Concussions: A Parent’s Persepctive

By David Bookstaff

(Editor’s Note: The writer is the VP of Operations for Sports Brain (www.sportsbrain.com). The article is reprinted from the company’s March newsletter)

As a part of the Sports Brain team, I recently attended
both the American Football Coaches Association
(AFCA) Convention in Indianapolis and the National
Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)
Convention in Philadelphia. I was excited to attend
these events for three reasons:

• First, I was anticipating a great response from
attendees about the work we are doing.

• Second, I was excited to be able to see and meet
top level coaches and former athletes that I have
watched on the sidelines and in games for many
years.

• Finally, as a parent with kids who are athletically
involved. I was excited to gain insight into the
perspectives of coaches and organizations.

Looking back now, I was not disappointed by my
expectations and I learned some valuable lessons.

Overall, the conference attendees loved what we
were doing. Former athletes and coaches of all
levels stopped by and commented on the need for
our services and the desire to work with us. It was
not uncommon for a former athlete to say, “I wish you
were around when I was playing.” My experience
meeting former athletes and coaches was equally
rewarding. I had the privilege of meeting several
current and retired elite collegiate coaches and they
were all friendly and interested in what was going
on in the concussion world. They acknowledged
that times have changed and will continue to change
as we learn more and more about the dangers of
multiple concussions and head injury. It was great to
see the interest in our work and gain a perspective
on how much the concussion knowledge has
developed in the past 20 years. We also heard
from people who had been around their sports for a
long time about how much has changed in terms of
concussion awareness in even the last 5 to 10 years.

The most interesting part for me, however, came
on the final day of NSCAA, after a special event
honoring the Collegiate All-Americans. Many of the
All-Americans, and their parents, walked through
the exhibit hall. Almost every family walking by our
booth stopped to talk to us. Each had a personal
story about concussions and the damage the
concussions caused to them personally or to a
teammate. The parents, in general, commented
that soccer has been a tremendous experience for
their children, teaching them great life lessons and
opening many doors. For some, college would never
have been an option if they did not receive a soccer
scholarship. At the same time, there was a recurring
theme that as great as the game has been for them,
few expected playing soccer to be a viable career.

Statistically, the odds are overwhelmingly against
becoming a professional athlete. There are a lot
of kids playing soccer and as the kids grow and
develop, fewer and fewer make it to the next level.

We always encourage kids to keep developing
because if you work hard enough, practice to
develop the right skills, have the athleticism and stay
healthy you might just make it. But it is important
for the parents to understand the long odds of all
of those elements falling into place because that
knowledge will help them recognize the importance
of concussion management, since most of their kids
will not have a professional soccer career.

The parents believe, rather strongly, that we
have to fight concussions and we have to protect
our children by insisting on the development of
concussion management programs for all athletes.

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