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Give a Second Chance

As a household of three growing boys, there is never a quiet relaxing moment in our home. When they are back home from soccer practices or games, they are either out in the backyard playing some more soccer or basketball or just rolling on the family room floor wrestling each other. I would not have it any other way. This is way better than them playing video games or getting lost for hours on their handheld devices.

However on the flip side of the coin, the worry about sports that plagues me day in and day out is the risk of injury…and don’t get me wrong , my boys are tough cookies and so am I. Scrapes and cuts get a kiss and off they go. Fractures and sprains are also just road bumps which cause misery not because of the pain but because they have to go out of commission for the duration of the recovery. Sitting on the sidelines watching your team play isn’t the most fun! What truly scares me when it comes to sports related injuries is head trauma, concussion and brain injuries. While a fractured leg or an arm will heal and even if you cannot play with the same skill level, your life besides the sport will go on normally. A traumatic brain injury though, does not give a second chance at a normal life many a times.

Sports Injury

When you sign up to play a sport, you accept the underlying risk of injury as part and parcel of being an athlete. However once injured you take the necessary steps to recover before heading back out on the field. Would a player with a broken arm or foot be sent back in to finish the game? That is quite unheard of. However it is quite common for a player who has a bad fall on his head, gets hits hard on his head, loses consciousness to sit out for a few minutes or even a quarter and then head back into the game and play till the end. Nothing is bleeding, he seems a little dizzy but able to play so off he goes to do his due diligence to the team. That return to the game is often times far more harmful than the initial injury and in a lot of cases can result in the player becoming mentally incapacitated for life. No second chances here.

As a parent of three boys, I learnt about the risks and symptoms of concussion early in their life and live by the thumb rule that if the head was involved in an injury, they are not playing for the next 24 hours so I can watch for symptoms and if it was a severe enough blow, they need to get to the ER to get checked out for concussion. They are still young and listen to me but soon the day will come when I would be told to leave them alone and they will head back onto the field to play. What is needed to keep my boys and all these athletes safe is an on field medical evaluation for concussion at all competitive games. With over 300,000 high school athletes suffering from concussion every year, there is no time like now to implement onsite concussion evaluation at all varsity games, football, soccer, basketball etc. It may not be bleeding and it may not hurt but they can only return to the game if they pass the sideline concussion exam.

Brain Injury

Most of the high school and middle school sports programs are already mandated to conduct a baseline concussion test before signing up the athletes to play for them. This test is repeated after injuries to determine if the athlete has suffered a concussion. However the test is administered in an office setting a day or two after the game where the athlete got injured and in more cases than we would like to admit, the athlete actually continued playing in that game after the injury. Thus the need of the hour is to have concussion evaluation done at the sideline. The technology has been developed. Goggles called Eye-Sync that look like a VR headset can test for concussion in under a minute using eye-tracking technology. These goggles should be made available at the sideline of every inter-scholastic and non-scholastic youth sport.

Seeing Stars Foundation, an organization that supports research and education on sports related concussion injuries from pee-wee to professional level, is currently raising funds to make sideline medical evaluation using Eye-Sync available at all youth sports. The technology is available but expensive. Health Products For you, a healthy living and wellness ecommerce store, has partnered with Seeing Stars Foundation through their Giving Day initiative on 12th January. Let us all spread the word about concussion and the need for these sideline evaluations. For the love of sports let us give these athletes a second chance.