Brain trust

The lack of posts here could be confused for a lack of news or a lack of things to say. But that’s not the case. I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like, and that’s very much due to how complicated moving into a new house is. There’s always something to do — it’s just a matter of how urgent it is.

I’ve decided to see a concussion specialist, and thankfully I don’t have to wait long — I have an appointment next with with Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, who has worked with several pro teams, including the Ravens. This was not an easy decision to make (my girlfriend, Kacey, is really the driving force behind it). But given that this was my second major concussion, I think it’s the right thing to do. The first one, which occurred my senior year of high school in a car accident, was scary, but I was young and immature enough to brush it off as well as I could and move on. I figured it was a “once in a lifetime” kind of thing. But now I’ve had another, and that scares the hell out of me. When I forget something or misplace something, which I am prone to doing these days, is it the result of anxiety or something more? Hopefully this specialist can help answer that.

Head injuries are a prominent topic in the media today, which for me is good and bad. Good because it shows that more attention is being paid to a problem that was long misunderstood, mistreated and ignored in sports. Bad because I work in media, so every story is a reminder that this is an issue that I face too. It seems that not many days go by without some sort of update on concussions in sports. Earlier today, in fact, there was one — former Dolphins QB Dan Marino withdrew from a lawsuit filed against the NFL by more than 4,800 players who claim that the league misled them about the long-term dangers of concussions.

Science has come a long way since I had my other concussion 13 years ago. Back then, I’d never heard of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition in which repetitive head injuries cause brain tissue to waste away over time. I knew concussions were bad, but I didn’t know much of anything about their long-term effects, so I didn’t worry much about it. I’d had some secondhand experience with head injuries when I played lacrosse in high school in New Jersey. We the players, as well as the coaches, were faintly aware of what concussions were, and that they were bad, but no protocol existed for identifying them. Then, as now, there was no official test to diagnose a concussion (though now we have tools like baseline testing that were not widespread back then).

I have no doubt I saw players who’d had head injuries, certainly concussions, go back into games minutes after being hurt. There was a widespread mentality, handed down through generations, that if you didn’t play through an injury — even a head injury — you were soft. And in a sport like lacrosse, few high school athletes want to be regarded as soft.

In the book I’m reading, “Full Catastrophe Living,” author Jon Kabat-Zinn makes the point that the science regarding a specific body system changes drastically over the course of a pretty short period of time (often a few decades). Now we’re seeing that with the brain especially. What we think we know now, we’ll know better tomorrow, or a year from now, and definitely 10 years from now. That gives me hope for the future for all people who have concussions and other brain injuries. I also need to pursue a path in the present that will give me some peace of mind, and my focus is on getting that during my visit next week.


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