hurts thinking about that! Repetitive movements can be taxing on the body and the muscles, leading to overuse injury.
Nutrition. With the amount of work we put our bodies through as athletes, they absolutely crave the proper nutrients to refuel.
Sleep! I cannot say enough that as I look back on my career, I recognize that I could have been an even better player if I had gotten enough sleep every night.
Most importantly, trust your own intuition. During my recovery, I had doctors telling me all sorts of things. First they said two weeks. Then they said I had to sit in a dark room. Then they said I could run. Then they said that exercise made my concussion worse. Ultimately I realized that the only one who has any sort of degree or insight on my health is me. I had people telling me all sorts of things, but they would never truly know how I felt. It was all a giant lesson for me, a final exam of sorts, and this knowing has persisted in other areas of my life.
My new friend from the forum, who is recovering from a concussion: