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Are Athletes Protected Enough?
What are the disadvantages of being an athlete? Should athletes be educated about the potential long-term effects of their sport on their bodies as well as their quality of life on the road? And whose responsibility is it anyway?
The fact is that many athletes, regardless of whether they play at any level, from rookie to professional, experience injuries. The risk factor is real. For younger players, the onus is on coaches, trainers and parents. In a perfect world, the decision should be made based on the best interest of the athlete. Unfortunately, the athlete’s health is not always the primary factor. Often it is a judgment call without all the necessary information.
Athletes, however, are becoming more vocal about the reality of brain injury because they have to live with the long-term consequences. Is the fame, glory, and money really worth it if the abuse of your body leaves you with pain, sleep problems, memory loss, and reduced quality of life? Sports abuse is commonly practiced, but rarely named.
This problem is common in most large businesses. What is in the best interest of the athlete versus the sports business? There is a fine line between clear guidelines and vague expectations that teams have of their players. Combining money with mentality makes it hard to get back on track to play after an injury.
The NFL was named in a class action lawsuit by several former football players for allegedly administering Toradol before games. A pain reliever, similar but stronger than Tylenol, masks the pain. The players claim that team doctors administered the drug en masse as players lined up for their injections. As the drug masked the pain, it became more difficult to detect. Does being assigned to a team instead of a league affect a doctor’s medical judgment?
Heading the ball is another concern of soccer players. Since brains have a jello-like consistency, they don’t take much to jar. When athletes repeatedly hit the ball with their head, a long-term effect is created. Under 10 soccer players are discouraged against head butt balls because they don’t have the right skill set yet. When athletes constantly use their head, the risk of long-term effects increases.
The NHL is also grappling with this problem. The high speed, full body contact and unbroken surface of the ice is unforgiving. The Committee on Hockey Players’ Safety continues to grapple with the issue of agility. The rigid shoulder and elbow pad design contributes to head injuries. Which body parts are prioritized in this whole plan? Head, shoulders or elbows?
These are mature players. The fact that 300,00 junior athletes suffer from a sports related injury each year is a staggering number. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, along with the Centers for Disease Control, has recognized this problem. He has joined forces to develop extensive educational materials and trauma guidelines.
A grassroots movement must begin with a call to action from players, coaches, trainers and parents that the current threat is unacceptable. History shows that this is the most effective way to effect change.
Athletes expect their helmets to protect them from injury. Simply put, it is untrue. Helmets prevent skull fractures but offer no protection against concussions to the brain.
Many accounts exist where an athlete suffered an injury but was not immediately diagnosed so was brought back into the game. Statistics only show the number of reported concussions. Given the fact that many concussions go unreported, or undetected, the true number remains a mystery.
Watching Muhammad Ali in his later years, hearing Derek Boogaard from the NHL, and his decline leading to addiction and suicide while recovering from multiple concussions at 28/o, along with a list of players whose lives have been changed by chronic concussions, encephalopathy (CTE) is reaching epidemic proportions. Athletes, especially those who play rubber contact sports, are most prone. These men felt they were immune to the long-term effects of these injuries. Now is the time to take a stand that this is a high price to pay for playing the game.
When athletes continue to play after a head injury, they put themselves at greater risk for a second head injury during play, even if the second hit is not as severe.
Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one else is looking.
Mental toughness is designed for high performance. Under no circumstances should a player continue to play hard after a head injury. The science of traumatic brain injuries is beginning to catch up with the actual athlete experience. It’s time to change the situation and let players, coaches and team owners know that playing while injured is not acceptable. Long-term consequences override short-term benefits. There’s nothing heroic about quality of life because an athlete didn’t want to let the team down or be judged poorly.
Challenge: Benching is hard. No one likes to sit on the sidelines to heal during the season. Are you hurt? How was your experience? Instead of looking only at the negative, look for what you learned from the experience. Explore whether you put pressure on yourself as well as pressure you felt from your team. Concussions are a different injury from fractures, sprains, and breaks. Check out the freely available information to educate yourself at http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports/index.html?source=govdelivery Yes, injuries happen, but take personal responsibility to educate yourself to adapt to recovery. As a player takes a stand for himself, remove himself from the game until you receive clearance from a doctor. If you as a coach have the player’s best interest in mind, your player should sit out until medically cleared.
Loren Fogelman, author of The Winning Point and founder of Expert Sports Performance.com, a company dedicated to teaching elite athletes how to achieve consistently high performance, focus in competition and build the confidence to reach their big goals.
You are now invited to claim your free start-up kit “7 Mistakes Even the Best Athletes Make” available at: => http://expertsportsperformance.com
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